I went to a concert last night.
The Barry Manilow reference is not entirely fair. Being married to a musician I have seen some of the coolest cats and cat-ettes from across the globe – Herbie Hancock, Prince, Fitz and the Tantrums, James Taylor, Seu Jorge, Arturo Sandoval, Jethro Tull, A Prairie Home Companion, Mayer Hawthorne, John Mayer, Tom Jones, YES, Toto, Peter Gabriel, Genesis when Peter Gabriel was the lead singer and Phil Collins was just the drummer, Tears For Fears, Gino Vannelli, Styx, Thomas Dolby, Robert Palmer, Ivan Lins, Night Ranger, Rick Derringer, Peter Frampton, The Steve Miller Band, – tell me when to stop.
The Hollywood Bowl is, for many – artist and attendee alike – THE premiere music venue in North America. Interestingly, it began in 1916 on a grassy knoll with a community theater production of Julius Caesar. Primarily run by women, it was in 1920 the area began to be referred to by its present nomenclature. Almost 100 years and many architectural greats and their up’s and down’s later, it sits nestled into the Hollywood Hills, a beacon to music makers and listeners alike.
Yeah, the tickets are excruciatingly expensive, the beer costs 12 bucks, it takes 30 minutes to get out of the parking lot, the guy behind us wouldn’t shut up and I got a contact high from the marijuana. But hey, it’s a concert! And while the audiences are not the scruffy high school and college kids that I sat with on many of my ‘hot August nights’ (actually a reference to The Greek Theater and the Neil Diamond album of the same name), I was thrilled by the experience all the same.
First of all, there is nothing like live music. To see the expressions of the artists as they ply their trade, to feel the music thumping in your chest, to watch the visual gymnastics and showmanship. The aural experience transcends to every sense and every emotion. And done well, it is a rockin’ good time.
Phoenix did not disappoint. Everything about their presentation reflected their European style. The staging was clean, fresh, hip – very French. Their dress – nonchalant-cool. And their message as sincere as the interview I listened to with lead singer, Thomas Mars on KCRW’s ‘Morning Becomes Eclectic’ with Jason Bentley. The new album, ‘Ti Amo’, is sung in five different languages. “We are dreaming about something…. We do not know what we are doing…. Fantasy, pure fantasy. Would it be the truth, it would be a very boring record,” Thomas explains.
Phoenix has been on the American radar since about 2006. My husband and I discovered them two weeks ago at a movie. We thought we were making a musical discovery. By the sold out house last night at the Hollywood Bowl, we were definitely late to the party.
Last night, Phoenix lit up the stage and the audience. Their music was vibrant and fun – their delivery, ecstatic and sincere. The set and lighting were incredible – so groovy-cool, yet simple. Clearly designed with a sensibility for how the entire event was being displayed, including the four 23 x 13 foot LED HD screens surrounding the stage. Peter Gabriel and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway move over!
But my eyes kept traveling back to the crowd. 18,000 strong. From every conceivable walk and sensibility of life. Listening to music, in five different languages, and understanding every word. I sure did.
I found myself thinking of all the global strife that has occurred in the past few months, as my eyes scanned the enraptured crowd. All eyes glued to Thomas Mars and the boys. All lips moving haltingly, faltering over words for which they might not even know the meaning.
We weren’t Angelenos last night. And they weren’t French. There were no Republicans or Democrats or Labor Party or Conservatives or Ugly Americans or Frogs or Muslims or Nasty Women or Queers or Skinheads or all the other myriad sects into which we try to divide ourselves.
18,000 people were listening to 6 guys play music.
We were all in it together.
And I felt hope.
Merci beaucoup, Phoenix. Vive la France!