Watch: John Williams in Concert at The Hollywood Bowl
By now, it's clear to everyone that composer/conductor John Williams is utterly brilliant. His five Oscar wins and 50 nominations put him second only to Walt Disney himself as the most nominated person in history, and he's arguably the single most influential individual of all time when it comes to creating film scores. When you have a chance to see a master like this conduct an orchestra in person, you take it, and that's exactly what I did this past Friday night when Williams conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic as they played a selection of his film music at the Hollywood Bowl.
I've interviewed a lot of movie stars for work over the years, but it's rare that I'm in the company of a living legend. Seeing the 84-year-old Williams — who did not act nearly as old as his age may lead you to imagine — in his element was a truly magical experience. After a prelude by conductor David Newman, Williams came out and started with "Flight to Neverland" from Hook, an often-derided Spielberg film I've stuck up for in the past which, regardless of your thoughts on the movie itself, has a wonderful score.
He moved on to a brief selection of music from this year's The BFG before diving headfirst into a galaxy far, far away with music from the Star Wars films as thousands of people lifted colorful illuminated lightsabers in the air. Here's the playlist for that section:
"The Jedi Steps and Finale," from The Force Awakens
"The Asteroid Field," from The Empire Strikes Back
"Princess Leia's Theme," from A New Hope
"The Imperial March," from The Empire Strikes Back
"Rey's Theme," from The Force Awakens
"The Throne Room and End Title" from A New Hope
The score of The Force Awakens was actually one of the most disappointing aspects of that movie for me, largely because I didn't feel it had the same kind of instantly iconic, brash themes that were so prominent in the original trilogy (for me, those big musical moments are very much a part of Star Wars' identity). But one of the effects of seeing snippets of this score played live was making me reconsider my thoughts about The Force Awakens' music, and to make me want to listen to the entire score all the way through without watching the movie (something I haven't carved out time to do yet). "Rey's Theme" is every bit as solid as anything in the original trilogy, and I'm wondering if I'll appreciate any other tracks more if I listen to the score separately.
At the end of the night, Williams came out for an encore and played "Hedwig's Theme" from the Harry Potter films and the iconic "Prelude and Main Title March" from Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie. He wrapped up the performance with a second encore, and chose "Flying" from the E.T. score to send us off (a song I praised in a recent episode of The Not Just New Movies Podcast).
Below, you can watch a video compilation of some of my favorite moments from the evening: