My brothers don't agree on much these days, but both have said to me, on separate occasions, how much they like the Santa Barbara Bowl. It was their recommendations and a general curiosity about this seaside hamlet that moved me to pencil in this date, the only reserved show of our recent run of Wilco gigs. Paul's procurement of primo seats didn't hurt either.
Wilco, Santa Barbara Bowl, August 26, 2007: Of course, I should've taken my brothers' thumbs-up with a grain of salt, as they're not into live music to the same extent I am. With a quick perusal of the surroundings, we saw that the Santa Barbara Bowl is a lovely natural amphitheater, but just as quickly, we sensed this would be a sedate crowd. How right we were.
Almost immediately, Jeff Tweedy commented on the empty seats in the crowd, notably the ones in the first (right in front of us) and second (right next to us) rows. It took a while for the ticket holders to show up; not to make excuses but I suspect they were caught off guard by the early start of the show. For example, we made it to our places maybe only 10 minutes before the band took the stage, and we were fully aware of Richard Swift's set times.
Per usual, the whole sitting/standing issue came up for this show. My preference is for standing, which is what we did as soon as "Handshake Drugs" started, and though we heard very faint requests behind us to sit down, we stayed on our feet for as long as possible. We avoided a potential standoff, so to speak, when Jeff dedicated "Too Far Apart" to the front row and sort of invited everyone up to the lip of the stage. I watched for a second as others abandoned their seats, but it was the sight of my friend Dean taking his place at the front that really lit the fire under me. We climbed over the seats in front of us and joined Dean for the rest of the show.
This new vantage, though exponentially better than the seated arrangement, bore a couple of caveats. For one, sound wasn't optimal, as the speakers were somewhere behind us--but who cares?? And though Jeff's actions brought the livelier members of the audience to the front, there was a certain amount of cringe-inducing patrons crowding the stage, including the guy who stood smack dab in front of Jeff and didn't know Nels's name. Sigh.
But these are actually very small complaints, and we even got an unexpected selection of "The Lonely 1" anchored by Jeff and Nels (while Glenn took a hard-earned break) in the encore. I'm not rushing back to the Santa Barbara Bowl any time soon, but I certainly enjoyed this brief visit.
» easily fooled: August 2007 archive