Saturday, August 18 , 2018, 5:34 pm | Fair with Haze 74º


Paul Mann: R&B Trio Serenade Santa Barbara Bowl

Soulful singers John Legend, India Arie and Vaughn Anthony win over a diverse crowd

Santa Barbara was treated to a rare appearance by a trio of R&B soul singers on Labor Day weekend.

The Friday concert took place on yet another sultry summer night, and the multicultural and multiethnic crowd, made up of music fans young and old, was happily the most diverse audience of the season at the Santa Barbara Bowl.

John Legends’ younger brother, Vaughn Anthony, opened the show as the sun began to fade with a strong R&B set. This up-and-coming singer has a strong, clear voice and had many of the girls in the audience swooning by the time he was shirtless during his final two songs. Looking more like a heavyweight boxer ready for a champion bout, the silver-voiced young singer won over many in the crowd.

As sunset began to turn to twilight, R&B diva India Arie graced the stage. The consummate pop star has produced four best-selling albums and won two of numerous Grammy nominations, for her impressive body of work compiled in less than a decade.

Dressed in an extravagant orange flowing gown, Arie danced, sang like an angel, played guitar and interacted with her band of brilliant musicians. Between songs, she told compelling anecdotes about the social relevance and meaning of her heartfelt lyrics.

She won over the crowd early on, and it was one of the most appreciative final ovations for any opening act at the venue this season, as she asked if the audience would like to have her back in Santa Barbara soon.

As twilight turned to night, the lights went out and a spotlight fell on Legend, crooning from the middle of the crowd at the second tier of the Bowl.

As he began to sing a solo version of Bob Marley’s classic “Redemption Song,” the fans became ecstatic. Singing directly to fans as he shook their hands and touched their shoulders, it was an emotional moment for many. Even after bolting onto the main stage after playing two songs within the crowd, he continued to connect directly with fans, making eye contact and small talk about being in Santa Barbara.

With extraordinary lungs, the six-time Grammy-winning lived up to his reputation as a top-notch crooner who has collaborated with some of the biggest names in pop, rap and soul music. The well-known philanthropist seemed to really be enjoying himself as he played a compelling set to a screeching crowd of adoring fans. Leading his top-notch and tightly constructed backing band in a slew of his hit songs, he danced and gyrated to the delight of the endearing crowd. A duet with Anthony sent much of the audience into a frenzied dance.

All in all, it was probably the classiest and cleanest three hours of music that the Santa Barbara Bowl has witnessed in quite some time.

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributor.

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