If Sunday night’s Jack White show at the Santa Barbara Bowl felt chaotic at times, that was part of the plan. White has long eschewed making set lists in favor of an intuitive approach that brings the audience into the creative process. At the outset of his current Boarding House Reach tour, he told Rolling Stone that he does this because he wants “each show to be different so that the crowd is in control of what’s really happening onstage, whether they know it or not.”
Judging from the results at the Bowl on Sunday, this crowd took a while to figure that out, leading White to end his initial 14-song set after just one hour. When he returned, White must have gotten the signal he was looking for, as he proceeded to play eight wildly propulsive songs as an extended encore. The artist clearly wanted to go even longer, as he wondered aloud why Santa Barbara needs a 10 p.m. sound curfew.
Leading a band that benefited from the fast and powerful drumming of Carla Azar and sophisticated teamwork among the other three members — Dominic Davis on bass and Quincy McCrary and Neal Evans on keyboards — White turned in a performance that was high-energy from the opening notes.
One unusual feature of the show was that it was phone free. All patrons were required to submit to a team of people from Yondr, a company that specializes in pouching phones at public events. This practice, which reportedly first gained a foothold in the comedy clubs, creates a great atmosphere that’s remarkably free of distractions. The staff handled the bagging and unbagging of thousands of phones with unfailing efficiency, and what’s more, the fans seemed to dig it. Let’s hope more bands try this new and painless way to bring people closer together at shows.