The Sons of Champlin brought their hybrid San Francisco sound of the ’60s to the historic Lobero Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara on Saturday night.

Pioneers in white jazz funk rock, the band has been playing and recording viable music together for an incredible 50 years.

The evening began with a set by Will Champlin and his band. Will, fittingly enough, is the son of Bill Champlin, lead singer and guitarist for the Sons. So, in effect, Will is the son of the Sons of Champlin. The young Champlin has already made a name for himself, on television as a finalist in season five of the popular series The Voice. But the young singer-songwriter had already made a name for himself, sharing his impressive songwriting skills with major recording artists.

His most impressive accomplishment, however, may have been his piano contributions to Michael Jackson’s posthumous album, Michael. The young singer offered up his impressive high-pitched singing talents while playing keyboards, banjo and guitar. He led the four-piece band, featuring the Sons’ current lead guitarist, Carmen Grillo, through an hour-long set of tight musical numbers, vacillating between indie folk rock and traditional R&B. There seems to be a bright future ahead for this multitalented musical prodigy.

The Sons took the stage after a short intermission for a two-hour, 18-song jam session that musicians half their age would be hard-pressed to complete. The group featured original members Bill Champlin (lead vocals, guitar, organ), Geoffrey Palmer (organ, vibraphone) and Tim Cain (saxophone). Original lead guitarist Terry Haggerty, who gave the band his signature jazz funk sound, left the group in 2001. His replacement is the newest member of the band who joined in 2005, Carmen Grillo, formerly with The Tower of Power.

Champlin led the group with remarkable strong vocals for a 67-year-old singer through funky groves that were far ahead of their time in the ’60s San Francisco music scene. He was aided by his wife, Tamara, who has her own funky R&B sinning style. The group featured songs from their last studio album, Hip Lil Dreams, released in 2005, as well as songs dating all the way back to their ’60s roots.

It was another rocking night at the oldest continuously run venue in California, and a great opening show for 2015.

Set List

Freedom Pt. 1
Without Love
For Joy
Here Is Where Your Heart Belongs
Time Will Bring You Love
Lightnin’ in This Bottle
I Like to Feel/No Mo’
Black and Blue Rainbow
Backstreets of Paradise
It’s Time
Misery Isn’t Free
Love Can Take Me Now
Saved By the Grace of Your Love
Get High
Freedom Pt. 2



— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributing writer. The opinions expressed are his own.