Monday, June 01, 2015

Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga at the Hollywood Bowl

Tony Bennett was performing at the Hollywood Bowl Saturday night with Lady Gaga. So I was able to go see Tony Bennett and still seem hip.

It was a sold out show, and judging by the number of biker chicks in prom dresses I’d say most were there to see Gaga.

Security people were carding everybody trying to get into the wine bar before the show. I told the guy an easier way than asking everyone to produce ID was just to ask who they were there to see. If they said Tony Bennett just let ‘em in.
The Hollywood Bowl is always a scene. There are two classes of ticket holders – those in the boxes up front and the peons who sit on wooden benches used originally during the Inquisition. Folks who sit in the boxes usually try to outdo each other with elaborate picnic dinners. The rabble bring in El Polo Loco.

Every Saturday evening it seems I get twenty Facebook photos from friends in boxes at the Bowl toasting the camera and eating Chilean sea bass. Those of us in the bleachers don’t upload photos. We're trekking back down the hill to rent seat cushions. 

The Hollywood Bowl always features a great summer program featuring several classical series, numerous pop series, and they kick it off with a sunrise service every Easter where Jesus is always scheduled to appear but something invariably comes up and He’s a no-show.

The Bowl’s clamshell stage is iconic, the acoustics are wonderful, but I miss the swimming pool. At one time a swimming pool separated the stage from the box seats. How LA is that? I don’t know why they took it out. Probably a number of drug-addled rock bands of the ‘60s had members who drowned or electrocuted themselves during sound checks.

As for the concert itself, Tony Bennett was amazing considering he is almost 89. Lots of notes he can still hit. And he goes for them, God love him. His phrasing is also so good that he can slide around a song even if he’s struggling with it. And he looks great. I was a little disappointed that he didn’t do his biggest hit – “Capital City” from THE SIMPSONS episode that David Isaacs and I wrote (“Dancin’ Homer”), but he did do “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” which is still a crowd-pleaser except to diehard Dodger fans. Quite simply: Tony Bennett is a national treasure.

Lady Gaga has an exceptional voice and showed off some impressive vocal gymnastics, although honestly, this music is not in her wheelhouse. No, it’s not like when Pat Boone tried to sing punk rock, but I still felt she was not in her element. Had she sung a few of her own hits I wonder how many Tony Bennett fans would just turn off their hearing aids.

Her wardrobe was vintage Gaga. No meat dress however.  It hadn't thawed out in time.  A couple of gowns were see-through though. Somehow I can’t picture Ella Fitzgerald or Barbra Streisand wearing those. Cher, the gauntlet has been thrown!

All in all, it was a lovely night under the stars. I’ll now be able to tell friends I saw Lady Gaga, and Lady Gaga fans will be able to brag to their friends that they saw “Some old guy.”


opimus said...

How many bloody noses did you have?

MikeK.Pa. said...

"Quite simply: Tony Bennett is a national treasure."
I second that. His SNOWFALL album is one of the best Christmas albums eve.

"A couple of gowns were see-through though. Somehow I can’t picture Ella Fitzgerald or Barbra Streisand wearing those."
I saw photos of Streisand back in her 20s and was amazed at what great legs she had. Never noticed them, probably because of her overwhelming voice and personality.

"Those of us in the bleachers don’t upload photos. We're trekking back down the hill to rent seat cushions."
Speaking of nose-bleed seats, a friend of mine scored last-minute tix to Game 5 of the 2008 Phillies-Tampa Bay World Series. We were in the second row from the top in the right field corner- closer to the parking lot than the field - but when the game was over (two days later because of rain delay) and the Phils clinched only their second WS title in 125 years, I felt like I was right on top of the field.

Carol said...

Did you write the Capital City Song, or did your partner? Because now it's stuck in my head, thank you very much.

Mike Barer said...

Great review!

Curt Alliaume said...

Clearly you've forgotten Barbra Streisand's see-through pant suit at the 1969 Oscars.

Pat Reeder said...

I appreciate the review. As you know, this is one of my fields, as my wife, Laura Ainsworth, is a retro-style jazz singer, and as a collector and historian of 20th century music, I help dig up forgotten gems for her to revive.

