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Hammons Reviews: Yo Yo Ma and Friends Show at Hollywood Bowl Brings Music Worlds Together

Global Ensemble Make Beautiful Noise at Hollywood Bowl

A night that brought worlds together - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

A night that brought worlds together – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

By CRAIG HAMMONS

Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble bring the world together in music and song as they end their 17-date run of the USA at the Hollywood Bowl.

Yo Yo Ma is a man who understands once music hits the ear it makes order out of chaos.  It joins people together – there is no culture that doesn’t have music.  Ma brought together the evolution of his favorite 18-year project, The Silk Road Ensemble.

Transcending Borders

The music they create celebrates difference by exploring the unfamiliar and giving them the opportunity to build something new.

The opening fanfare showed what it is like to transcend borders and the joy of allowing it to happen thru music.  Cristina Pato from Spain playing Galician bagpipes and Wu Tong playing the Chinese horn in electrifying abandon meet center stage connecting two sides of the world and their cultural roots.  Next up was “Ichichila” a tune traditionally sung by the people of West Africa.  It had a cool relaxed vibe to it and a good way to set the tone for the evening.

© 2016 Craig Hammons

Bagpipes, horns and violins – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Silk Road violinist Colin Jacobsen — originally from Minnesota — brought us “O’Neil’s Calavary March,” a tune in the Irish tradition that dates back to the early 1800s.

It featured layers of instruments from a kamancheh, a pipa and some western strings.

On “Green (Vincent’s Tune)” they took a simple melody and turned it into an explosion of bass drumming and gong slamming gone mad.

My favorite song of the night was from Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh called “Wedding.” He said that back home in Syria amist the bombs dropping and the daily fear, there is still the search for love.  This a song about coming together to beat the odds and celebrate.  He warned us that this song could get loud and next thing I knew it was like we were in a Syrian village party.  He dedicated it to all the Syrians who have managed to fall in love in the last five years.

Silk Road Ensemble

Ma did come forward to explain how the Silk Road Ensemble came together but mainly was just another member of the band.  He picked up his cello joined Christina Pato now on piano to do a piece together that was beautiful and full of emotion.

Myriad colors and music - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Myriad colors and music – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

There were many other mergers of musicians and instruments some that seemed improvised while others were full grooves and rhythms.

Kayhan Kalhor, one of the band’s core members, plays a kamancheh otherwise known as an Iranian fiddle.  He was featured in many of the songs making his instrument sing while at time putting us into a trance.

Tribute to Prince

Some of the crowd wished there was more Ma but no one was disappointed.  They closed out the night with a colorful version of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” a song that fit well into their repertoire.   The Bowl was lit purple and the crowd was on their feet giving these musicians from around the world the standing ovation they deserve.

Many of the selections tonight were on the Silk Road’s new recording Sing Me Home. You can find out more about the Silk Road Ensemble at silkroadproject.com.

Jeff Beck Celebrates 50 Years of Music With Special Musical Friends at The Hollywood Bowl

Jeff Beck Revs up His Past and Present with Once in a Lifetime Show

By CRAIG HAMMONS – Jeff Beck has been out on the road promoting his new album Loud Hailer.  However, the show at the Hollywood Bowl would be different, as Beck was celebrating 50 years of a legendary and diverse career.  Helping him celebrate along with other special guest would be no other than the mighty blues legend Buddy Guy.

Not wasting any time Buddy Guy came out smoking with “Damm Right I Got the Blues.”  At 80 years old this blues marvel shows no signs of slowing down.  He went thru his usual medley of songs in his arsenal and ventured out into the audience singing and playing his guitar like he sold his soul to the devil.  Even with a shorten set he was able to deliver the title track “Born to Play Guitar” of his new album of the same name.  After a bit of “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Boom Boom” he then went into his signature song “Someone Else is Steppin’ In.”  Before leaving the stage he showed us how Jimi Hendrix did it and played with his teeth on a bit of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).”  Buddy Guy is one badass that has paid his dues and lives the blues.

