311. At the Santa Barbara Bowl, Saturday, September 9.
Reviewed by Levi Michael
When vocalist Doug “SA” Martinez told The Independent that 311’s show at the Bowl would be one for the history books, it may have seemed like a bold statement, but let it be known across the land that the Omaha, Nebraska quintet does not lie.
With a résumé boasting nine full-length albums, 17 singles, and 18 years, 311’s live shows have become a powerhouse of diversity that revolve around their deadliest weapon: the set list. Even the few bands who can match the depth of their discography often fail to display the same diversity in their live shows, making 311 a constant fascination even to the fans who have been following them since the beginning. With more than 80 songs in rotation for their Unity tour, the set list offered by the boys last Saturday was the best I’ve heard at the Bowl in years.
Following a kinetic jumpstart by Pepper, the day began with a historic footnote as the Wailers returned to the Bowl for the first time in 27 years. Though the absence of Tuff Gong was noticeable, the reggae ensemble presented a concrete performance, checking off the hits one by one until they were joined by Pepper for a closing performance of “One Love.”
311’s lengthy set maintained a gymnastic balance among all of their albums, beginning with the mellow grooves of “Welcome.” Of course the necessities were present, including “Beautiful Disaster,” “All Mixed Up,” “Come Original,” and “Down,” but what really sent the show over the edge were the tracks normally forgotten in the live circuit. Much to the delight of old-school fans, 311 played a plethora of old jams, including “Prisoner,” “From Chaos,” “You Wouldn’t Believe,” “I’ll Be Here a While,” and “What Was I Thinking?”
An eclectic encore put the finishing touches on the night as 311 returned to stage with the Wailers, joining forces to jam out to the classic Bob Marley song “Exodus.” The 11-piece ensemble transformed back into five rockers, who finished off the night with “Creatures.”