We see Tony Bennett every time he comes through Dallas. His voice isn't what it was, but it has held up remarkably well, and he can still hit those big notes he was famous for. I actually prefer his later, more intimate style; his earlier hits all seemed to end with him blasting out a note to the rear balcony. Toning it down made his interpretations better. I hate that he mostly just does duet albums now, recording songs he's done far better in the past with hot young flashes in the pan. He still has the stuff to cut another great solo album, but it won't happen if he keeps diluting his talent with these cheesy duets.

As for Lady Gaga, I'm with you. She is very talented, and she can sing this stuff better than most modern pop singers (most of whom can't even sing modern pop), but it's still not her forte. She falls back on yelling too often, in a bad attempt at sounding like she's really SWINGIN'!! And it's hard to convince people that you're bring back grace, elegance and style when everyone can see your nipples and thong. But at least she genuinely respects Tony Bennett and this music. Maybe this will help her fans discover the Great American Songbook, and they'll eventually graduate to people who are better at it. Sort of like how some kids use boy bands as a stepping stone to discovering the Beatles.

emily said...

While you were there, didn't you kinda miss the KHJ Hollywood Bowl concerts? Remember? Back then a 93-cent ticket got you the Supremes, Sonny & Cher or the Rolling Stones.

Hamid said...

The rabble bring in El Polo Loco.

I made the mistake of having El Polo Loco when I was in LA a few years ago. I felt sick for hours afterwards.

Baja Fresh and Johnny Rockets were my favourites. Johnny Rockets baby. Rules.

Scott O. said...

Among everything else you've done, you did the Dancin' Homer episode too?

You're a f*cking genius!

Oat Willie said...

Dancin Homer is on the FXX Channel today.
"Ah, Mancini. The mascot's best friend."

ToddTrumpet said...

Last summer, I was lucky enough to be invited to "The Simpsons Take The Bowl" by a couple of box seat season ticket holders. Excellent show, great fireworks finale... but this was without question the most humid day of 2014 in L.A. By the time Conan O'Brien took the stage to sing "The Monorail Song", I was longing for the presumably more temperate jungles of Borneo.

As for dinner: Cantaloupe smoothies, Sweet Lady Jane pastries...

...and (no joke) El Pollo Loco.


Hamid said...

"Go, Dancin' Homer! Get up, man!"

"Lively up yourself, Dancin' Homer."

Doug R. said...

Saw them in Las Vegas in February and thought they were both great. He still sounds like Tony Bennett ("Steppin' out with my baby ..")and even if swing is not her forte, she has a great voice, was totally in service to his music, and clearly loves the man.

They sang for two hours and there were no back-up singers anywhere near the place.

Buttermilk Sky said...

At least they go into the studio together to record duets, unlike Sinatra and all his pre-recorded partners. I don't think they even met.

DrBOP said...



VP81955 said...

Baja Fresh and Johnny Rockets were my favourites. Johnny Rockets baby. Rules

Johnny Rockets is owned by Dan Snyder (as is Six Flags), so this former Washingtonian wants absolutely nothing to do with the chain.

mmryan314 said...

I am generations away from Gaga but I love her " ballsy" style and always have.She is a great entertainer and the fact that she appreciates one of the loves of my life makes her even more admirable.

Johnny Walker said...

I saw Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett sing together on a show here in the UK and I was absolutely floored. I'm not a huge fan of either, but together they sounded amazing. I thought Gaga's voice was sublime. I remarked that they should do an album together, because I would buy it if they did, and was informed they already had. Which reminds me, I need to buy it.

Greg Ehrbar said...

According to THE CARTOON MUSIC BOOK, Tony Bennett credits that Simpsons episode for helping him widening his audience with younger fans.

Once again, you and David make history!

chuckcd said...

I saw Monty Python there in their last North American concert/show.
Always loved the venue and yes I was in one of the boxes!

Unknown said...

I seem to recall Streisand wearing some sort of see-through-to-my- touchas pants at the '68 Oscars but I could be wrong.

benilhalk said...
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Unknown said...

I get twenty Facebook photos from friends in boxes at the Bowl toasting the camera and eating Chilean sea bass. Those of us in the bleachers don’t upload photos. We're trekking back down the hill to rent seat cushions.

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