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Chris Botti and Chris Isaak at the Hollywood Bowl

Chris Botti and Chris Isaak at the Hollywood Bowl

As you can read from my bio here on Learn By Cam, I have a deep love for music. So, I’m currently taking a music appreciation class in college. The class has been fantastic (great professor) and very interesting (listening to music, pop or classical, will never be the same). The only “homework” assigned by the professor was to go see some live music and fill out a “concert report.” I had no idea the words homework and live music could exist in the same sentence!


Well, living in LA, I’m lucky to have so many options. The closest venue was the well-known and well-liked Hollywood Bowl. I made the proper arrangements with a few friends and we bought tickets for the July 12th concert, headlined by world-famous virtuoso trumpeter Chris Botti and talented, and funny, veteran singer Chris Isaak. As if that wasn’t enough, they were backed by a small ensemble of other extremely talented musicians and also the LA Philharmonic, conducted by the amazing Bramwell Tovey. It should be obvious by now that the concert was fantastic.


So, using the always dependable Hollywood Bowl shuttle service we got their easily and made our way to our seats. We were in the 2nd furthest section, but it’s actually not too far from the stage. There are also 4 giant screens off to the side that show you the action down below. For those of you who have never experienced the Hollywood Bowl before, the view is amazing; the famous Hollywood sign is easily visible just above the stage and you’re surrounded by hills on all sides. It’s truly beautiful


It was especially beautiful this night. The stage was tinted a dreamy orange, while a setting sun highlighted a purple/golden sky.  Everyone was seated, and then Chris Botti came out. But he said nothing... he instead played the intro of “En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor,” a song off his Grammy-award winning 2012 album, Impressions. All noise from the audience had subsided and all attention was on the stage.  Soon the orchestra joined in, but the rest of the song was Botti constantly impressing on the trumpet. He sounds good enough on a recording, but I was blown away when I heard him live. But there were also other musicians of note on stage. Richie Goods and Ben Butler were great with the bass and guitar, respectively. Caroline Campbell was fantastic with the violin on the song “Emanuel,” a tribute to her daughter who was in the crowd. George Komsky and Sy Smith both impressed with their singing. Billy Kilson had a crowd-awing drum solo. But it was Geoffrey Keezer on the piano who stole the show. His piano solo was probably the single best moment of the concert (2 words: piano pizzicato!). But let’s also not forgot that every member of the orchestra is extremely talented, it’s the LA Philharmonic after all (it doesn’t get any better). But, of course, I can’t list all their names here!


The music played varied in style; some songs had a slower tempo and were serious in character. Others were more upbeat and “dancy.” The overall sound can be described as a very successful fusion of Classical and Jazz. The first half of the concert was easily the best performance I’ve experienced in live music.


After the intermission, Chris Isaak came on stage. I’ve never heard of him or his music before, so I had no idea what to expect. I soon realized that Isaak’s style was very much like “rockabilly” (a mixture of rock and country), and while that’s not my favorite genre of music, he managed to keep me interested by making each song have its own distinct flavor. One thing Isaak most certainly did better than Botti was his interaction with the audience. He made some absolutely hilarious jokes (he actually had a one about the contrabassoon, truly impressive) and even ran off the stage at one point to get closer to the crowd in the further sections. While the performance by Isaak was good, it came nowhere near Botti’s. As time passed, the crowd became a little stale. I began to worry that this concert could actually end as an anti-climax, since none of Isaak’s songs seemed powerful enough to finish the night with. I was relieved, however, when Isaak casually asked if Botti was still available back stage. We were finally going to have both stars performing at the same time.


They met at center stage and the audience grew lively again. The difference in their styles had never been more obvious. Botti, rather reserved gripping his trumpet, in his all black suit, was standing next to the more outgoing Isaak, who was holding his custom guitar, and the mic, in his flashy jacket. He also donned his signature slick-back hair. It was slightly jarring at first, but they quickly melded. They were at full swing by the time Botti asked for the microphone and said (and I paraphrase), “I’m so annoyed at how underdressed I am today!” Someone then brought out an even flashier, blue-version of Isaak’s jacket. It was a crowd-pleaser and gave the strange pairing of stars some actual substance and personality (previously it seemed that the only logic behind their grouping was that they shared the same first name). While still not quite as strong as Botti’s opening statement, the music in the 3rd act of the concert had its own great moments. The definite highlight being when the Chris’s began performing “Besame mucho” (a song written by Consuelo Velázquez in 1940 which has been covered by countless other artists). They struck a perfect balance between their respective styles and talents during that moment.


As usual, the post-concert walk down the hill to our shuttle, which was taking us back home, was congested and slow, but no one seemed to mind. The entire audience left with an upbeat and satisfied mood, as they should have.


