By Elizabeth Gracen:
I’m just going to say it: The Hollywood Bowl is the quintessential La La Land experience. Some might argue that there are better, more iconic points of interest associated with a visit to Hollywood, but I dare say that this gorgeous amphitheater, nestled in the Hollywood Hills under the stars and Klieg lights, is the absolute must-see experience in Tinsel Town.
Whether you tote your own picnic basket, bottle of wine, blanket, and cushion for the hard bleacher seats or you decide to splurge on a box seat and an expensive, yummy packaged dinner and wildly over-priced bottle of vino from an excellent selection of markets or restaurants within the Bowl’s confines, as they say,"It’s all good."
Over the years, I’ve seen a variety of performances in this fine venue—everyone from the likes of B.B. King, K.D. Lang (it was actually a “blue moon” the night I saw her), Ray La Montagne, Sting & Peter Gabriel, and various Broadway revivals. I even spent a rollicking evening a week before I gave birth enjoying a terrific concert bill of David Byrne and Arcade Fire that ended in a crazed finale featuring the Extra Action Marching Band appearing high in the bleachers, making their way through the crowd to a cover of Beyonce’s "Crazy in Love." I can’t leave out the numerous evenings spent in the nosebleed seats enjoying the LA Phil, conducted by Esa Pekka Salonen. I even splurged one evening for a box seat with one of my best pals for the Sing Along SOUND OF MUSIC. I’m not a Bowl pro—as I’ve only purchased one season pass over the years thus far—but I feel experienced enough to say that I understand, on a visceral level, what a good night at the Bowl can deliver.
Now that my resume is sufficiently sorted, we can move on to the good stuff.
When I heard Natalia LaFourcade’s voice on KCRW late this past June, I immediately scoured YouTube and Spotify for a healthy music binge, but I didn’t realize that she would be performing at the Bowl until I sat down to plan an evening out with my mother for her yearly visit for my daughter’s birthday. My mom had never been to the Bowl before, and I wanted to treat her to something special. Little did I know that I had struck gold and that the upcoming evening would turn out to be ever so satisfying.
Maestro Gustavo Dudamel has been the Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 2008, and The Dudamel Foundation continues its dedication to the belief that the arts play an essential role in creating a better society. The foundation's mission is “to expand access to music and art for as many children as possible, while providing tools and opportunities for young people to shape their creative futures.” Without exception, Dudamel’s talent, charisma, and obvious appreciation for the artists he performs with always sets the stage for unique musical moments whether at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles or in the summer at the Hollywood Bowl.
On this particular evening, Dudamel could not keep the warm smile from his face as he introduced Natalia LaFourcade as a phenomenal talent, an extraordinary human being, and nothing less than the “voice of Mexico.”
When LaFourcade hit the stage, the audience, predominantly Hispanic, greeted her with an open-hearted familiarity that paid tribute to her solid career of pop and traditional music. Born in Mexico City in 1984, LaFourcade has been writing songs since she was sixteen years old. Releasing the first of her eight albums in 2002, she has received eleven Latin Grammy Awards and has been nominated five times for a Grammy Award, winning in 2015 for best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album for Hasta La Raíz.
Dressed in sheer blue lace and knee-high black cowboy boots, it was hard to believe that the commanding, clear, precise, perfectly tamed vocals came from such a petite powerhouse of a woman. At one point I actually leaned to my mother and said, “Little Sparrow—just like Piaf.”