@AndyShore Soul music comes in all sorts of packages. Ricky Minor (former the American Idol bandleader currently with Leno) put together a show that would showcase soul music from all over the world. The purpose was to educate as well as entertain. The goal was to raise money for the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA). Soul music fans come in all shapes and sizes too (look no further than this Jewish soul child), and the Hollywood Bowl was packed with them. There was no doubt in my mind that I would attend this show when I saw the lineup, and it really didn’t even take too much convincing to get my no-income brother to pry open his wallet for a ticket either.
The evening started almost as soon as Rob and I found our seats. Minor gave a brief speech about the evening and then asked Stevie Wonder to give a few words. Stevie talked about the various forms of soul music and what it means. He called soul music the color of our hearts and said that it is something that lives within all of us. Honestly, I could listen to Stevie talk for hours. His words bring always bring a smile to my face. From my experiences seeing him perform, it’s as much story time as it is showtime.
Several artists from across the globe came to grace the stage. There was afro-inspired soul music complete with African dancers. There was Latin music that had many in the Los Angeles crowd on their feet. They took us to church with some gospel music (it was Sunday after all). Rocky Dawuni busted out the first cover of the night with “Get Up, Stand Up.” The crowd obliged with those commands. Dawuni instead opted to high-knee kick for his rights.
The show went from great to perfect the second Minor announced a sexy front woman from Vermont would be taking the stage. Grace Potter sashayed out onto the stage to a roar from the Hollywood Bowl. I love seeing her get the recognition she deserves, almost as much as I love her. A nice little Grace Potter & the Nocturnals (sans Nocturnals) set ensued. First off was the all too appropriate “Hot Summer Night.” Then she grabbed her flying-v for “Paris (Oh La La).” It was in the middle of that song that I remembered how much more awesome music gets when you add horns. Minor’s band more than held it down in place of the Nocturnals and the horns certainly had me rocking a little more than usual.
After a super sped up “Medicine,” Grace announced she would be performing a song she’d never done before. She prefaced it with: “Nobody should do Tina Turner. Forgive me for my trespass. Kiss my ass if you don’t like it.” Honestly, I don’t think there’s a song she could perform that wouldn’t sound amazing. She invoked her inner Queen of Rock n Roll and busted out “Proud Mary” with such gusto that whole crowd was up and moving by the time the second section hit.
Janelle Monae was next up after a brief intermission. Besides Stevie (obviously) Monae was actually who I was most excited to see (yeah…even more than Grace). She has absolutely killed it at every award show I’ve seen her perform at. Monae eased us back into the show with “Smile.” Yes, it’s originally performed by Charlie Chaplin. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say most of the Bowl crowd (and all of you) know it from Michael Jackson. Monae has that voice DOWN. It was beautiful, with only a guitar and piano accompaniment. Next up was her mega hit “Tightrope.” I love the song, but the moves she busts out for it may be even better. Talk about some fancy footwork. Did I mention Janelle Monae can sing the crap out of Michael Jackson? In case I or all of you didn’t believe her the first time, she then did what she called one of her favorite songs. “I Want You Back” was a huge crowd pleaser, first and foremost with this guy right here. Seriously. That song is probably in my top-10 favorites of all time.
Sharon Jones was next. I love that woman. She’s usually a spark plug on stage, commanding her band the Dap Kings. Sharon was great. Don’t get me wrong. She did more smoother, soul number than I would have preferred. She just didn’t have the fire she usually has. Maybe it’s just hard to follow the high energy of Grace Potter and Janelle Monae. She dedicated her set to Amy Winehouse. It was a classy move considering Winehouse could have been performing there herself, had her life and career taken a different path.
Next up was the man we’d all been waiting for. Stevie Wonder took the stage and sat down at his throne of keys. He spoke more about soul music and some of his favorite songwriters. He played a little of this and then remembered he wanted to play a little of that. Professor Stevie Wonder was on stage and class was in session. Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” started the sing-a-long with the crowd and it continued with Cooke’s “Wonderful World.” When you say soul music, one of the first names that inevitably comes up is Ray Charles. He was on Stevie’s mind too, as he took “What’d I Say” for a spin.
“Superstition” had the whole crowd up on its feet again. Seeing the packed Hollywood Bowl crowd singing at the top of their collective lungs nearly brought tears to my eyes (didn’t quite go 2/2 crying at the Bowl). It was such an overwhelming moment. Seeing James Brown three months before he passed has given me great appreciation for seeing and enjoying musical treasures while they’re still here on this planet to share their gifts.
The YOLA was brought out along with all of the other performers from the evening for a rousing rendition of “What’s Going On.” I was insanely jealous of those kids getting to perform both and the Hollywood Bowl and with Stevie Wonder, Sharon Jones, Janelle Monae, Grace Potter, et all. So much so that I nearly punched one on my way out of the Bowl as they walked to their bus. I’m getting ahead of myself though. Rob and I began heading towards the exit, believing the concert to be over. We realized that wasn’t the case and found a nice vantage point closer to the stage. Ironically enough, we had gotten to lower ground as Stevie and co busted out “Higher Ground.”
Such a memorable night and an experience I will not soon forget. Soul music moves me. It’s what I turn to whenever my mood hits a low point. I saw soul music in all forms last night and I can only hope that future generations will get to enjoy such an experience with new great artists and current artists that we will one day refer to as legends.