John Williams at the Hollywood Bowl

Dan Showbiz

Went to the Bowl tonight with Scheller. As I mentioned previously, we decided to take the subway and walk from Hollywood & Highland, which is a pretty good walk! Our seats were great, and the view was quite good. (Instead of retyping my thoughts about the concert, I’m gonna just copy/paste what I wrote for my SoundtrackNet article here. But there’s more at the bottom!)

With the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics ending, it was appropriate that the theme of the night was “Olympic Fever”. Having composed four themes for the Olympics, Williams conducted three of them at the concert, as well as other Olympic works, and of course, some of his film music.

Beginning with an extended suite from The Cowboys, Williams quickly moved on to the main feature, the Olympics. Brought out on stage were nearly two dozen Southern California Olympic Athletes, including two who had just returned from Athens. Leading the group was 1976 Gold winner Bruce Jenner. Jenner talked about the involvement of music in the Olympic Games, from the official anthem, to “Bugler’s Dream” and of course, John Williams’ Olympic Fanfare written for the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games. Williams then conducted “Bugler’s Dream / Olympic Fanfare and Theme”, as a former gold winner brought out the Olympic flame (on an actual 1996 Olympic torch), and lit up the Hollywood Bowl’s own giant torch.

“Javelin” by Michael Torke, which was written for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games, was then performed – a rousing fully orchestrated piece, it served as a nice prelude for what was to follow. “The Olympic Spirit”, which Williams wrote for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, was performed while a truly uplifting and emotionally moving video was shown on screen, showcasing various athletic events from the Summer Games.

The Cal State Fullerton University Singers joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Leonard Bernstein’s rousing “Olympic Hymn”, which was written for the 1981 IOC conference in West Germany. They then moved on to “Call of the Champions”, which Williams wrote for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. The video shown on screen highlighted the various events in the Winter Games, and made for quite an experience. As a personal note, I would have loved to see a live performance of the works that Basil Poledouris or Michael Kamen had written for the Olympics as well, but perhaps in four years they’ll do that!

After the intermission, the concert shifted gears and moved on to Williams’ film scores. “The Planet Krypton / The Superman March” from Superman welcomed us back, much to the delight and excitement of the crowd. After a two-year break from scoring films, Williams had two scores released in 2004 – The Terminal and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Luckily, Williams picked the later to perform at the concert. Four pieces of music from the film were performed: “Wizards, Wands and Witches”, which was a suite of music from the film taken from several tracks on the soundtrack. “Double Trouble” was sung by the choir, and the somber and emotionally moving “A Bride to the Past” was performed quite superbly. The finale, “Harry’s Wondrous World” was a nice wrap-up to the segment, and did a good job in reminding people that Williams has not lost his musical magic at all.

Taking advantage of the choir, “Dry Your Tears, Afrika” from Amistad was performed, and as he always does annually, Williams picked a personal favorite work by another composer to share with the audience. This one was “Cathy’s Theme” from Alfred Newman’s 1939 score to Wuthering Heights. The violin solo by Bing Wang was amazing – she was completely engrossed in the music, and it was filled with emotion.

To end the concert, Williams pulled out an old standard: “The Raiders March” from Raiders of the Lost Ark. As the orchestra expertly played this concert arrangement, I found myself wondering how many times Williams has conducted this piece in the past 23 years! As always, there was an encore – but in this case, we were blessed with four encores! The first was from E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. The second one was “Yoda’s Theme” from The Empire Strikes Back, which allowed the fans in the back to bring out their lightsabers. Not to be outdone, “The Imperial March” and then the main theme from Star Wars was performed. Everyone was thrilled – but I can’t help but wonder why, if he had a full choir there, he didn’t choose to perform “The Duel of the Fates” – which would have been the perfect ending to a wonderful evening.

At the subway station, waiting for the train to take us back to Universal City, there were some genuine freaks on hand. One guy kept running back to us to insist on giving us quarters in exchange for dollars…. now, it seemed kinda fishy at first, but the quarters worked just fine, and I think he might have just been trying to get rid of all that loose change. But still!! Weird weird stuff.