I first started attending concerts in 1971, when I was in high school and before I learned to drive.

Concerts in Florida were few and far between, and I would have to resort to bribing older kids with tickets and gas money to get to shows sometimes as much as four hours away.

I began as a hard rock devotee. My first concert was Bloodrock, followed by bands such as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. The Zeppelin show was at the Orlando Sports Stadium, which was actually a rodeo barn. It quickly became my favourite venue - only an hour from my house and with a regular concert schedule.

Shortly after that legendary Zeppelin show, I went to my first acoustic concert, which featured Johnathan Edwards, John Sebastian, and David Bromberg. I knew the performers from the radio but I had never been to a show that wasn’t blaring hard rock, so I didn’t know what to expect. I was particularly interested in hearing Bromberg as he was on one of my favorite live records, a 1971 recording called "The Isle Of Wight/Atlanta Pop Festival" and which collated live recordings from both festivals.

The three-record live recording featured many of the best rock bands of the era and never received the notoriety it deserved because it was eclipsed by the Woodstock and Woodstock II albums. Bromberg had spent time playing with Bob Dylan and had a hit with a remake of 'Mr. Bojangles'. As a young rocker, I was expecting to be a bit bored by the folksy atmosphere. But when Bromberg took the stage, the energy level in the packed venue exploded into thunderous applause and his distinctive vocals shot through the flimsy metal bleachers with a precision I wasn’t used to at a rock show.

I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I was being educated in Americana roots from black American blues to Cajun swamp music. But what I do remember from that show was the ability to understand complex lyrics and to absorb the sharp wit of the consummate singer. It really was Bromberg that led me to the music of Dylan and a newfound fascination for American folk music.

Fast forward to 2019, and it was with great anticipation that I attended only my second David Bromberg concert in over 47 years. The appearance at the historic Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara was one of only a handful on the American west coast and featured Bromberg in a trio with longtime musical collaborators Larry Campbell (who also toured with Bob Dylan for many years) and Los Lobos guitarist David Hidalgo. The show featured all three performers taking over lead vocal duties in a steady rotation.

Bromberg played guitar, sang and acted as a jovial MC. Campbell sang, played guitar and also put in an excellent fiddle session. Hidalgo sang, played guitar and accordion. Billed as The American Crossroads Trio, the musicians had toured together before and really seemed to enjoy playing as a trio. Bromberg shined brightest playing humorous traditional black American blues classics.

Most of the songs were culled from his most recent album, 'The Blues, the Whole Blues, and Nothing But the Blues', which features eleven classic covers and two original blues songs.

Campbell took the lead on some classic folk tunes, including a great instrumental that he wrote on the road with Dylan, a haunting fiddle on the classic Patti Page 'Tennessee Waltz' and a surprising lead on a Spanish folk song, with Hidalgo on accordion. Two of the ushers could be spotted in the lobby dancing the waltz during the Page classic. Hidalgo also sang the lead in English and Spanish including a song from the Los Lobos songbook. Altogether it was an inspiring night of American roots music from three American musical gems.

Photos by L. Paul Mann

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Commenting On: Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara, 15/1/2019 - David Bromberg, Larry Campbell and David Hidalgo

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