One of Jeff Beck's friends: Steven Tyler - Photo by Craig Hammons

One of Jeff Beck’s friends: Steven Tyler – Photo by Craig Hammons

After a brief video montage looking back at Jeff Beck’s career the guitar God took the stage with his white Fender Strat at his side ready to deliver the goods.  Opening with “The Revolution Will Be Televised” from his new album Loud Hailer caught the audience by surprise.  But the new vocalist Rosie Bones engaged the audience immediately by moving through the crowd while signing through a megaphone.

Just when I was wondering when he would be stepping back in time Jimmy Hall a southern boy who was the original front man for Wet Willie and sang on Beck’s 1986 album, Flash came out to sing a few Yardbirds songs.  Beck and his band ripped thru “Over Under Sideways Down,” Heart Full of Soul” and “For Your Love.”   It was great hearing this songs again from the man who made them timeless gems.

4-jeff-beck-wtmk (1 of 1)Next it was time to get on to some tracks from Beck’s first solo album Truth. Beck and his band shined on “Beck’s Bolero” and “Rice Pudding”.   He then took a moment to show his appreciation by saying “I’m thrilled to be here and thank you for coming” before going right into “Morning Dew.”

Now it was time for a couple of songs from his instrumental album Blow By Blow and Jan Hammer came on to do “Freeway Jam” and a track written by Stevie Wonder “Cause We Ended as Lovers.”  This segment of the show really showed how Beck’s finger and fret work cannot be duplicated.  After ripping it up on “Big Block” he then walked up to the mic and said “I’m so happy to have Beth Hart with us tonight.”  This girl is the real deal who sings her heart out and brought the house down with an emotional version of “I’d Rather Go Blind.”

Before I could catch my breath out comes Buddy Guy to sing “Let Me Love You Baby.”   Beck then said staring across the stage at one of his guitar heroes says “it doesn’t get much better than this”.  After a couple more tunes from Loud Hailer it was time for the next surprise guest of the night.

Buddy Guy - Photo by Craig Hammons

Buddy Guy – Photo by Craig Hammons

Beck walked up to the mic and introduced “somebody you are sure to recognize” and out walks Billy Gibbons who points to Beck and says “it will be another 50 years before you get another guitar player like this.”  These two guitar slingers then ripped it up and exchanged solos on ZZ Top’s “Rough Boys” before getting into a little bit of funky blues with classic “16 Tons.”

The next guest to grace the stage tonight was the majestic Steven Tyler coming on stage to sing the old Yardbirds song “The Train Kept A Rollin” also made popular by Aerosmith in the ’70s.  Tyler was the perfect singer to sing “Shapes of Things” which had the crowd in awe as we all knew we were seeing something special in rock and roll history.

As the evening was coming to a close Beck took center stage to do his astounding version of the Beatles

Jeff Beck and friends - Photo by Craig Hammons

Jeff Beck and friends – Photo by Craig Hammons

“A Day in the Life.”  His guitar playing touched us all as the entire Hollywood Bowl came to their feet to give this rock n roll legend the standing ovation he deserved.

The night ended with an encore of Prince’s “Purple Rain” which had Beth Hart singing lead and Tyler backing her up.  Beck delivered a show full of spirit and emotion.  A good portion of the audience like myself have followed Jeff Beck’s career from the beginning and realize when it was all over we experienced something more than a concert but a once in a life time rock and roll memory that will last with us forever.

Brian Wilson at the Hollywood Bowl: ‘Pet Sounds’ Still Rings True 50 Years After Release

Brian Wilson at Hollywood Bowl - Photo by Craig Hammons

Brian Wilson at Hollywood Bowl – Photo by Craig Hammons

‘Good Vibrations’

By CRAIG HAMMONS

Good vibrations were in the air at the Hollywood Bowl on a cool summer night.

Brian Wilson along with his ‘boys,’ Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin, with a 12-piece band full of woodwinds, keyboards, guitars and percussion, brought us the 50th Anniversary of Pet Sounds and a dozen or more timeless classic hits.

‘Our Prayer’ as the Opener

The magic and celebration began with the beautiful vocal harmonies of “Our Prayer” a wordless hymn released in its proper form from Brian’s 2004 GRAMMY Award-winning album “Smile.”

