My travels with LA Music Blog have taken me to a myriad collection of locations here in Los Angeles: the Orange County Fairgrounds, the Santa Monica Pier, the Staples Center’s exclusive Hyde Lounge, the LA Zoo, and a masked ball in Malibu that I’m not sure was entirely legal. (That last wasn’t exactly official LA Music Blog business, per se. Also, I’m beginning to think I may have had the wrong house.)
Tuesday night I added the breathtaking Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles to my esteemed list of venues visited. As part of the LA Philharmonic’s Songbook series, LA-born actress/producer/singer/talent extraordinaire Rita Wilson took the stage along with famous friends Kara DioGuardi, Micky Dolenz, Richard Marx, and The Tenors. A more impressive venue you’d be hard-pressed to find. Can you believe they let me in this joint?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the famous friend of Rita’s I was most looking forward to seeing was Jackson Browne, my favorite songwriter of all time, whom I’ve doggedly been trying to see since I set foot in California. Unfortunately, to my heart-rending disappointment, JB was sick that evening and unable to perform, which I learned shortly before the show began. While my initial urge was to shake my fist and curse the heavens and even God Himself, I couldn’t very well behave like a savage in the same hallowed hall in which the LA Philharmonic plays. I swallowed my disappointment like the bitter pill it was and resolved to enjoy the show.
You know what, though? Rita Wilson was so lovely and her guests so talented that I didn’t even miss him. (Okay, I missed him a little, but not as much as I thought I would.)
Rita’s song choices were a journey through her own coming of age, when the innocence of the early ’60s collided with the reality of the late ’60s and early ’70s. There’s no more perfect era in music to mirror what young women of all generations experience while growing up: love, loss, struggle, the gaining of perspective, and the realization that our idealistic teenaged fantasies were just that. From We Five’s “You Were on My Mind” to Merrilee Rush’s “Angel of the Morning” to Dave Loggins’ “Please Come to Boston” (a dear favorite of mine), Rita’s clear, pretty voice led us again through all of the excitement, longing, and melancholy that accompany love’s hard-learned lessons. Am I being flowery? What can I say — it was that kind of night.
Don’t think this was just a cover show, however. Rita also sang plenty of her own original material, both solo and with her guests. Rita credits her friend Kara DioGuardi, GRAMMY-nominated songwriter and former American Idol judge, for introducing her to songwriting. Her original songs are simple, honest expressions of heartfelt sentiment; one called “Lucky Girl” tells of her enduring love for her husband in such a way that you don’t even want to puke.
Richard Marx, Micky Dolenz of Monkees fame, and Canadian quartet The Tenors all took their turn onstage with Rita, singing their signature hits — “Right Here Waiting,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Hallelujah” — and finally coming together onstage with Kara and Rita for the show’s finale. Richard Marx looks and sounds so good that I’m beginning to suspect he’s a robot, Micky Dolenz brims with more energy than a barrel of Monkees, and The Tenors are surely some kind of silken-voiced Canadian gods. Their performance of “Hallelujah,” a song that I’ve heard a hundred overwrought times, was nothing short of spectacular.
Rita Wilson & Friends were a distinct pleasure to enjoy. I’m almost glad Jackson Browne wasn’t there — it might have been too good. Okay, that’s not true, but I’d have loved to see how he’d have contributed to the night’s performances and which of his songs he and Rita would have sung together. (“Running on Empty”? “For A Dancer”? “The Pretender”? I’ll never know, and I have to accept that.) Thanks to Rita Wilson and her talented friends, however, I was entertained right out of my disappointment. As for you, Jackson Browne — I’ll catch you one of these days. Mark my words!