Michael Bolton kicked off the pop series of concerts at the Hollywood Bowl Monday, amid concern from nearby residents that the series would bring unwanted noise and ill-behaved fans rather than those who attend the classical music events typically held at the outdoor venue.
But Bolton’s set, as well as the crowd’s behavior, was top-drawer, as the pop crooner flashed back and fast-forwarded, serving up spirited renditions of cuts that ran the gamut from his debut Columbia Records disc “The Hunger” to his untitled, soon-to-be-released disc of R&B standards and everything in between.
Bolton, who has characterized critics who respond negatively about his style as “no-talented chimpanzees … destroy(ing) a Van Gogh,” was in fine vocal form , creating 15-minute opuses from four-minute songs, wowing the house at every high-noted turn.
Although he brings more to the table vocally than Otis Redding or Percy Sledge (two artists from whom he has borrowed heavily with nary an acknowledgment), Bolton’s versions of “Dock of the Bay” and “When a Man Loves a Woman”–the latter striking gold almost to the day in 1966–lack the soul of the ’60s classics.
The appearance of Kenny G, and the duo’s performance on the roof of a shed in the middle of the Bowl, were two of the evening’s several high points. A rousing set finale of “Time, Love and Tenderness,” featuring a gospel choir, would easily have converted any non-fans.
Opener Celine Dion, touring in support of her self-titled, sophomore Epic Records disc, put forth a performance that had headliner written all over it.
Although it was the Canadian artist’s first night of her first U.S. tour, Dion showed the style and grace of a seasoned pro, while still retaining her youthful enthusiasm.
Perhaps best known for her duet version with Peabo Bryson of “Beauty and the Beast,” Dion’s well-paced, far-too-brief set was filled with gems.
Disc’s current radio and VH-1 fave “If You Asked Me To” and “Love Can Move Mountains” showcased her sultry vocals and strong material, impressing those who had the good sense to arrive early.