Malibu music fans rock out on star-filled night to mark the Hollywood Bowl’s 100th season

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Pop princess Gwen Stefani capped off the Hollywood Bowl’s super celebration. Photo courtesy of LA Philharmonic.

Lots of music-loving locals have been longtime fans of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Disney Hall, and the symphony’s glorious 1922 summer home, the iconic Hollywood Bowl. So, it was a no-brainer for folks like Frank and Berta Gehry when it came to attending the Bowl’s 100th birthday in grand style. 

The festivities kicked off with a posh cocktail party and continued up the hill to the landmark’s upper terrace.  

There, the boxes were outfitted with perfectly pressed linen tablecloths along with miniature carved crystal vases filled with colorful cala lilies, fragrant violet hyacinths, vibrant orchids, and subtle snapdragons. 

In keeping with Music Director Gustavo Dudamel’s easygoing style, there were few tuxes, just a vibe of California cool. After munching on gourmet turkey baguettes and a sip of wine, it was showtime!

Gustavo “The Dude” Dudamel took the stage to thunderous applause with his band of merry musicians wearing white tuxedo jackets and black ties or elegant black dresses. 

After a rousing rendition of the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” it was time to introduce celebrated movie conductor and composer John Williams who made a surprise guest appearance. 

“The magical place is known all over the world, but it belongs to us,” The Dude declared, “so let’s welcome the greatest, John Williams!”

Williams unveiled the world premiere of the “Centennial Overture,” a work composed exclusively for this historic occasion. The high-octane performance concluded with delighted audiences showing their appreciation with an enthusiastic standing ovation for the 90-year-old music maker.

It was a tough act to follow, but The Dude and the Philharmonic did it with a moving performance of “Variations d’Apollon and a Pas de Deux” by Stravinsky. It showcased gravity-defying ballet movements by famed dancers Roberto Bolle and Tiler Peck.

Williams retuned with “Escapades” from the film “Catch Me If You Can,” starring Malibu’s Leonardo DiCaprio. The piece included guest saxophonist Branford Marsalis, who left a personal mark on the performance as one fan marveled “How does he breathe?” Also on the guest performer’s list was violinist Maria Duenas (a vision in a gold-embroidered boddice and deep blue chiffon gown), and dance trio Let It Happen as well as YOLA, the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles.

To top it all off, Gwen Stefani had the crowd members dancing in their boxes and seats. She arrived looking like a pink flamingo on fire with her puffy, fluffy fuchsia gown with a detachable train. Ms. Gwen belted out hits like “Don’t Speak,” “Sweet Escape,” and “Nobody but You,” which she sang with surprise guest and hubby Blake Shelton.

The opening night extravaganza raised more than $2.46 million for the learning and community initiatives and programs, which includes The Dude’s pet project for the greater LA area YOLA. These programs give incentive, promise and guidance to thousands of area school kids.

Since his initial appearance some 17 years later Dudamel joked that “a lot has changed, including my belly.”

After a selection of Stefani favorites, the songbird was joined by another never-before backup and what a backup it was. It was the first-ever joint appearance by both the UCLA and USC marching bands. The bands joined her for a grand finale of “Hollaback Girl,” one of her most popular hits. That song touched off a showstopping, jaw-dropping, neck-churning phenomenal grand fireworks display which lit up the nighttime sky.

The Dude summed up the outstanding evening by saying, “In the ’20s, they came here for a night under the stars. Tonight, we are gathered for a night of music under those same stars.”

Once again it was an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime event that went out with a blast!