Tuesday, June 21, 2016

When Bad Things Happen to Good Paying Customers

Well, we should at least shout this from the rooftops.   The Hollywood Bowl 2016 Summer Season has started.   Yay!

With the promise of four more evenings for me this year, I guess it's okay if Opening Night was like one of those dud firecrackers that you were saving for 9PM on the Fourth of July.   Because, as Bowl nights go, this one was of the non-explosive variety.

Months ago when my premium status allowed me to order my tickets for the season, I noted that Opening Night was the legendary 70s band Steely Dan.   Okay, I was intrigued.   Apparently so were a lot of people in the Los Angeles area because, even at that early juncture, tickets were tight.  I was not able to secure my usual location and got kicked up the slope of the Bowl.   The higher you go, the further away you are.   And, as you would expect, the surrounding clientele gets...well...sloppier.    

So, I wind up with seats so far from the stage that I also could have been on line for Space Mountain in Disneyland.   And the throng around me may have been there for a concert, but most were there to socialize with each other.   Have a carrot stick.   Have some Chardonnay.   Have some hummus.   Have some Merlot.   Have a brownie.   Have some Cabernet.   And, oh, yeah, a joint.  

Yep, the crowd was most definitely over 65 and burnt out hippies who still hate the fact that Nixon erased 18 minutes of tape.   And, yeah, they may have been there for the music, but nothing would stop them from talking with each other. Incessantly.  Regardless of whether or not something was happening on the stage five miles away.

Poor Hollywood Bowl conductor Thomas Wilkins.   A generally affable guy who was entrusted to providing entertainment for the first half of the concert.   Some nice pieces done by the Bowl orchestra.   A glee club made up of city school children.   And some opening remarks about the summer to come.   I assume all this happened.   I saw it unfolding on the big screens.   I just couldn't hear a thing.

Have a celery stick.

Try this wine cooler.

Where's the Xanax?

The whole first forty five minutes was as unsettling as an enema done with Ajax.

Then Steely Dan showed up.   Probably because Saturday night is an off night for the Bingo caller at the senior center.

You could tick off their hits one by one.  Except, with these old fogies now tottering somewhere between 70 and Forest Lawn, the hits were now officially misses.   In retrospect, I don't think the group's major successes were on the concert stage.   They are clearly a band who need studio electronics to make them sound decent.

But play they did.  And we were all the worse for it.   They tried to cover up their age-worn limitations by having the Bowl Orchestra play behind them.   But, once Donald Fagen opened his mouth, chalk was screeching across the blackboards of our minds.   To make matters worse, he looks a bit these days like Bernie Sanders and you can only wonder what the latter would sound like singing "Lady Charlemagne."  Meanwhile, the group also used three background singers who looked like they were losers the last time Bette Midler was auditioning for new Harlettes.

The crowd that came out to reunite with their past did receive the group, but I thought even that was less than expected.   I've been to some really raucous evenings at the Bowl where ancient patrons happily dislocated their hips to the tunes of Journey or Billy Joel.   Last Saturday, there was the errant fan, flailing at the air and wearing a neon necklace, the latter not being a good look for anybody over the age of 70.   But, even that seemed to be a mis-connection for the night.   The audience was enthusiastic, but not wildly so.  But who can blame them given that Steely Dan sounded like a high school cover band doing Steely Dan music.

There were some fireworks to close the show and even that was an unintentional misstep.   Given that Santa Ana winds started blowing in mid-show, all the smoke from the explosives blew back into the faces of the audience.   Unlike the group on stage, who was blowing smoke up our asses.

Eventually and gratefully, the show ended.   Fagen and company must have been told that it was last call for Jell-o at Leisure World.   They crawled off almost abruptly without an encore, leaving several of their biggest hits (like "Rikki, Don't Lose That Number") not played.   Maybe we were all better for it.   With the energy on the stage, that tune might have come out sounding more like the Pachelbel Canon in D.

I looked around at the dazed and still chatty folks around me and pledged never to sit that far up the hill at the Hollywood Bowl ever again.   I was dying to follow one or two of the former hippies into the stacked parking lot to see if they had indeed hung a handicapped placard on a Harley-Davidson.

My next show there will be July 4 and the musical act is supposed to be Chicago.  That's the group, not the musical with Gwen Verdon.  The prospects for boredom could be the same.   But I'm heartened that they couldn't be any worse than Steely Dan.

Stay tuned.

Dinner last night: Hamburger and macaroni salad.

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