Natalie Cole at the Hollywood Bowl

Natalie Cole at the Hollywood Bowl

I knew I was on to something with this wine and music idea of mine, but I was not quite sure how to describe this unique pairing idea to others. How do I explain why it makes sense to pair a fine 2001 Dolce Late Harvest wine with London Symphony’s 1999 recording of Beethoven’s Moonlights Sonata? Does one really have anything to do with the other? Last night as Natalie Cole’s concert began at the Hollywood Bowl, I realized that, yes, I am definitely on to something!

The L.A. Philharmonic started the show and the strings sounded amazingly lush. Natalie did not appear for a few moments, but then in a very glamorous white evening gown she entered stage left as she was singing the jazz classic, “The Very Thought of You”. The audience was still and quiet as memories of the late great Nat King Cole could be felt everywhere. The piano player played in a style reminiscent of the great accompanists of the jazz era. The mood was so sophisticated and surreal. I was very happy to find that my date had brought a bottle of Henriot 1996 Brut Champagne. This was an absolutely perfect choice for the mood and the music. The blue lights reflected off of Natalie’s white evening gown as the lush strings and melodic horns accompanied her amazing voice. The next song was “The Midnight Sun,” another great jazz standard. As the first half of the show came to a close, the great classic, “Unforgettable” could not be forgotten. As the large screens at the Bowl displayed pictures of Natalie and her father, the song began and then a video came on the screen as we could see and hear her father start “Unforgettable,” then Natalie responded. What an idyllic moment for all – a perfect summer evening, sipping champagne under the stars as the orchestra plays and Natalie serenades. All of this was wonderful as the light came up and intermission ensued.

Once settled back in our seats I was not surprised to hear that the musical style had changed a bit and had more of a modern groove and a rhythm and blues feel, but I was surprised when Natalie entered the stage in a pair of jeans, pumps and a vest which showed her belly. While I was very impressed with how fit she is at the age of 55, I was no longer motivated to take another “sip” of our very fine champagne. As the show progressed and the style of the music was clearly going to be rhythm and blues for the remainder of the show, I felt confused. We should have brought a second bottle with us. A sexy, blackberry type of red wine or maybe even a port. Natalie had come out from under the sophisticated jazz shadow of her father and was getting down and funky in this second half. After all, her first big song as a vocalist was the Rhythm and Blues dance hit “An Everlasting Love”. Gail Deadrick, the conductor, took over on piano with a romping gospel style and a new gospel type background singer was brought on stage. What on earth were we to do? We only brought champagne. The finale was her hit “An Everlasting Love” and the audience absolutely loved it. They were dancing in their seats. Evidently they had either had enough to drink or they brought a bottle of red for the second half.