Matt Shultz of Cage the Elephant at the Santa Barbara Bowl, July 3, 2024 | Photo: Carl Perry

“Now that’s what I call a rock concert,” I said to my husband as we left the Bowl on July 3, still buzzing from an authentically awesome night of music. I was hooked from the moment Young the Giant’s charismatic lead singer Sameer Gadhia let his sometimes beautifully melodic voice burst out like a battle cry: “I want to see you jump, Santa Barbara!”

Sweaty, loud, immersive — this is what a rock concert should feel like, and it definitely did. After two solid short opening sets by Bakar and Willow Avalon, the crowd quickly cooperated with Gadhia’s request — we jumped, we danced, we sang, and we rocked all night. So did the bands.

Backed by his childhood friends  and guitarists Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata, bass guitarist Payam Doostzadeh, and drummer Francois Comtois, Young the Giant’s  high energy antics made for a night of fun from start to finish.

They played a nice mix of newer songs like “The Walk Home,” “Superposition,” “Waves,” “Amerika,”and the lovely fairy tale sounds of “Titus Was Born.” And of course, the night was filled with the tunes that everybody knows, like “Mind Over Matter” and “Cough Syrup,” whose lyrics “Life’s too short to even care at all, whoa oh-oh / I’m losing my mind, losing my mind, losing control / These fishes in the sea, they’re staring at me / Whoa oh-oh, oh, whoa-oh, oh” even my 86-year-old mom could recognize and hum along to.

The homegrown Southern California band was right at home in what Gadhia said was their sixth time playing the Bowl, and the addition of two big screens and some deft camerawork for closeups of the musicians — and some entertainingly spazzy dancing — added to the entertainment in a way I wish we saw more frequently in Santa Barbara.

They ended their part of the night with the 2010 song “My Body,” with everyone in the crowd still singing along and enjoying the night.

Young the Giant was a tough act to follow, but Cage the Elephant more than held their own with a complementary and equally high energy performance.

They opened big with “Broken Boy,” featuring great vocals and dancing across the entire expanse of the stage by lead singer frontman Matt Shultz. His moves were mesmerizing the entire night, especially when he used the mic stand like a vault, getting enough air in his jumps to send the basketball scouts sniffing around.

Cage the Elephant has some deep punk music inspiration which still shines bright almost two decades later. Brothers Matt and Brad Shultz (rhythm guitar) began playing music in high school in the early 2000s in Bowling Green, Kentucky with fellow students Jared Champion (drums) and Daniel Tichenor (bass) and rounded out the band by adding Nick Bockrath (lead guitar) and Matthan Minster (guitar, keyboards).

Matt Shultz of Cage the Elephant at the Santa Barbara Bowl, July 3, 2024 | Photo: Carl Perry

Their tightness was on great display throughout the set, which included “Too Late to Say Goodbye,” “Good Time,” “Cold Cold Cold,” and happily, one of my favorite songs, “Ready to Let Go” (with those great lyrics: “Don’t you worry, baby, no sense trying to change it / I’ma strike these matches, never had control / I’m ready to let go, no, was I fooling myself? / I’ma spread these ashes, never had control / I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready to let go”).

We also sang along to “Halo,” “Mess Around,” and “Trouble” — another particularly great song which actually had a rocket launch in the middle of it, much to the crowd’s delight. Then it was time for their arguably most famous song,“ Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” — another showstopper.

“This entire night, this entire tour has been so amazing. It’s a miracle honestly to be alive,” said Matt Shultz, apparently alluding to a “mental health crisis” that led up to his arrest last year for possession of two loaded guns.

He was on another kind of fire (the good kind) that night in Santa Barbara, as they went into the song “Rainbow” from their new record, which included cool rainbow laser effects, followed by  “Tokyo Smoke,” with the lyrics “pick yourself up” and Matt literally picked up the mic stand and held it overhead like a trophy. That mic definitely got a workout.

The final stretch was terrific, with “Shake Me Down,” followed by “Cigarette Daydreams” — a favorite from 2013 that bought out the phone lights for beautiful starry looking light show.

Cage the Elephant uncaged every last bit of energy on the final song, “Come a Little Closer,” which was another great sing along song, with the whole crowd by now sweaty and standing together, dancing and singing along and giving that great energy right back to thank the band for giving it their all.

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