It was a cool and breezy Monday night in Santa Barbara, but it didn’t keep thousands of fans from coming out to see BØRNS and alt-J electrify the stage at the Santa Barbara Bowl.
BØRNS, née Garrett Borns, fully embraced Santa Barbara’s laid-back vibe, donning sunglasses and a tank top, despite the chill in the air. (He did, however, trade in his headline-making Coachella short shorts for warm blue velvet pants.) Backed by a full band, including a trio of female rockers, yes!—the Michigan-born falsetto frontman wowed the crowd with a non-stop medley that bounced back and forth between his 2015 debut album Dopamine and his 2018 release Blue Madonna. He kicked off the night with his latest single and collab with Lana Del Rey, “God Save Our Young Blood.”
BØRNS owned the stage as he grooved from track to track, including “American Money,” “Holy Ghost,” “Dug My Heart,” “Supernatural,” and “Second Night of Summer.” Showing off his musicality, he brought out a guitar for the hit “10,000 Emerald Pools,” before launching into four back-to-back tracks off his latest album. The entire set was a fun time, building up energy and enthusiasm for the final song and crowd favorite “Electric Love.”
In his mid-twenties and already with two studio albums in the last three years, BØRNS proves he’s got what it takes to be a megastar—and I think it’s safe to say we were all struck by his electric stage performance.
“And every night my mind is running around her
Then it's getting louder and louder and louder
Baby you're like lightning in a bottleI can't let you go now that I got it
All I need is to be struck
By your electric love”
After a short break to set up for what appeared to be an impending spectacle of lights, it was time for the main act of the night. An English trio with an experimental sound, alt-J (officially their name is ∆, the Latin symbol for change) band members Joe Newman, Thom Green, and Gus Unger-Hamilton took their places on stage.
They kicked off their set with “Deadcrush” off their 2017 album Relaxer. I wasn’t exaggerating about the light show; from the very first note flashes of red, yellow, green, black, and white lit up the Bowl, in sync with every intense beat.
alt-J has a few records under their belt, including the 2014 Grammy-nominated This is All Yours, and they made sure to cover the whole gamut of their discography during the hour-and-a-half set, from “Fitzpleasure” and “Something Good” off 2012’s An Awesome Wave, to “Nara” and “The Gospel of John Hurt” from This is All Yours.
“How green, how green was my valley?
To be told of such hills
To be held in such spots
To behold such warmth
Call to arms these harmonies!
And in happy agony we sing
How green, how green was my valley?”
The group rarely took a break to catch their breath, and launched into one track after another including my personal favorite “In Cold Blood,” the hip-swaying “Tesselate,” Every Other Freckle,” “Hunger of the Pine,” and “Bloodflood.”
“It’s good to be back in probably America's most beautiful venue.”
The Leeds-based Indie Rockers are known for frontman Joe Newman’s unique singing style as well as their different approach to lyrics that are heavily influenced by pop culture and historical events. For example, next up was the popular “Matilda,” a song which is inspired by the climactic scene in the famous 1994 film Léon: The Professional.
They performed four more songs, including “Dissolve Me,” “Pleader,” “Taro” (another tune based off historical events, written about war photographer Gerda Taro), and “Left Hand Free.”
“Hey shady baby
I'm hot like the prodigal son
Pick a petal eenie, meeny miny mo
And flower, you're the chosen one”
-Left Hand Free-
The night ended with a three-song encore including “Intro (An Awesome Wave)”, “3WW,” and “Breezeblocks,” another song influenced by popular culture, specifically their love of the children’s book Where the Wild Things Are.
Their lyrics are often complex and difficult to unpack, their sound heavy at times. But what I find fascinating about alt-J is that no two songs sound alike, making it difficult to predict what they will come out with next. The mystery is part of their appeal, and it’s what will make them a lasting addition to the music scene and hopefully a repeat visitor to the SB Bowl.
Check out all the show photos by Santa Barbara Bowl House Photographer, A Art Fisher, on our photo library.
Rachel Jefferson is a Santa Barbara-based writer, marketer, and avid concertgoer.