By Marie Y. Lemelle
After an absence of more than 15 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, the live music drought ended July 3 when the Hollywood Bowl re-opened for a two-night engagement starring the award-winning Kool & The Gang, just in time for the Independence Day weekend.
Nearly busting out at the seams, the 18,000-seat amphitheater was at capacity. While some people were masked up and trying to keep a respectable distance, others were smiling from ear-to-ear, greeting one another and dancing in the aisles as if the pandemic was a distant memory.
As an acknowledgement that patrons may be concerned about large gatherings, coronavirus variants and people not being vaccinated, the Hollywood Bowl offer a pop-up Covid-19 vaccination clinic on site. The first 400 vaccinated get free tickets to a bowl concert. The vaccines are available for individuals 12 years old and up at the bowl’s Monique and Jonathan Kagan Patio 2301 N. Highland Ave., July 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The voucher may be redeemed for the concert tickets that same day at the box office on site. A selection of concert dates and performances will be available. Walk-ups are welcome.
Setting the tone of independence from lockdown and social distancing was the opening performance by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra led by Principal Conductor Thomas Wilkins who musically saluted the armed forces, their families and honored the frontline workers in the audience.
For more than 50 years, generations have enjoyed the sounds and lyrical magic of Kool & The Gang. The group did not disappoint with their iconic “sing along” songs.
The crowd, young and old, got their groove back when the group played “Celebration,” “Get Down On It,” “Cherish,” “Jungle Boogie,” “Hollywood Swinging,” “Joanna,” and so many more. Kool & The Gang’s undeniable enthusiasm, heaviness of the rhythm section and melodic vocals quickly swept away, for many, the tragic times from the past year.
“It was a great honor and true ‘celebration’ as our song goes, to open for the Hollywood Bowl and with the live backing of the orchestra on some of our songs certainly added a classic touch to our own players,” said Funky George Brown. “Together, we have bounced back from this global disaster.
“As our group changed over the years, and the loss of our brothers Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell, Ricky West, Charles Smith, Robert ‘Spike’ Mickens, and more, we added entertainers to carry on our legacy.”
“It was an amazing feeling to play for two nights to sold-out crowds, It brought a sense of normalcy playing with my musical brothers,” said Louis Van Taylor, tenor saxophonist who started with Kool & The Gang in 1996 and rejoined in 2010 for special engagements. “I felt wonderful to be welcomed back to the live music scene in front of an energic crowd.”
Kool & The Gang are recipients of numerous honors including BET Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award, two Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, and 31 gold and platinum albums. As the group is permanently in the hearts of millions of fans, they are sealed in the sidewalk with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
“We are grateful to all our fans for the outpouring of love for more than five decades,” Brown said. “I look forward to the growth and expansion of our band and to continue our legacy.”
The night was topped off in grand Hollywood Bowl style with a safe and sane July 4 fireworks spectacular with booming sounds by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.
Not to be outdone, Kool & The Gang returned for their finale playing to a crowd that didn’t seem to be in a hurry to go home.
“Performing is in our blood and we are happy to give our audiences the musical medicine to uplift spirits,” Brown said.
Marie Y. Lemelle is the founder of www.platinumstarpr.com and a film producer. She can be reached at MarieLemelle@platinumstarpr.com. Follow her on Instagram @platinumstarpr.