Saturday, August 16, 2008

An Evening at the Hollywood Bowl

For my recent birthday, my boss gave me two box seat tickets to see Etta James in concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Now, going out after work on a midweek evening comes about fourth or fifth down on the list of ways I like to spend my time (the first being reading a good book, of course, followed closely by hanging around LibraryThing, posting to my blog, and sleeping). But, it being a gift, I had no choice but to go. I invited a dear friend to go along with me, and we made our plans.

They were good plans, too. We'd leave the office at about 5 p.m., walk over to my place (I live about 5 minutes from work), freshen up a bit, pack the cooler with the Mediterranean feast I'd picked up the night before from the Whole Foods deli, take the subway (the entrance is just across the street from my apartment) to Hollywood & Highland and the shuttle from there to the Bowl. We'd be there in plenty of time to enjoy our dinner and dessert before the show started at 8 p.m.

Know that little saying about "the best laid plans?" Well, these particular plans ended up going way astray. Like, think stratosphere.

At first, all seemed well. We got to my place, packed our food and utensils, I changed from my work clothes into something more comfy, grabbed my 70s-look fringed shawl to use as a tablecloth and in case it turned a cool later on, and out the door we went. While we were waiting at the elevators, I began listing what I had brought, in case I'd forgotten something. My friend broke in with a grin, "And the tickets?"

The tickets! Oh, no, I had left them in my desk at the office!

Leaving my friend to wait for me in the lobby, I hightailed it back to my apartment, grabbed my key card (since 9/11, we need one to get into the office), and hotfooted it to the office. On the way back, I realized I had forgotten the dessert in the refrigerator, so I went back up to my apartment, stuffed the dessert container into my purse, and hurried back down to the lobby. Now we were running about 30 minutes late, and sweat was dripping down my brow.

We caught the Redline with no further problems and in 20 mins. found ourselves at Hollywood & Highland. We began walking toward where I believed the shuttles would be waiting for us, when my friend pulled out a little map she'd printed off the internet and said she thought we were going the wrong way. We consulted the map and, sure enough, it looked like we were. So, we turned around and scurried back along Hollywood Blvd. through the massive traffic jam of sightseers and costumed freaks (lots of black capes and masks around, plus a Jack Sparrow or two and a mime all covered in silver paint ~ I kept wondering how his skin could breathe and whether he'd drop dead of oxygen starvation (like the golden girl in Goldfinger, remember?) right before our eyes) who pack the boulevard around the huge theater complex every evening, summer and winter.

We got to where the map indicated the shuttle parking lot should be and ~ surprise! surprise! ~ it wasn't there. We asked a passerby, who said it was in the direction we'd been headed originally before we turned around. My friend and I just looked at each other in horror and, without even discussing it, flagged a cab.

Now, I don't know how it is where you live, but in Los Angeles, cab drivers do not like to pick up anyone who is only going a short distance. We were within walking distance of the Bowl, but it was all uphill, and my friend and I had run out of stamina. The first cabbie looked at us like we were bugs and pretended he hadn't heard us, so we found another who said, sure, he'd be happy to take us to the Bowl. At least, I think that's what he said, since he spoke mostly in a language I took to be Iranian or Armenian or Greek. The drive to the Bowl, which should have taken 5 mins., ended up taking us nearly a half hour due to the heavy volume of cars headed for the Bowl, so our cabbie made out pretty well after all, but I was almost hyperventilating by the time he dropped us off, and my friend's face was an alarming puce color.

Anyway, we got to the Bowl just in time to find our seats, say hello to the young couple with whom we were sharing the box, and set the table up before the first act came on.

Born and raised in Paisley, Scotland, Paolo Nutini is a 22-year-old singer/songwriter who sings R&B with a voice "husky with longing, rasping with need." He reminded me a little of Van Morrison, Mick Jagger, and Otis Redding rolled into one. The music was soul with little bit of rock, jazz, country, and blues thrown in. He obviously had some fans in the audience ~ every song was prefaced by squeals and entreaties from young women for their favorite song. The best part of the whole show, for me, was the old bald dude who played harmonica and other wind instruments and looked like he'd been rockin' out since before the parents of the other guys in the band were even out of grammar school!

Second act was Solomon Burke, "the King of Rock and Soul." He came out on a revolving stage, sitting on a throne-like chair, with a regal red robe over his glittering black suit, flanked by a dozen musicians and singers and two huge vases of hundreds of long-stemmed red roses. A henchman loomed by his side ~ a tall man dressed in a white suit ~ who kept wiping his bald pate with a huge black handkerchief. Burke has a great deep voice ~ it sent shivers down my spine ~ and a wonderful stage presence, though he never rose from his throne. He was so immense, I think he couldn't easily have stood. His youngest daughter (out of 21 kids!) sang backup, and she soloed with "I Will Survive" at his request. During the show, he invited some of the women up on stage to dance, and a couple of them had this cool dance routine going with the guy in the white suit. Before the end of the performance, he had his son (another backup singer) and the guy in the white suit hand out all the roses to the ladies in the audience who came down to the stage area to get one. My friend and I didn't go down, but the sweet woman who was sharing our box went down and snagged three ~ one for each of us.

The legendary Etta James did not come on until 10 p.m., which was I thought rather late, but the reason was soon clear. After a musical tribute to Isaac Hayes, Etta walked onstage with the same painful shuffle I employ when I first get up in the morning, and for a minute I wondered if she would make it to the mike. Then she reached her chair and, holding onto the back, made a risque little hip movement that brought a surge of laughter and a few whistles from the audience.

For a woman of 70 years who had recently lost 200 pounds, seated in a chair, she put on quite a show! She sang a number of songs, including her signature tune, “At Last,” “Something’s Got A Hold On Me,” and my personal favorite, “Tell Mama,” all accompanied by the sort of physical movements that would have made me blush, except she did it with such joie de vivre and innocent fun that I couldn't help but grin and clap and hope that I'll be as hot a mama when I'm 70, though it isn't likely since I'm nowhere near as hot now and never have been. Her set was relatively short but full of great music, laughter, and her amazing voice. Everyone leaving the Bowl seemed to be in an uplifted mood, laughing and talking animatedly about the show, and even showing courtesy to others occasionally.

It was a good evening, and worth all the effort it took to get there!

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