August 14, 2015

Alabama Shakes ~ August 14, 2015 @ The Santa Barbara Bowl

Shaking It Down

photo by paul dunkley 
A long line formed in the hot afternoon sun, as people descended upon the Santa Barbara Bowl box office window in a desperate attempt to grab a coveted ticket to see The Alabama Shakes.

The long-sold-out show was highly anticipated as the Alabama Shakes toured on their sophomore album, Sound & Color. The band has shown artistic growth with their second album. It's slightly more eclectic and soulful than their debut album, Boys & Girls. Known for their ecstatic, blues-based rock, this more deliberate sound was mesmerizing.

Brittany Howard emerged on stage decked out in a full-length green gown and a new haircut. The band immediately jumped into “Future People,” a poignant, funky blues song with high-pitch vocals and a catchy hook that pulls you in and then stops abruptly. The Santa Barbara crowd immediately jumped to attention, leaving no space left in the pit. People packed against the stage to get a glimpse of Brittany as the crowd moved as one.

Graciously, Brittany thanked the crowd, then moved onto
photo by paul dunkley
“Always Alright,” an upbeat, honky-tonk, bluesy dance tune, that got the crowd shaking even more. Incorporating songs from their first album into the mix, The Alabama Shakes hit the mark by including “Hang Loose” and “Heartbreak” early in the set. However, it was Brittany’s improved stage presence that really entranced the crowd.

Pushing her guitar aside, Brittany used her body as well as her voice to bring the lively crowd to a church-like silence during “Joe,” a gospel-like blues song. The Alabama Shakes kept the crowd in the moment by following up with the equally deeply emotional “Miss You” and “This Feeling,” until finally breaking the spell with their radio hit “Don’t Wanna Fight,” an easy-flowing blues jam.

The Alabama Shakes were unrelenting as Brittany exclaimed, “I could do this all night!” And so could Santa Barbara, shaking it down until the very last song. 

August 6, 2015

Aretha Franklin ~ August 6, 2015 @ The Santa Barbara Bowl

An Evening with a Diva
photo by Tanya Wahlquist

A Living Legend. The Queen of Soul. Diva. All appropriate names for Ms. Aretha Franklin. The 73 year old Queen proved to be a timeless wonder as she performed before The Santa Barbara Bowl August 6th.

Adorned in a long shimmering evening gown and pearls, Aretha was as elegant as she was talented. “Maybe a melody on the rocks will explain,” Aretha purred as she slipped into the first song of the evening. Big, bold, and beautiful, Aretha sung a mixture of her own songs and covers, including “Til You Come Back To Me”, “Angel,” and even mixed it up a bit with a re-mix of “I Will Survive” that had an added touch of Destiny’s Child flavor.

With gratitude in her heart she exclaimed, “Thank you for spending an evening with me. Time has been good to me. 50 years in the business – and it feels like it.” Aretha left to take a short tea break, then returned rejuvenated. Aretha’s vocals didn’t seem like they have lost any range or power, as she sat at the piano, dedicating her cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” “to those friends who care for me.”

Aretha easily slipped between jazz, gospel, and soul, throughout the evening, bringing the crowd once again to their feet for a little “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” It would be hard not to have the utmost respect for such talent, and it was truly an experience spending the evening with Aretha Franklin. 

July 24, 2015

Jim Gaffigan ~ July 24, 2015 @ The Santa Barbara Bowl

Food for Thought

A hush fell over the crowd as a single spotlight hit a lone bar stool on the Santa Barbara Bowl stage. Never has the crowd seemed so quiet at the beginning of a concert, but this was no rock show - this was comedy.

Jim Gaffigan, one of America’s most relatable and self-effacing comedians, performed to a full house July 24th. Known for his undeniable love of food that has made him fat (especially hot pockets), his lack of parenting skills to his unusually large family, and his third-person, high-whisper “inner” voice that constantly criticizes his material, Gaffigan brought fresh and familiar material to Santa Barbara.

“Santa Barbara is unbelievable, you lucky bastards – I resent these people.” Gaffigan had the crowd laughing from the start, rightfully joking about the things Santa Barbarians love most about our town. “A cop pulled us over and gave us a bottle of wine….”

Gaffigan, pale and heavy set, is honest about himself, being both self-deprecating and edgy:
·        He hates to hike: “Hiking is a very California thing - we all make mistakes. It’s walking for no reason. There’s no stores or restaurants.”
·        He loves TV: “I’m a tel-athlete…. Yes sir TV… No sir TV…” 
·        He is no good at parenting: “I just want to hear your voice daddy – Buy my album.”
·        He is overweight: “I have fatted out of my clothes. I am curating an exhibit of my weight gain.”
·        And he loves steak: “Let’s eat meat together – like Jesus.”

