John Williams & the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra @ the Hollywood Bowl in LA (9/5/09)

Kevin Keating

I hope you don't mind a few non-Bay Area concert reviews here. I've got a few travel plans in the near future, but unfortunately, none include any live music. So for the time being, the recent NYC NIN show, and these new posts will be it.

I'll start by saying that the labor day weekend was meant to be a fun trip down to L.A. to see the Nine Inch Nails show at the Wiltern Theater on Saturday night. NIN were scheduled to play two shows over the weekend, their very last two shows for the foreseeable future. Of the two, I was only lucky enough to get tickets to the Wiltern and not the smaller and more exclusive club-show at the Echoplex on Sunday. However, only a few days before the show, Trent Reznor came down with the flu and was forced to cancel both the Henry Fonda and Wiltern shows. With my hotel already booked, I decided to drive down to LA anyway and make the most of a disappointing situation.

As you'll see, I wasn't the only one disappointed with the cancellation:

As fate would have it, I was about to find myself in (at least what I consider to be) a very lucky situation! As I arrived at the hotel, I realized that I was only a few blocks away from the famous Hollywood Bowl, and quickly looked to see if anyone was performing that night. Get this! Probably the greatest movie-music composer *ever* was guest-conducting the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra that night and performing a selection of songs from the movies! I called the box office to get ticket info and found that there were only a limited supply of tickets left -- and only singles! Lucky again, because my wife wasn't able to make the trip with me, and so I only needed one ticket!

So besides my love of NIN, people who know me also know that I'm a pretty big Star Wars fan, Indiana Jones, E.T., Superman, Jaws... Basically, any major Steven Spielberg or George Lucas movie -- and I'm pretty sure they've all been scored by John Williams!

I made the walk up to the Hollywood Bowl from the Renaissance Hotel and got a ticket towards the middle of the bowl -- pretty much dead center of the amphitheater... And I waited... And waited...

The box office warned me to get there early to ensure that I was able to get one of the last single seats they had left, which for me was about 2 hours early. So I hung out at my seat and read a few magazines that I brought with me -- and took in the atmosphere. For those of you in the Bay Area, the Hollywood Bowl is most like the Shoreline Amphitheater. The Bowl holds about 20,000 -- whereas the Shoreline holds 22,000. The main difference between the two (besides the stage) is that the Bowl is completely seated. I'm guessing Shoreline is able to fit the extra numbers into the large lawn area up above the seated section. At the Bowl, it's all seated, or I should say 'benched' -- with the exclusion of the lower/closer sections, the remaining seats are just long wooden benches. Not the most comfortable seats, but for $.75, you can get a padded cushion for your rear.

As 8.30pm closed-in, I could see various performers take the stage, and at just about 8.35pm, Mr. Williams was introduced to the crowd. Upon taking his center podium, he welcomed us to the Bowl and then introduced Lynn Redgrave who participated in the first half of the show as the narrator and paid tribute to the Harry Potter series of movies.

The second half of the show started with a medley of probably about 30 movie themes all pieced together and synced to a video of the corresponding movie clips. After which John talked about his endless collaboration with Steven Spielberg and the music he composed for the movie "Catch Me If You Can". Here's a clip:

The highlight of the second set came with the closing performance of the Superman theme song. Before starting the song, Williams spoke of how the performance was a tribute to all superheroes, and focused on Superman and Batman. The corresponding video footage that was played during the song mostly focused on clips from the various Superman movies, but also included clips from the Batman movies -- although the performance was incredible, the Batman footage made me kept wondering why they were including it. The music is clearly so attached to Superman, that it just didn't make sense to me why they were trying to include Batman too. If you know, leave me a comment below!

Finally, the encore! This is what the majority of the crowd was waiting for! John returned to the stage and quickly launched into "Yoda's Theme". As you can see from the footage below, a good number of audience members quickly lit-up their Light Sabers and conducted along with Williams.

Then came a few other recognizable theme songs before ending with the "Imperial March"! Williams and co. received a standing ovation for over 2 minutes! Just amazing...

What a night and a fine replacement for the canceled Nine Inch Nails show at the Wiltern! I could have done with less Harry Potter, but I'm not going to complain! For those of you interested, here's the description of the show from the official program. (3MB PDF)

Check back soon and I'll have another lucky story related to the concert I saw on Sunday night!

#buttons=(Ok, Go it!) #days=(20)

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