By Joshua Glazer
Most famous places in Hollywood are disappointing. Their fame is derived from location rather than true greatness. But the Hollywood Bowl is one of the few LA institutions that deserves the title; a grand amphitheater with comfortable box seats, pristine sound (usually) and a generous bring-your-own-picnic and wine policy.
Oh yes, and then there's the music. Closing last summer's season with an epic performance by Air, backed by the 60-piece Los Angeles Symphony, the Bowl and promoters KCRW had to open the 2005 season with a bang. And they found that bang in the form of former Talking Heads leader David Byrne, backed by a 40-odd person marching band. But more on that later.
Heirs to Byrne's throne, The Arcade Fire, opened the show, still seemingly at awe with their rapid success and the 16,000 plus Bowl crowd. The group played almost their entire debut album with manic energy, turning plaintive tracks into cheering rave-ups. All that was lacking was their stage sound, which, while crisp and clear, never seemed to jump off the stage.
Byrne had no such problems when he came on, sporting a shock of white hair and a pink suit, backed by a drummer, percussionist, bassist and the 7-strong Tosca Strings. He opened with a selection of mellow and pleasant world-tinged songs that highlighted both his international reputation and his skills as a songwriter even in the later half of his career. Things rev'd up when a somber afro-shaded version of the Talking Heads classic "Psycho Killer" built into a full on rocker, but the energy really spiked when the Extra Action Marching Band from San Francisco came bounding down the hill and through the Bowl crowd, trombones ablaze and flags flying. They made it to the stage for a rousing rendition of "Burning Down the House" which was topped only by the closer, Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love." As the pom-pom boys and girls in silver sequin thongs lept over the expensive table seats up front, Byrne slithered into his old Stop Making Sense dance moves, a little bit slower than two decades ago, but equally as exciting.