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The Los Angeles Philharmonic embarked on its 100th season Thursday night, set to culminate with an Oscar performance this winter. Married classical music buffs Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance sat third-row center at the 2,265 Walt Disney Concert Hall, where Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel led his orchestra in a “California Soul” themed program. Among the selections were compositions borrowed from classic films Inside Daisy Clover and Chinatown. Confetti drizzled from the rafters during the encore, an arrangement of The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” belted out by guest vocalists Chris Martin and Corinne Bailey Rae.
“You’re considerably smarter than our audiences,” Martin joked from the stage, clarifying that he was referring to fans of his band, Coldplay, “not Brits.” Clad in a tux and brown boots, the seven-time Grammy winner playfully tossed aside his jacket and stretched his arms like Michael Phelps before singing The Doors’ “L.A. Woman,” accompanied by its co-writer, drummer and native Angeleno John Densmore.
“We were in a garage jamming,” Densmore told The Hollywood Reporter about crafting the title track from Jim Morrison’s final album. “[Tonight] it’s 84 musicians instead of four,” making melodies for a crowd that included Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, John Williams, Don Johnson, Matthew Lillard, Moby, Herbie Hancock, No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal, and The Strokes guitarist Nick Valensi. Shalita Grant (Santa Clarita Diet) and Bernard White (Kidding) also recited poetry between songs.
“I love this night,” said Lillard, an attendee of the L.A. Philharmonic’s fundraising opener for the past six years, who calls himself “completely musically illiterate.” “We have a bunch of friends from Pasadena come out and celebrate this evening, and sit back and watch the magic.” Another repeat spectator is Garcetti, who remarked, “Los Angeles is always moving so quickly, we sometimes forget to mark our progress, and the years tells us things the days cannot see…This was a moment to just breathe in.”
Martin, Bailey Rae, and Densmore do not come from traditional classic music backgrounds (their Philharmonic songs were arranged by David Campbell, father of multi-instrumentalist Beck).
“People will say that we’re being eclectic [with the line-up], but it’s not,” said Dudamel, who will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in January. “This is about an orchestra that embraces the community, and embracing the community is embracing all art.”
The Debbie Allen Dance Academy was the first dance company invited to appear at the iconic venue. In 2003, when the troupe performed “Merry Mancini Christmas,” Allen remembers building architect Frank Gehry even “came and showed us where we could dance,” reassuring them, “’Don’t worry about scratching up the floor.’”
Rather than waxing nostalgic with this concert, Vance wanted to rectify a decade-old regret. On the night of Dudamel’s premiere L.A. Philharmonic gala, “We were here just before the first intermission, the school called us where my son and daughter were in the evening care, and they told me to come get [my] son,” said the actor, now filming Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams’ upcoming HBO series Lovecraft Country. “So I had to leave…He was acting up, being crazy. Suffice it to say I missed the rest,” he continued, adding, “I’m so glad to see the whole thing tonight.” For her part, Academy Award-nominated Bassett concluded, “I haven’t seen Dudamel in a little while, so I’m happy to see him.”
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