Nick Waterhouse may be the new kid on the block, but you wouldn’t know by watching him. On Sunday night, the 26-year-old R&B singer/guitarist made his inaugural stop in Santa Barbara with a hopping set of new tunes at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club. Just days from the release of his debut LP, Waterhouse hit the stage with an affable smile to the delight of an eager half-full room. Backed by his house band, the Tarots, the singer had plenty of people power behind him, including two backup singers, a keyboardist, a saxophone player, a bassist, and two drummers. Together, the crew — fittingly dressed as if they’d stepped out of a mid-century dance party — delivered slinky hip-shaker after slinky hip-shaker, inciting more than a few audience members to bust into the Twist.
Waterhouse’s reputation for authenticity preceded his Sunday-night tour stop; despite the young age of the band, they managed to deliver a set that was equal parts fun-loving and musically tight. Songs like “Say I Wanna Know” and “Don’t You Forget It” benefited from a heavy dose of female backing vocals, while lead single “Some Place” shook the dance floor with its Little Richard-conjuring mix of breakneck keys and big, bellowing sax. Still, Waterhouse remained the night’s main attraction, simultaneously and slickly occupying frontman, band leader, and guitarist roles with ease. With Waterhouse’s deft hand and smoldering voice at the helm, songs like “Raina” and “Indian Love Call” felt pulled straight out of a smoky nightclub. And judging by the reception, Sunday marked the tip of the iceberg for this rising young star.