This opened the door for 1967’s “Heroes and Villains” and soon the hits would just kept on coming. It didn’t take long for the capacity crowd to get up on their feet dancing to “California Girls,” “I Get Around” and “Dance, Dance, Dance.” Not long into the set it was evident just how many of these songs were the soundtrack to our lives. These All American tunes about cars, girls and surfing brought back many memories as we all sung along and still knew every word.

The music slowed a bit with such classics as “Surfer Girl,” “Hushabye,” “Don’t Worry Baby” and the beautiful song “One Kind of Love” from Brian’s 11th solo album “No Pier Pressure.” Brian was up front and center sitting behind a white grand piano. He seemed cool and calm.  His vocals may be a bit worn by time, but are still solid for a 74-year-old who seem happy to be playing the songs he wrote for a whole generation.

‘Wild Honey’

Brian Wilson and his band at The Hollywood Bowl - Photo by Craig Hammons

Brian Wilson and his band at The Hollywood Bowl – Photo by Craig Hammons

Just before going into Pet Sounds the band played the single “Wild Honey,” from 1967.  Back then, the tune had a unique new sound and during the Hollywood Bowl rendition, the song earned a round of applause for sax player Paul Mertens’ solo.

Brian brought out his long-time buddy and collaborator Blondie Chaplin to sing and play guitar on “Sail On, Sailor.” Blondie’s vocals seemed a bit weak, but he made up for it in his guitar playing.

‘Pet Sounds’

With the opening chorus of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” we knew it was time for the musical wizardry of Pet Sounds to be done in its entirety. Pet Sounds was recorded over a half a century ago in an extensive recording session just down the street from the Hollywood Bowl. The band was bringing life back to these songs showing just how much Brian’s music was changing at that time.

The five- and six-part vocal harmonies were amazing with Al Jardine’s son, Matt Jardine, nailing the high notes. There were couples dancing in the aisles during “Don’t Talk Put Your Head on My Shoulder” and “I’m Waiting for the Day.”

‘Sloop John B’ Gets the People to their Feet

Brian Wilson at the Hollywood Bowl - Photo by Craig Hammons

Brian Wilson at the Hollywood Bowl – Photo by Craig Hammons

Once they got into “Sloop John B,” everyone was singing again. Next was an emotional rendition of “God Only Knows,” one of the best songs ever written. We were all on our feet in admiration and Brian requested we all have a seat during the slower and more obscure tracks like “I Know There’s an Answer” and “Here Today.” Ending the set with “Good Vibrations” put us all in our way back machine to a better time of going steady, the beach and hanging out with our best friends.

At the end of Pet Sounds, Brian thanked the crowd and slowly walked off the stage to thunderous applause. More than 17,000 strong came to see the man who got out of his sandbox to regain the crown of musical genius.

‘”All Summer Long” Brought Tears to The Lady Next to Me’

Brian came back out and sat down at his piano and introduced each band member one by one before they would launch into some of the Beach Boys greatest hits. An upbeat “All Summer Long” brought tears to the eyes of the lady next to me because she said she felt “so happy.” Then it was “Help Me Rhonda,” and now everyone was rocking out and singing enthusiastically. Without stopping they went right into “Barbara Ann,” “Surfin’ USA,” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.”

They ended with “Love and Mercy,” a song that rings true to the times we’re living in today. Brian said: “There’s a lot of people getting shot out there and it really scares me; Love and Mercy is what we need tonight.” The evening ended with the final chorus “Love and Mercy to you and All your Friends Tonight.” We felt it as we all exited the Bowl knowing that we all saw musically history made this evening by the man who first played the Hollywood with his brothers, cousins and band mates, the Beach Boys, back in 1966.

 

The Cure: The ‘Band of Enduring Honesty’ Plays The Hollywood Bowl

Robert Smith, The Cure, Captivate at Hollywood Bowl

The Cure - All photos © 2016 Craig Hammons for CaliforniaRocker.com

The Cure – All photos © 2016 Craig Hammons

By CRAIG HAMMONS

The sun was setting over the Hollywood Hills and the blood red moon was beginning to rise.

On this night it was very appropropriate that on National Goth Day The Cure would open their 3 night sold-out engagement at the Hollywood Bowl.

The Cure started their North American Tour on May 10, 2106 in New Orleans and they will play 26 shows in the USA before doing over 75 shows in 20 + countries.

