By Jenny Peters
It was a whole glorious long weekend of riotous celebration of America’s birthday as the Hollywood Bowl exploded into patriotic music and fireworks – and also played host to Chicago, that legendary rock band.
Welcoming the Fourth of July with concerts on July 2, July 3 and the big day itself, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, led by conductor Thomas Wilkins and joined by the U.S. Air Force Band under the baton of Captain Dustin Doyle, started each show off with a musical bang. Together they played a rousing set of American patriotic songs, ranging from Gershwin’s “Strike Up the Band” to a gorgeous version of Ward’s “America the Beautiful.”
The most stirring moment of the first half of the show happened when the orchestra and band together played their “Armed Forces Salute,” covering the songs of the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force, while asking audience members who served in each branch to stand as their song was played. The packed house on July 4 (the show we attended) gave all the service men and women roaring cheers as the music played.
Then it was time for Chicago to take the stage, accompanied by the Bowl Orchestra and Air Force Band throughout. Chicago, which has been performing nonstop for the past 49 years (!), was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and their Hollywood Bowl show proved exactly why.
Led by original members Robert Lamm, Lee Loughnane and Jimmy Pankow, the nine-member, horn-heavy group played all their favorites – and sounded terrific in the process. Think “Beginnings,” “Make Me Smile,” “Color My World,” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and many others.
As the night sky darkened, Chicago left the stage and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the U.S. Air Force Band once again took over, playing a medley of John Philip Sousa’s best as a panoply of fantastic fireworks blew open the sky above the Bowl.
The celebration ended with Chicago’s return for one last song – “25 or 6 to 4,” the classic penned by Robert Lamm way back in 1970. It topped off a night to remember and left us all with the thought that planning to spend the Fourth of July at the Hollywood Bowl every year is one grand idea.