Al Stewart, accompanied by The Empty Pockets, recently illuminated the stage of the venerable Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, California, elegantly flanked by esteemed special guests, Peter White and Laurence Juber. The performance blossomed into a celebration, not only of Stewart's enduring classics but also of the enthralling guitar virtuosity, a melodic dialogue, masterfully crafted by the trio of musicians, resonating through the historic venue.
The Empty Pockets, a vibrant American blues-rock band hailing from Chicago, ignited the stage, opening the show with a spirited, 30-minute set pulsating with their signature music. Initially emerging as Josh & The Empty Pockets, they paid homage to a rock legend with a Buddy Holly Tribute album in 2007 and further enticed their fans with "Under the Bed" in 2008, which spotlighted Erika Brett in a duo of songs. Following Brett’s addition, the band embraced a new identity, rechristening themselves as The Empty Pockets. The quartet, during their performance, elegantly unfurled a tapestry of musical talent and exquisite vocal harmonies, capturing the audience in a melodious embrace.
The night shimmered with a distinctive aura at the historic Lobero Theatre, currently basking in the glow of its 150th-anniversary celebrations, having already been the stage for a myriad of unique musical renditions this year. Local resident Alan Parsons, the maestro behind some of Al Stewart’s initial hits, graced the backstage, mingling amidst a cadre of prominent musicians, adding an extra layer of prestige to the already-special evening.
Stewart inaugurated the show, serenading the audience with a soulful solo performance of “Sirens of Titan.” After enchanting the crowd with a few more solo melodies, Paul White made a surprise and fitting entrance, joining Stewart and The Empty Pockets for a rendition of "Time Passages." Their performance was both a nostalgic nod to the original and a vibrant infusion of fresh energy, aptly celebrated since White co-penned the hit song alongside Stewart.
Laurence Juber, renowned for his tenure with Paul McCartney's band Wings from 1978 to 1981, elegantly took the stage as the next special guest, engaging in a duet with Stewart on "Joe the Georgian." Juber's guitar solos, both soaring and soulful, emerged as a luminous highlight of the show, infusing Stewart's familiar melodies with a fresh, dynamic dimension that captivated the audience.
Chase Huna, the recent saxophonist addition to Stewart's band, made his debut appearance at the Lobero Theatre, weaving his soulful melodies into the tapestry of the band's sound. Huna's expressive playing introduced an additional layer of auditory richness, and he was warmly embraced as a welcome enhancement to the ensemble's lineup.
Stewart, along with the band, orchestrated a musical journey that traversed the entirety of his illustrious career. From early gems such as "The Palace of Versailles" and "Modern Times" to enduring classics like "Year of the Cat" and "One Stage Before," the ensemble's performance resonated with both precision and verve. Stewart's vocals, both timeless and evocative, were a testament to his enduring prowess.
For numerous fans, the crescendo of the show was undeniably the encore performance of "Year of the Cat." Stewart, White, and Juber gracefully exchanged solos, each artist providing a unique voice through their instrument, culminating in a climactic pinnacle that irresistibly swept the audience to their feet, immersed in a collective euphoria.
The Al Stewart concert at the Lobero Theatre unfurled as a magical evening, interweaving music with evocative storytelling. Stewart, backed by his band, crafted an impeccable rendition of his enduring classics. The presence of special guests infused an added layer of exhilaration to the musical tapestry. Whether you're an avid Al Stewart aficionado or simply someone who revels in sublime music, attending one of his performances is an experience I wholeheartedly endorse.