LOS ANGELES, May 30, (Agencies): “‘La La Land’ in Concert: A Live to Film Celebration” kicked off its tour at the Hollywood Bowl over the weekend.
It was a meta moment: a film about making it in showbiz opening at a legendary venue usually reserved for the most successful acts.
Of course, Best Picture Oscar gaffe withstanding, “La La Land” has had an incredibly successful year. Damien Chazelle’s valentine to Los Angeles and movie musicals has developed a cult following, as evidenced by the sea of yellow dresses — similar to the worn by Emma Stone in the film’s posters — at Friday’s and Saturday’s performances.
Indeed, Stone herself was in attendance the second night, as was Chazelle and other celebrities including Topher Grace.
They joined more than 17,000 fans to see the film’s Oscar-winning composer, Justin Hurwitz, conduct a full orchestra as the film was projected onto a giant screen.
As a concert, the score is the star. Dancers and singers appear on stage in several numbers, but never as Stone’s Mia or Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian. It was a smart choice, since the show’s focus is the music, not the acting.
As for the music itself, attendees are welcomed with “Overture,” a piece that was ultimately dropped from the film, to set the mood. Then “Another Day of Sun” — the film’s infamous freeway opening — plays. Many of the performers in the film reprise their roles for the live show in the catchy number, which features everything from a marching band to hula hoop dancer.
A large ensemble also appears for the following number: “Someone in the Crowd.” But after that, the show settles into a more intimate feeling, with pianist Randy Kerber doing all the heavy lifting, from “Mia & Sebastian’s Theme” to “City of Stars.” Kerber even switches to synth for the upbeat “Start a Fire” (alas, he doesn’t play “I Ran” or “Tainted Love” from the pool party scene, but one man can only do so much).
It’s the grand orchestrations that are truly magical, from “Planetarium” (where Mia and Sebastian waltz among the stars at Griffith Observatory) and as “Epilogue” swells to “The End.” It doesn’t hurt that fireworks punctuate the climaxes, from Mia and Sebastian’s first on-screen kiss to the film’s finale.
And of course, there’s the jazz, with legendary trumpet player Arturo Sandoval leading a talented ensemble that’s put through its paces. As Hurwitz says as a disclaimer at the top of the show, “the movie’s going to keep going and it’s not going to stop, so we have to keep up.”
It’s an ambitious undertaking, given the many genres of music in the film, and in general it succeeds. Very rarely does the live band fall behind the film, and it’s especially impressive when the live cameras inside the Hollywood Bowl show close-ups of the live musicians’ hands matched in perfect synchronicity with the ones on screen.
It’s also worth noting the lead actors vocals are isolated and amplified, which works for Stone (notably in her nervy “Audition”) but not always for Gosling (who seems to get progressively flatter in each rendition of “City of Stars”). It’s particularly jarring to go from Gosling’s weaker vocals (in the aforementioned “City of Stars”) right into to John Legend’s rich ones (in “Start a Fire”).
But that’s one of the few criticisms in what is otherwise a magical live musical production for a movie that celebrates the magic of live music. But try not to wrap your head around that and just enjoy the show.
“La La Land” in Concert: A Live to Film Celebration will tour in the US as well as Mexico, Canada, and select cities across Europe.
With their heads covered with Islamic headscarves, the three members of the Indonesian band VoB (“Voice of Baceprot” or “Noisy Voice”) do not look like your typical heavy metal group.
Formed in 2014, the band of teenagers met at school in Indonesia’s most populous province of West Java, and use their music to combat the stereotype of Muslim women as submissive or voiceless.
Wearing a hijab, or Islamic head scarf, should not be a barrier to the group’s pursuit of its dream of being heavy metal stars, said Firdda Kurnia, 16, who plays guitar and sings.
“I think gender equality should be supported, because I feel I am still exploring my creativity, while at the same time, not diminishing my obligations as a Muslim woman,” she added.
Invited to perform at a recent graduation ceremony at another school, the trio quickly had fans dancing and head-banging at the front of the stage.
“I don’t see anything wrong with it,” said one fan who attended, Teti Putriwulandari Sari. “There’s no law that bars hijab-wearing women from playing hardcore music.
“This also relates to human rights. If a Muslim girl has a talent to play the drums or a guitar, should she not be allowed?”
Besides covering classics by groups such as Metallica and Slipknot, the band perform their own songs on issues such as the state of education in Indonesia.
Muslims make up nearly 90 percent of a population of 250 million, the vast majority practising a moderate form of Islam, although there are some conservative strongholds.
Gregg Allman, who passed away Saturday due to complications from liver cancer, was a cofounder of the legendary Allman Brothers band and a peerless pioneer of Southern rock — and by extension the entire jam-band movement.
Yet when he joined forces with his longtime manager Michael Lehman in 2004, his contributions and legacy were under-recognized and his business affairs were not in optimal shape. Lehman got to work on changing that, and over the past dozen-odd years the singer not only toured regularly, both solo and with the Allmans, he released four solo albums — including 2011’s Grammy-nominated “Low Country Blues” and the forthcoming “Southern Blood,” due in September — established the Laid Back music festival in partnership with Live Nation, held the “All My Friends” career-retrospective concert in 2015, and established music scholarships at both the University of Georgia and through Syracuse University’s Bandier Program. In the process the two became not just close business partners but also close friends, and on Sunday Lehman shared memories from those years with Variety.