Saturday, December 8, 2007

Wilco at the Santa Barbara County Bowl

I've got to say that I've been thinking about the show,trying to decide if it really was amazing as I thought it was while I was there, or if my feelings were colored by the fact that it was capping off what was a truly magnificent day with my wife. I've decided that it
was that good.

I do think we could have gone to any show and come away with a glow; We met 25 years ago and lived in Santa Barbara the first five(childless) years of our marriage. In many ways, I came into my own while living in SB, and consider it as much my hometown as KC. And so it seemed to be a no-brainer that we'd build a little mini vacation around the show. We got to SB Sunday Morning and walked up and down State Street. I hit up Morning Glory Music, Just Play Music and tried to get over to American Pie Records, but they were closed. The biggest disappointment of the day was getting my tastebuds set for a hoaggie from the Italian Greek Deli and finding that this State St institution was closed. We ended up at Joe's, another Santa Barbara mainstay instead.

Our Hotel was down on Cabrillo Blvd, which is right on the beach. It was a beautiful day, and we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the Art Walk and the area around Stearns Wharf. Veteran's For Peace had set up crosses for an Arlington West monument, and we were there taking in the magnitude of the number of men and women that have been killed in Iraq when this freak wind storm hit. It felt pretty ethereal and very moving, with the cold wind dropping the temp by ten degrees in a matter of minutes and the sand kicking up all around.

For those of you that have never seen or been at the Santa Barbara Bowl, you've missed out. It's an outdoor amphitheater that is carved out of the hillside above SB with a view of the ocean and eucalyptus and California Live Oaks completely surrounding it. It was built in the 1930's as part of the WPA project as a showcase for a centuries old Santa Barbara celebration "Fiesta."

Like much of SB though, The Bowl has changed and improved in the last decades. Gone is the original stage, and in it's place is a beautiful, state of the art performance area: a square, stone version of the Hollywood Bowl.

I've read other's reviews of Wilco for this tour, and I have to agree with them: This band is one of the most talented, expert bands touring today. The new songs sparkled with Jeff's enthusiasm for them, and the older songs, while not losing their charm, benefited from the careful and sober rendition they were given. Far from sterile, they seemed to have new life and shine. Just as Nels broke into those sublime chords that begin Impossible Germany, the moon broke out from behind the eucalyptus trees standing behind the stage.When they broke into Too Far Apart, the front section rose and Jeff encouraged them to come forward. During Spiders, the crowd rose to their feet during those chords, and began clapping in time with the relentless beat. With Jeff's encouragement, the crowd kept clapping and the band faded out until it was just the handclaps echoing through the hills. When they got to California Stars, I was covered with goosebumps, in this venue built in Woody Guthrie's time under those very stars, with my wife's hand touching mine. By the time they wound down with a chilling Lonely 1, I was ready declare this one of the best shows I've ever been to. Rock music at it's finest. I didn't even care that they skipped playing M

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