Ellen DeGeneres and Brad Paisley at a fundraising concert for the victims of the Thomas Fire and January debris flow.
Paul Wellman

“I’ve sort of hidden in Santa Barbara as long as I’ve been there. And when this fire came through, I felt like I couldn’t do that anymore,” said Brad Paisley in a recent interview with the Santa Barbara Independent. The country music superstar and Montecito resident made good on his word this past weekend, immersing himself in the community of which he is clearly proud to be a part. Paisley performed a benefit concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday, May 12, patronized a slew of area restaurants and shops (and invited his fans to meet up with him at each place), and played a pop-up show on Sunday night at SOhO Restaurant & Club. Proceeds from both concerts are earmarked for several area nonprofits.

As for his musical offerings, Paisley’s outstanding Saturday-night Bowl show elicited myriad emotions from the audience, including laughter, bliss, and somber remembrance. The evening kicked off with the Ventura City Firefighters Pipe and Drum band walking through the crowd to the stage, emitting the baleful, beautiful sounds of bagpipes and snare drums. The group was founded five years ago in honor of its fallen captain John Duff.

Ellen DeGeneres then took the stage and proceeded to tease giggles and whoops from the audience with her clever, humorous banter. She also spoke of her love for the Santa Barbara community, saying, “It is my favorite place I’ve found to live.” Then she introduced Paisley, who joined her for a hilarious attempt at writing a song on the spot about Montecito and Santa Barbara, making sure to name-check area restaurants and businesses. It was delightful to see the two friends interact unabashedly, the result being one of the most comically entertaining moments of the evening.

Paisley then got the (real) musical portion of the show underway, playing tunes from his latest record, Love and War, such as “Heaven South,” along with old favorites, such as “Waitin’ on a Woman.” At one point in the show, Paisley introduced to the stage teenage mudslide survivor Lauren Cantin, who, accompanied by guitarist Dylan Edwards, sang a haunting tune that brought some audience members to tears. Another emotional moment occurred when Paisley sang an acoustic version of “When I Get Where I’m Going” as photos of those who died in the debris flow were projected onto the big screen behind him. It was a touching and heartrending reminder of what the evening was all about.


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