In a case of poetic cultural justice, last weekend’s grand reemergence of live music in major venues — breaking the pandemic-mandated silence — was a win-win for the hometown team. Santa Barbara–born Toad the Wet Sprocket pulled a double-header at the Lobero, while longtime part-time Hollister Rancher Jackson Browne kicked off the truncated Santa Barbara Bowl season in high, cozy style on Sunday.
Elements defining the 72-year-old Browne remain, with his bounty of crowd favorites (including “Fountain of Sorrow,” “The Pretender,” the hedonistic candy of “Take it Easy,” and his masterpiece “These Days”), social and navel-gazing issues, and an expanding, impressive discography. From his bold new album came the title track, the ocean homage “Downhill from Everywhere” and the age-related tease of “My Cleveland Heart.”
Browne cherishes and showcases his bandmates and even the crew (consider the “The Load-Out”/”Stay,” this show’s closer). His current band is extra-potent thanks to his excellent, almost impossibly tasty guitarist Val McCallum and pedal steel/lap steel poet Greg Leisz (also from Santa Barbara County), whose flavorful additions make him heir apparent to former Browne foil David Lindley.
I have a sentimental soft spot for Browne’s feel-good brew partly due to countless encounters at the Bowl, going back to the late ’70s. Chalk up another warm-fuzzy one for the home team.