By Stephanie Powell
It’s 9am in downtown Los Angeles, and the Southern California sun is already living up to its reputation. I’m forked between 400 Youth Orchestra Los Angeles members, a podium elevating music director Gustavo Dudamel, and a lineup of proud parents, who look to have been in place long before the sun’s first ray touched the reflective silver skin of Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The LA Phil is launching Celebrate LA, a daylong partnership with CicLAvia, which has eight miles of downtown Los Angeles’ streets shuttered from traffic, and filled with pedestrians and bicyclists. After a punchy performance by YOLA, conducted by Dudamel, the crowd is off. The eight-mile route is filled with artists and entertainment along the way—including six stages, a rock-climbing wall, Burning Man installations, music by the Calder Quartet, performances by actor Jeff Goldblum (of Jurassic Park fame), and so much more. The idea is to link two of Los Angeles’ most iconic musical hubs: Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. After a day spent cycling, walking, and engaging artistically with Los Angeles, concertgoers make their way to the main event, LA Phil 100 at the Hollywood Bowl. The free concert is complete with a lineup of megastar guests, including jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and pop star Katy Perry.
The show starts with YOLA playing Mexican composer Arturo Marquez‘ Conga del Fuego Nuevo alongside the Los Angeles Philharmonic. As the music begins to carry through the stadium, the skeleton of the stage itself becomes its own art instillation. Stark, silver soundwaves move across the outline of the Hollywood Bowl’s stage as pleasing visual effects. Dudamel, smiling and bouncing along to the music, leans toward different sections of the orchestra to emphasize moments in the music.
The evening continues with the LA Phil doing one of the things it does best: premiering a newly commissioned work, Desenne‘s Guasamacabra. The orchestra continues to showcase its breadth of talent with Stravinsky‘s Berceuse and the Finale from the Firebird Suite.
Soon it’s time to remind the audience of its locale as 24-year-old chart-topping Colombian-American singer Kali Uchis performs two of her hits “Flight 22” and “After the Storm” with the Philharmonic. Evoking classic Hollywood glam in a pale-blue floor-length gown, Uchis frames her vocals with soft strings in the background.
After a brief intermission, the evening carries on in full force: Herbie Hancock takes the stage with DXT on the turntable to perform his classic hit “Rockit” alongside the LA Phil. The stage is full of musical variety and idioms woven together effortlessly, which all seems to tangibly revitalize the audience. We are, after all, in Los Angeles. And that fact is only reiterated when Katy Perry takes the stage to perform a lively cover, in honor of the day’s CicLAvia event, of Freddie Mercury’s “Bicycle” with the Philharmonic. She continues to illicit wild screams as the LA Phil starts to play the opening bars to her chart-topping hit “Roar,” only to finish off her set with “Firework,” which, of course, is backlit by some showstopping pyrotechnics.
But if the crowd thinks that finale will suffice, oh were they wrong. Enter John Williams, who walks casually toward the podium. The lights dim and the LA Phil’s opening notes earn immediate chants and screams from the audience—Williams is conducting the Main Title from Star Wars. The architecture of the Hollywood Bowl transforms into a virtual R2D2, with blinking lights flashing across its edifice. With a once-in-a-lifetime grand finale complete, standing ovation included, the audience is finally ready to call it a day.