Throughout his set, his little third-person voice made cutting commentary, alleviating some of the uncomfortable tension of his humor.  “I can’t believe he said that about Jesus...” But the voice could not stop him and Santa Barbara ate it up.


July 22, 2015

Willie Nelson & Family ~ July 22, 2015 @ The Santa Barbara Bowl

An American Story

Country music is an American heritage and Willie Nelson is one of the most recognizable American Icons. At the young age of 82, Willie Nelson & Family performed for a sold out Santa Barbara Bowl. Along with Alison Krauss & Union Station, they successfully brought true American Country music to our fine city.

Country music has a reputation for being sad, with songs usually about your love leaving, your truck breaking down, or your dog dying. It has simple harmonies, played on a variety of stringed instruments, and sung with a bit of a twang. It’s what country life is about. And as Alison Krauss & Union Station kicked off into their set, it was obvious that there wasn’t going to be a dry eye in the house by the end of it.

With a voice of an angel, Alison sung of heartbreak and despair that gripped your heart. Accompanied by her band of talented stringed musicians, Alison Kraus & Union Station exemplified all that is right with Country music. “We don’t want anyone to leave feeling good,” explained Alison, while bantering with the crowd between heartbreaking songs.  The bantering between band members, some of whom have played together for over 20 years, was stand-up worthy and a nice contrast to the melancholy songs.  

The Santa Barbara Bowl begun to fill up as a cool breeze blew in off the ocean, relieving the humidity held in by the day. Near me sat Dorothy, a 91-year old Santa Barbara resident that has seen Willie Nelson fifty times so far. Dorothy explained, “Willie is a wonderful performer. You know his sister Bobby plays the piano and his kids come out and play with him too. Now it’s the Family – it didn’t used to be that way. They’re great.” And Dorothy did not lie.

The Lone-Star State flag flew over a simple set as Willie Nelson & Family took to the Santa Barbara Bowl stage. Willie immediately broke into “Whiskey River,” bringing the older crowd to their feet. At 82, Willie still plays the guitar at a pace most young men could not keep up. His voice strong and stamina high, he took no breaks as he whisked from one song to the next. Crowd participation was required for many of his tunes. As Willie sung “whiskey for my men,” and pointed at the crowd, the crowd replied “beer for my horses” during his rendition of the amply named song “Beer For My Horses.” 

Little Sister, as Willie liked to refer to Bobby, played the piano fiercely. At the age of 84, Bobby slinked over the keys and played speedy solos that brought cheers from the crowd. Willie Nelson & Family quickly played all the hits in an hour and fifteen minutes. Playing classics like “On The Road Again,” Hank William’s “Maybe I Didn’t Love You,” and “Stardust.” “That’s a lovely song,” exclaimed Dorothy as Willie finished a cover of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy For Feeling So Lonely.”

As the evening came to an end, Willie called out more of his family members to the stage, thanking them all. What a great legacy, what a great American story. 

June 7, 2015

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings ~ June 7, 2015 @ The Santa Barbara Bowl

photo by patti gutshall (internet)

See Me Shouting!

With heavy horns blazing like the beginning of a TV game show, the Dap Kings emerged onto the Santa Barbara Bowl stage looking the dapper part in full suits and black ties. The 8-piece back up band to the extraordinary Ms. Sharon Jones welcomed the Bowl to the Wheels of Soul Tour as the newly anointed Dappettes entertained the crowd, building up the anticipation for Ms. Jones herself.

Like a rocket, 110 pounds of funk burst on to stage in a purple shimmer flapper’s dress ready to get down. The electrifying Ms. Jones got down with an energy that sucked you up into the funk, “Sounds so nice, horns – let me hear it again! Uh uh! Owwe!” She called upon the presence of Gladys Knight herself as she went into a cover of Heard It on the Grapevine that immediately brought the Bowl patrons up on their feet.

Then it got real. Ms Jones shared her personal battle with caner, which she was diagnosed with in 2012 after she had written Get Up and Get Out, a track the their six studio album. “This song has a different meaning now than before I was diagnosed… Now it’s a story of cancer: Get Up and Get Out!” Taking her shoes off, Ms. Jones set off into a gospel revival rendition of the song, moving every single person in the Bowl to stand up and celebrate with her. As a hawk soared overhead and the late afternoon ocean breeze floated into the Santa Barbara Bowl, she rejoiced, “See me shouting cuz I’m alive!”

And it continued, her energy boundless, she decided to take it back to 1965, when people had “the dance moves.” The dynamic little lady of funk decided to lay some knowledge on Santa Barbara, leading the now-packed, standing and attentive crowd through a whole decade of funky dance moves, starting with the “Boogie Loo,” going through the “Pony,” ultimately ending with “Taking it Home.”

