Doobies light it up at the Chumash

April 23, 2012

By COLIN JONES

There are a lot of similarities between the athletic and entertainment worlds but after a nearly flawless performance by the Doobie Brothers last week in Santa Ynez, I realized there is one big difference.

In pro sports, the players usually reach a peak in their late 20s and other than golfers or jockeys, it’s rare to see 40-year old athletes perform at a high level.

Classic rockers like the Doobies are another story when it comes to their live shows. Sure their creative juices for the most part dried up a long time ago and they are living off the nostalgia of decades-old songs that defined a generation.

But from the second they opened by jumping into “Jesus is Just Alright” to the ubiquitous opening guitar lick of “China Grove” to the anthemic “Listen to the Music” closing, the eight-piece band were completely in their element on stage. It helps that founding members Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons ( the only two remaining) have been doing this pretty much nonstop for 40 plus years.

From a sheer performance standpoint, these guys and fellow classic rockers like Steve Miller today sound better than ever. Whether it’s years of experience, music technology, clean living or no more female groupie distractions, their craft has been honed to an incredible level.

Renditions of radio staples “Rockin Down the Highway,” “Take Me in Your Arms” and “Takin’ It to the Street”’ were crisp and full-bodied, not surprising when you consider the innumerable times they’ve been played.

Even the Doobies’ new material like “A Brighter Day” and the title track from their latest release “World Gone Crazy” are nice, catchy songs, despite a complete lack of sales or airplay. Why do these veteran groups even bother recording full albums anymore? They should focus on a few of their best new tunes and market the hell out of them in the digital world.

Getting back to the show, the band did its best to get the older, rounder audience off the seats but it wasn’t until security opened up the front and they rushed the stage that the energy level spiked. The near-capacity crowd then rollicked and sang along until the 95-minute concert’s final note,

Afterward, my friend Mike asked what genre the Doobies Brothers fall under. None really came to mind: not hard rock, heavy metal, southern rock. folk, blues, certainly not new wave or punk. And that’s probably the biggest compliment you can pay an artist: their style and sound is totally unique and distinctive.

While rock and roll is traditionally a younger man’s (or woman) sport, the Doobie Brothers showed central coast concert goers that old guys can still bring it.

And there’s one more chance to see for yourself when they headline the Avila Beach Blues Festival next month.