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Sousa, Bernstein, Copland, Prima … Jackson? Yup.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic paid typically expert tribute to great American composers Thursday during the opening night of its annual 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular at the Hollywood Bowl. And conductor-ringmaster John Morris Russell said they decided it was apropos to “salute one of America’s greatest performers.”
“Michael Jackson energized an entire planet,” he said, without hyperbole.
So after the national anthem, a march, some “West Side Story” and “Hoedown,” the orchestra played a snippet from “Thriller.” French horns and violins alternately subbed for the vocals. It was a delightful if fairly surreal preamble to an entirely enjoyable evening.
The Phil offered up a broad range of music made in the U.S. of A. — ranging from marches to big band, opera to ballet, Broadway to Hollywood. But it was left to this year’s special guest John Fogerty to lay down the good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll, and he did so furiously. The one-time Creedence frontman was the perfect choice for a holiday dollop of red, white and blue.
His song choices ran the gamut of Americana. Musically, the rootsy rock made side trips to country, R&B, folk, blues, even gospel. Then there were the lyrics: “Green River” took us to a place of ropes hangin’ to trees and barefoot girls dancin’ in the moonlight. “Hot Rod Heart” addressed our car culture and restless spirit. “Fortunate Son” typified disgust with Vietnam and the entitled who didn’t have to fight there. The title of “Blue Ridge Mountain Blues” speaks for itself.
But the American theme was solidified when Fogerty paired “Rock and Roll Girls” in a medley with “Centerfield.” Couldn’t have been more star-spangled if he had served it up with hot dogs and apple pie.
The run of Creedence standards and solo stuff was outstanding, but surprise highlights came with a couple of reworked classics. Fiddle and pedal steel solos countrified and electrified “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” which sounded even better than the record — honest. The same instruments permeated “Never Ending Song of Love,” the Delaney & Bonnie nugget Fogerty recorded for “The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again,” his upcoming sequel to his first post-Creedence album in 1973. He said the record will be out “any week now”; it oughta be good.
Fogerty’s voice was a bit shaky during the a cappella opening of “The Midnight Special,” but there were few signs of the vocal problems that plagued his 2007 L.A. show. The hair-metal guitar intro he has used for half a decade to kick-start “Keep on Chooglin’ ” appeared to startle many in the crowd, as it likely was meant to do. The song featured a Kenny Aronoff drum solo that led into a tremendous drum-and-harp breakdown.
For his first-ever performance with a symphony orchestra, Fogerty picked “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.” Things didn’t mesh during the song’s dramatic intro, so it seemed at first as if the pairing was a mismatch. But work it did, though he would have been better served to leave his band in the wings.
The four-song collaboration was a bit of a tease, but the truly grand finale of “Proud Mary” had many in the all-ages crowd dancing. And somewhere, someone had to be playing air tuba. Only in America.
Venue: The Hollywood Bowl (Thursday, July 2)
LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC:
The Star-Spangled Banner
West Side Story Overture
Hoedown (From “Rodeo”)
On the Mall
Hymn to the Fallen (From “Saving Private Ryan”)
God Bless America
Sing, Sing, Sing
Lookin’ Out My Back Door
Hot Rod Heart
Blue Ridge Mountain Blues
Never Ending Song of Love
The Midnight Special
Keep on Chooglin’
Rock and Roll Girls/Centerfield
The Old Man Down the Road
Bad Moon Risin’
FOGERTY & L.A. PHILHARMONIC:
Have You Ever Seen the Rain
Broken Down Cowboy
Don’t You Wish It Was True
Sousa medley: The Washington Post/Semper Fidelis/Stars and Stripes Forever
America the Beautiful
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