POP MUSIC REVIEW : Just Another Ho-Hum Day at the Bowl

The first question to be asked at Friday’s “Great American Concert” at the Hollywood Bowl was whether John Mauceri would challenge his Hollywood Bowl Orchestra--as well as his audience--with music that offered any intriguing new directions.

The answer: Been there, done that.

The second question was how much vigor could be injected into an increasingly somnambulistic presentation by the arrival of New Orleans singer Banu Gibson.

The answer: Too little and too late.


Given the treasury of American music, both familiar and unfamiliar, that is available to Mauceri, it’s difficult to understand why he elected to assemble a program in which the two showcase works were an eminently forgettable set of rediscovered Kurt Weill songs and a glossy Jerome Kern suite based on music from “Show Boat.”

Baritone Gregg Baker and 8-year-old Kirby Hanlon sang convincingly in the Weill material (drawn from a reworking of “Huckleberry Finn”), and the Kern suite was executed with typically brisk efficiency. But aside from some hard fiddling in a Carmen Dragon arrangement of “Oh! Susanna,” the orchestra’s performance was little more than another day at the office.

Any chance that Gibson--a powerful, blues-driven belter--might have juiced up the evening dissolved when it became clear that she and her New Orleans Hot Jazz band would also be accompanied by the orchestra.

Gibson did her best, especially on “Get Happy” and “Hallelujah!,” but the absence of a continuing interaction with her band--an essential part of her better performances--and too many swing-killing orchestral interludes fatally undercut her musical impact.


Bowl attendance on Friday was 14,878; Saturday’s sold-out attendance was 17,979.