Popular song stylists Rosemary Clooney and Michael Feinstein added a touch of class to this year’s Independence Day festivities at the Hollywood Bowl, performing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of David Allan Miller.
Traditional patriotic fervor was still evident, but it was nicely tempered by the duo’s elegant vocalizing and the orchestra’s choice of repertoire, which took a less-than-conventional approach to musical Americana.
Of course there was a rendition of “America the Beautiful.” But also on the bill were Charles Ives’ quirky 1931 variations on the same material, and another study, Morton Gould’s “Amber Waves.”
Even the ubiquitous marching band was limited to a single, brief appearance, accompanying a rendition of “Strike Up the Band.”
On the whole, style and substance reigned over glitz and glitter–except when it came to the mandatory fireworks display, set off to John Philip Sousa marches.
Rosemary Clooney and Michael Feinstein make an interesting on-stage couple: the old trooper and the new kid on the block. She brings a certain mellowness and seasoned quality to her performance. He’s still full of spit and vinegar. But harmonically they blend like bread and butter, his high mellifluous voice providing excellent counterpoint to her darker lower tone.
Clooney may not have the vocal strength she once did, but she still knows how to phrase a song with delicacy, and can infuse it with her own personal charm. This was particularly true in her renditions of “Sentimental Journey,””September Song” and “God Bless America”–interpretations that chose poetry over brass. Throughout her set, John Otto provided elegant piano accompaniment.
Feinstein treats the Hollywood Bowl like an 18,000-seat cocktail lounge. Seated at his piano, he’s perfectly at home, whether he’s singing, reeling off patter, or getting the crowd to sing the chorus from “Lydia the Tattooed Lady.” He’s funny, he’s glib, and he sings with a voice that has a high sweet tone.
His choice of material ranged from Al Jolson’s tongue-twisting “Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers” to classics by Irving Berlin and the Gershwins. He also performed “Pure Imagination” (from “Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”) and “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which appear on his latest recording.
Singing together, Feinstein and Clooney offered fine duets on “You’re Just in Love,””Of Thee I Sing,””Strike Up the Band” and a tasty version of “I Can’t Get Started With You,” which she dedicated to Bob Hope (the song’s originator), who was in the audience.
Throughout the concert Miller conducted with varying degrees of accuracy and synchronicity. Clearly, the Philharmonic is still transitioning into the summer routine of bouncing from Vivaldi to Sousa in less than 24 hours.
Predictably, the concert ended with a bang, as the fireworks (designed by Pyro-Spectaculars) illuminated the band shell in a fusillade of fountains, pinwheels and exploding rockets.