Ever-Changing Set List

This evening’s show would cover over 37 years of Cure songs including the hits, rarities and two unreleased tracks.

So far the set list has changed each night digging deep into their catalog of impressive material.  Tonight’s show would cover 35 songs in just under 3 hours.

After a brief instrumental tape of some wild Dixieland jazz The Cure wandered out on the stage to open with the first three tracks from their 1989 release Disintegration.  The opening power chords of “Plainsong” had the crowd in bliss as their favorite band in the world was back.  They went right into “Pictures of You” and “Closedown” before moving stepping back further to 1985’s Head on the Door.

A powerful “A Night Like This,” “Push” and “In Between Days” sounded fresh as ever and fit nicely into the set as darkness arrived.

Photo by Craig Hammons for CaliforniaRocker.com

Photo by Craig Hammons for CaliforniaRocker.com

Robert Smith’s voice sounded stronger than ever, Simon Gallup’s bass playing was on fire while drummer Jason Cooper never seemed to stop playing and Reeves Gabrels kept up the pace shredding on tracks like “Wrong Number” and “Never Enough.”

The Cure pulled tracks from almost every one of their albums even playing two new tracks.   The set was well paced with “Fascination Street” and “The End of the World” fitting nicely together and “Love Song” and “Just Like Heaven” bringing cheers and tears from the audience.

Rarely Played Songs

Then they slipped in “2 Late” a B side from Disintegration which was only played live once before at a benefit in 2014.  The night really was coming to peak when they went into “One Hundred Years” with the lights going off in every direction.  They ended with “Disintegration” but only 90 minutes in we knew we were in much more.

The first song of the first encore was “It Can Never Be the Same” a song that could have fit easily into their early catalog.  A very definitive Cure song with an edgy guitar riff.  The title of this new song is written across Smith’s main guitar.  I hope this is a sign that a new album is on the way as the last new Cure album was “4:13” back in 2008.   Ending the first encore was “A Forest” a bona-fide early hit with with its blistering bass riff and a manic rhythm.  I could listen to this song again and again and again.

The Cure - Photo by Craig Hammons

The Cure – Photo by Craig Hammons

The second encore Robert Smith finally addressed the audience saying “this song is our only rock and roll song” before launching into a ferocious “Shake Dog Shake.”

Although Robert is not one to talk much to the audience it was odd that the video cameras that feed the video screens stayed stationary all night never once showing Smith on the video screens?  This must have let some fans down in the back of the Bowl.

Before ending the second encore they made it all the way back to 1984 with two tracks from The Top” playing “Piggy in the Mirror” and “Give Me It”.   Even though some of these songs are over 30 years old they sounded new and fresh by a band that is seems timeless.

By the time they got to the third encore the fans were still on their feet wanting more.  Opening with another new song “Step Into the Light”  a melodic song that builds to a big drum finish as Robert Smith sings “we need to step out of the shadows and step into the light”.  Just when you thought you had enough they went into “Never Enough”.  This seemed to be the Cure’s theme song as they weren’t even close to being done yet.   Next up was an odd choice a song called “Burn” from The Crow soundtrack.  This is really a lost gem that fit right into this epic night.  They ended this encore with a “Wrong Number” a track from Wild Mood Swings that rocked the house once again.

The Cure - Photo by Craig Hammons

The Cure – Photo by Craig Hammons

Encore four brought out fan favorites.   No one was going away disappointed.  This band of enduring power and honesty to their craft then played “The Lovecats” which made us all feel like we were young again, “Hot Hot Hot” had us dancing in the aisles and singing along to every word and “Why Can’t I Be You” kept us in awe of such a wonderful evening with such a mighty and majestic band.  Ending the night was “Boys Don’t Cry” going all the way back to 1979 from their first US release Three Imaginary Boys.

To think that this all started in 1979 as the Easy Cure formed by Robert Smith and a few of his mates from school who were listening to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd.  But when they heard the Stranglers they thought this is it.  From then till now The Cure have did it their way connecting to their legion of fans thru their music and lyrics.  We all felt connected as we exited the Bowl happy as we had just experienced more than a concert but a gift that will last in our memories forever.

Video courtesy of VinylPiper

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