On a lovely mid-week summer evening, two powerhouse musicians took to the Bowl stage one after another, both dazzling the audience with their enviable talents.
Philadelphia-based Amos Lee came on a few minutes before 7 p.m., opening with his the musically spacious “Windows Rolled Down.” The singer/songwriter’s voice was in top form as he trotted out a genre jumping set that included “Tricksters, Hucksters, and Scamps,” “Arms of a Woman,” “Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight,” and a cover of Ginuwine’s “Pony.”
“It’s pretty early, yeah? It’s like 2:30 p.m.,” a sunglass wearing Lee joked. His lighthearted, quirky patter continued throughout his show: “[This is] a special place,” he said of the Bowl, adding that it reminded him of Jurassic Park and wondered aloud when the dinosaurs were going to come out of the trees and shrubs. Later he declared that the venue felt “so good” he should be wearing bunny ears.
Lee proved to be a dynamic, entertaining performer and singer, effortlessly gliding between funk, soul, folk, and R&B and mesmerizing the crowd with his delicate falsetto and soulful crooning. Lee’s hour-and-a-half set, which also included the poignant “El Camino” and a stunning, slowed down version of The Cranberries’s “Zombie,” primed the audience for the headliner to follow.
David Gray was on a tight schedule with only 90 minutes to perform his 15-song set before the 10 p.m. noise curfew. The charming Brit got right to it with the magical “Birds of the High Arctic” from his latest album Mutineers. Gray is a spark plug on stage and his energy was infectious as he dug deep into his catalog of songs.
Gray’s chart topping White Ladder was well represented with “Babylon,” “Sail Away,” “My Oh My,” “Please Forgive Me,” “This Year’s Love,” and “Silver Lining.” Though first released in 1998, the songs from Ladder are still as seductive and original today as they were 17 years ago.
One of the highlights of Gray’s show—and there were many—was when he performed “Gulls.” The song is grounded by an hypnotic, delicate piano melody layered with harmonizing vocals, acoustic guitar, and humming keyboards. On the record, it is sonically celestial and enveloping, a challenging combination to translate live. But beneath the Santa Barbara night sky, Gray succeeded—with vocal help from opening act Joseph, a trio of siren-voiced sisters—in evoking the atmospheric plane of the breathtaking “Gulls.”
Although the late hour forced Gray to wrap up his set, his fervor onstage had not abated and it seemed like he would have happily played another 15 songs. Still, in the time allotted him, Gray put on a show that was exciting, engaging, and aurally perfect.
Amos Lee Set List
Windows Rolled Down
Tricksters, Hucksters, and Scamps
Bottom of the Barrel
Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight
Arms of a Woman
Zombie (Cranberries cover)
Cup of Sorrow
Pony by Ginuwine
David Gray Set List
Birds of the High Artic
The One I Love
Life in Slow Motion
My Oh My
Please Forgive Me
This Year’s Love
Money (That’s What I Want) (Flying Lizards cover)