Ms. Jones puts it out there for anyone, everyone to grab onto. So much energy to absorb, it leaves you exhausted in its wake. This 59 year-old cancer survivor and Goddess of Funk knows how to embrace life and celebrate “Cuz you’re alive!”

May 31, 2015

Robert Plant ~ May 31, 2015 @ The Santa Barbara Bowl

Whole Lotta Love

Robert Plant; photo by paul dunkley
When a rock legend comes to your backyard, you better recognize. And at 66 years old, Robert Plant is a living legend.

Better known as the voice of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant is responsible for defining his generation with such hits as “Whole Lotta Love,” “Dazed and Confused,” and “Ramble On.” Not to mention “The Rain Song” and “No Quarter.”  But his career has lived strong since his dazed and confused days and on May 31, 2015 a packed Santa Barbara Bowl was lucky enough to receive the legend.

Tall in stature and humble in demeanor, Robert Plant emerged on stage in a shiny pink shirt under a near full moon ready to rock the house down.  With his signature high pitch-vocals echoing throughout the Santa Barbara Bowl, Plant worked his way through some classic hits, throwing in some new material along the way. Impressively, his voice was still as golden as it must have been nearly 40 years ago.

Not to be overlooked, The Sensational Space Shifters added their own flavor to the set, nicely remixing the classics to be reflective of a more modern era. Heavy guitar, bright lights, and added keyboard rejuvenated the songs, giving the hits a new edge.  

The Englishman took note of his age, joking with the audience as he played through the night. But in the end, there was nothing but a whole lotta love for this gent.

May 10, 2015

92.9 KjEE’s 11th Annual Summer Round Up ~ Sunday May 10, 2015 @ the Santa Barbara Bowl.


Of Monsters and Men, photo by paul dunkley
The Summer Round-Up is a full day of music with performances from some of the hottest up-and-coming artists currently playing on 92.9 KjEE, Santa Barbara’s Modern Rock station – and 2015 may have been their biggest Summer Round-Up yet!

This year’s showcase ranged from Folk, to Electronica, to Indie Rock, drawing a very diverse crowd to the sold-out show. But let’s be honest, the Summer Round-Up is one of the Santa Barbara Bowl’s biggest parties, more like a homecoming than a music festival. It is not uncommon to see people running towards each other with excitement when seeing friends for the first time in a long time. It’s that kind of local party.

Supporting local music, more than 1000 people were in
The Blues and Greys, photo by paul dunkley
attendance at 5 o’clock sharp to catch Santa Barbara favorites The Blues and Greys.  The five-piece Indie band created a dark, new-wave sound while front-woman Lindsey Ann Waldon impressed the crowd with her contrasting, angelic voice. Local or not, they had the stage presence of international professionals.

As more people filtered into the SB Bowl under the bright late afternoon sun, Family of the Year took the stage. Widely known for their hit “Hero,” a catchy folk melody featured on the soundtrack of the film Boyhood, FOTY was well received by the crowd. With a quiet enthusiasm, the band whisked through a solid toe-tapping set.
Walk The Moon, photo by paul dunkley
The surprise stand-out performance of the night was from Walk the Moon, a four-piece rock outfit from Cincinnati. The SB Bowl was near full by this time and the audience was rowdy. WTM worked the crowd effortlessly, and had them baited on every word of every song. Ending the set with their hit “Dance with Me,” singer Nicholas Petricca exclaimed “If you want to dance, now’s your chance!” And apparently the crowd did - the entire SB Bowl got up and danced.

Perhaps the most anticipated artist of the day was Banks, the newest Electronica diva on the scene. With her recent hit
Banks, photo by paul dunkley
“Beggin for Thread” in regular radio rotation, Banks has generated quite the buzz. Strutting out on stage, Banks looked flawless in a gothic black pant suit, short cape, and high stilettos. Backed by only a keyboardist and percussionist, the set was all about her dark moody beats and sultry voice. Banks worked the stage like an experienced model on a catwalk, ending the set by thanking the audience for “filling her up” after she had been feeling so deflated before scampering off stage.  

Of Monsters and Men headlined the Summer Round-Up with a monster of a performance. Lights blazing in the dark night, they opened with “Thousand Eyes,” a dark, brooding song on their new album that is quite a departure from their usual foot stomping folksy music. OMAM’s performance was deeper and dramatic, demonstrating a maturity in their art. That’s not to say they didn’t deliver on the good-time tunes, tearing the SB Bowl up with their hit “Hey!”

Whether one was familiar with all, one, or none of the bands, the KjEE Summer Round-Up always delivers a good time and an opportunity to get acquainted with some new music. And perhaps even the chance to get up and dance!