Two years ago in late May, I finally made it to the Hollywood Bowl. I had wanted to see a concert there for as long as I’ve lived in Southern California, but as with so many places close to home, it never quite found its way into the plans. Nearby experiences don’t seem to carry the same sense of urgency as far-away destinations. Someday will always be around the corner. And yet once we’ve visited that often-thought-of place, we invariably ask ourselves and anyone who will listen, “Why didn’t I do that sooner?!”
My days of procrastinating about the Hollywood Bowl came screeching to an end when I heard that Neil Diamond would be performing there. I had seen him in concert decades earlier when I was a teenager working with my best friend Mary at a food stand at the Minnesota State Fair. It was a memory I treasured and wanted to repeat. Or at least revisit. And I wanted to share it with my family.
We decided to turn the event into an early celebration of our summer birthdays, complete with box seats and dinner served before the concert. When we arrived, portable tables with green canvas chairs and matching green-and-white-striped linens had been set up in our box. I laughed out loud at the elegant setting in such a casual, picnic-like venue. It may have taken me a while to check out this place, but I certainly was doing it in style!
The Hollywood Bowl lays claim to the title of largest natural outdoor amphitheater in the United States. Carved into a hillside in the Hollywood Hills in 1922, its design evolved into the iconic amphitheater that today seats more than 17,000 people. It’s the home of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
The concert was simply wonderful. Neil Diamond was a few years older than when I’d seen him perform at the State Fair in 1971, but he sounded pretty great to me. His band was fabulous as well, and the acoustics were superb. As Sweet Caroline echoed through the night air, with all 17,000 of us shouting the famous refrain, “So good…so good…so good,” I looked at my family and couldn’t stop smiling.
There’s always a risk when revisiting the ghosts of memories past, but this was one of those times it was clearly a chance worth taking.
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Neil Diamond will be returning to Los Angeles this summer, performing at the Forum. I’m certain it will be a terrific concert, but for me, after that night at The Hollywood Bowl, it just wouldn’t be the same.