The Stray Cats, The Pretenders, ZZ Top
Verizon Wireless Music Center
Thursday, July 26
With a triple bill including The Stray Cats, The Pretenders and ZZ Top, you’d be forgiven for thinking the show this past Thursday night at the Verizon Wireless Music Center would be a mid ’80s MTV fest. After all, MTV is just about the only unifying thread running between these three bands.
With all three acts a couple decades removed from their prime, they reaffirmed that they still possess the chops, stagecraft and vitality they always did.
The Stray Cats brought an impressively energetic set of rockabilly that showed why they were the first and best of the new breed of rockabilly revivalists. The band ran through a set of relatively obscure stuff like “Rumble in Brighton,” “Fishnet Stockings” and “Blast Off” that included a trio of hits: “Stray Cat Strut,” “Sexy + 17” and, of course, “Rock This Town.”
The Stray Cats were marvels. Slim Jim Phantom was everything Tommy Lee ever wanted to be. He combined rock star good looks, a solid set of chops and a hyperactive stand-up performance style that dazzled as much as it entertained. Meanwhile, Lee Rocker, all buff and tan, played the stand-up bass like a fiddle, a guitar and a jackhammer, often simultaneously. In-between, Brian Seltzer looked old. But whenever he let out a fires-of-hell guitar solo, there was no doubt he was the star of the show.
Chrissie Hynde gave no one else in her band the remotest chance to upstage her. She and her Pretenders roared through a no-nonsense set that gave the people enough of the hits to keep them happy, while stunning die-hard fans with songs like the opening “Bad Boys Get Spanked.” Hynde, at age 56, is still hotter and sexier then any other chick rocker out there, and she looked dazzling in her blue suede boots with 6-inch spikes. But this band suffered from the wide-open spaces at Verizon. It would be better to see them in a theater or club.
ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons was a monster guitar player who shone brightly on his hilarious, yet torrid “Blue Jean Blues.” The band also showed its mettle with a jaw-droppingly heavy “Heard it on the X.” Even the MTV hit parade at the end was fun and rocking. The set ended with a savage medley that started with “La Grange” and ended with “Tush.”