It was a great concert. It had no actual faults, but in certain places it could have simply been a little better. Also, the performers showed no signs of fatigue or boredom despite having performed the same material the previous day. In fact, in one moment during the concert Isaak turned to Botti and said, “Frankly, Chris, I think we were holding back on Friday for today!”


So, would I go see the concert again in retrospect? Yes, of course, and I’d be sure to buy an official concert tee this time (that actually has the stars' names spelled correctly; who's Chris Isac?) rather than the cheaper knock-offs people sell outside



Grammy Awards 2014

Grammy Awards 2014

The Grammy awards came and went without me even noticing. Thank you Twitter for keeping me informed! Truth of the matter is I was at work, slaving away at the computer and instilling gems of wisdom to willing (and sometimes unwilling) participants. This is the first year in perhaps 5 to 10 years that I have been pleased with the results. Wait, perhaps ecstatic is the word. No? OK, we’ll stick with pleased. Real music was awarded. No funny, crazy winners where you sat there in front of your TV, clad in pajamas and socks perhaps, popcorn and fruit juice in hand,  like, ‘that won a Grammy??!!’

Whoop, whoop for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Best new artist, huh? To be honest, I only recently heard their “White walls” song. My sister was a strong advocator of theirs so she was very pleased with the results. And let’s not forget the highly coveted “Record of the Year.” Although the robots did not speak or act like they understood the gravity or profound mark in musical history they had made, I was delighted on their behalf. And I am sure deep down in their robotic hearts, they were too. They probably had plans a robo-party of note tucked away in the depths of their techno veins. One even Robocop would have been forced to get down to. True story. Their “Random Access Memories” album totally deserved “Album of the Year” too. I had their album playing over and over again many a day. Think about the title for a minute. “RAM,” an acronym for something computer related. They are robots, they use technology to make their music, and their sound is all techno, funky, electro. Pure Genius. It was kind of obvious that Adele’s “Skyfall” would win “Best Song Written for Visual Media” but at least she kept the Brit flag flying. Lorde’s “Royals” winning “Song of the Year” was like a home run to the underdogs in the music industry. And you would not believe the sheer surprise and shock when I found out that Justin Timberlake’s “Pusher Love Girl” won “Best RnB Song.” Say what??!! I didn’t even think his album would feature at the Grammys. Whoop, whoop! Rihanna, too, managed to scoop up the “Best Urban Contemporary Album” for “Unapologetic” and Alicia Keys got the “Best RnB Album” for “Girl on Fire.” So proud of my girls. Both albums were so powerful, raw and relatable.

Again I shall say it: the best Grammys in years! I think next year I’ll be on the judging panel. Just to maintain the high standards, you know?



The Power of Music

The Power of Music

This week marked the 86th Grammy ceremony, memorable as always for the performances and celebrations of the deserving winners.

This year I found particularly unforgettable, largely in part to the Macklemore performance, which included thirty couples (both heterosexual and homosexual) declaring their love and getting married.

In a word: beautiful.

I was in town the other day and saw a gay couple walking down the street holding hands. The first thought that came to mind was about how happy I was that they felt comfortable and confident enough to do that. Many people still haven't felt brave enough to do this, hiding who they are when there isn't anything wrong with it, fearing the backlash from an unaccepting minority.

This year on March 29th 2014, the first legally recognised same-sex marriage will take place in the UK. This is an area which has come on leaps and bounds but which still faces opposition. This is somewhat disappointing, especially from a society which is supposedly so diverse and encouraging regardless of who we are.

It is performances and lyrics such as those by Macklemore's Same Love which are having an impact and inspiring others to help do something about it. There is no doubt that this is the digital age, with countless platforms and ways in which we can reach other people. Missed his performance? YouTube it. Want to know his lyrics? Google them. Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, MySpace- all networks hitting the people who can make a difference.

Us.

Such simple lyrics but which make us stop and think, not only about what we're doing but even what we might be saying without realising, not noticing that it could actually be construed as offensive. An old art teacher at school used to chide us when we called something 'gay', saying he used to find it insulting. Something that had just come out so naturally but which had the ability to hurt and we had thought nothing of it.

But we forget the power that we have.

Songs like this may be produced but will make no difference if we do not accept and promote them. Other singers may talk about "whips and chains" and pretend that they're not role models, but it is songs like this that are special, inspiring others or even just making them consider something that they hadn't before.

Maybe I find it hits home because it stands out from the music scene today, which is constantly sending out a stream of songs just talking about having a good time rather than issues such as this (though maybe if they all did this then it wouldn't be as powerful).

Give the song a listen. Give the performance a watch. They're both beautiful and I have nothing but praise for both and what they are trying to achieve, done with excellent lyrics and outstanding vocals.



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