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

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