Bill Silva and Andrew Hewitt have been promoting shows at the Hollywood Bowl for 31 years. In 2018, they joined forces with Live Nation Entertainment. In partnership with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, which manages the Los Angeles County-owned shed, the dynamic duo presents a range of music and comedy shows under the famed bandshell known the world over.
On the occasion of the Bowl’s 100th anniversary, Silva and Hewitt spoke with Pollstar about putting on concerts for nearly a third of the Bowl’s century in Hollywood.
Pollstar: The Rod Stewart show at the Bowl on June 14 was a pretty special night.
Andrew Hewitt: Bill and I have had the privilege of working with Rod since sometime in the early to mid-’80s. We frequently talk about the transition of the artists of the ’60s and ’70s to what’s happening today, or the past generation of the Pearl Jams, and then I’m reminded of how great Rod Stewart is on a night like that. He really tried hard and from what I understand he’s really doing it on the whole tour.
I talked to (Live Nation Co-President of Touring) Rick Franks today and he said he’s out there killing it every night, at 77.
How did you guys get started promoting shows at the bowl?
Bill Silva: Ernest (Fleischmann, who died in 2010 after a nearly three-decade career with the L.A. Phil, including serving as general director of the Hollywood Bowl) had approached us because, at the time, I was doing a lot of shows all around Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas and Andy had been very high-profile with the Nederlanders for many years, but neither of us really had an in at a Los Angeles venue at the time.
Irvine Meadows was taking most of the summer (bookings) away and Ernest really believed the heyday of the Bowl was when it presented every kind of performer from the orchestra to Sinatra to Baryshnikov. He really wanted to restore it to its glory days.
Andy and I were working together at the time and he approached us and asked if we could make this a home in Los Angeles and help restore the glory it once had.
That was always the vision and the mission and, as Andy will tell you, Ernest was as proactive a partner throughout the endeavor as anyone could have been. If Andy was calling on acts, oftentimes Ernest was by his side in the dressing room soliciting Sting or Linda Ronstadt.
Hewitt: Literally. Ernest and I, and I think you were with us, Bill, at the Wiltern, we went and met with Sting afterwards and Ernest and Sting had a wonderful conversation about not just the Bowl, but classical music, which Sting was interested in.
Sting’s played the Bowl many times, including with The Police. We would sometimes even make financial deals with agents like Howard Rose (who reps Elton John). Ernest would get involved. We’d have dinner at Morton’s and we’d charm Ernest and those were wonderful times.
Silva: One of the great things I enjoyed early on was the marketing campaign that Andy came up with where we took the names and dates of mocked-up old hard tickets that we used to sell through the record stores and what not and we’d ring the ad with them, so you’d have The Beatles, some Pink Floyd and Janis and Jimi and Rolling Stones and try to harken back to the glory days and just remind people there had been that cachet there.
Because this was the industry town, and everybody raced to the LA Times Calendar section, there would be the full-page ad for the next week announcing when the next show was.
Hewitt: When Bill and I were big shots, sometimes we’d have multiple full-page ads, double-truck ads.
Do certain genres or kinds of acts work best at the Bowl?
Silva: I would tell you it’s across the board. We’ve had everybody from Harry Connick Jr. in his jazz days and his Funky Dunky days, Anita Baker and Whitney Houston and obviously the rock and pop, Coldplay, Radiohead, Depeche Mode and then comedy and country, Dolly Parton, Keith Urban.
But I can tell you that we oftentimes do have to tell a story to younger-generation artists who may not be as aware of the history of the Bowl. Candidly, it’s not an inexpensive venue to operate so the artists may be leery of the ticket prices they might have to charge to make it work for them financially.
For instance, Rex Orange County being the perfect example. You’ve got a very astute young manager who’s wildly successful with his other client, Adele, who recognizes the value of planting the flag in iconic venues and really making a statement.
He did exactly that for his artist. And what an exciting night to see that audience experience the Bowl just like a young Andy Hewitt did when he was seeing Sonny and Cher.
Hewitt: That was a very young Andy Hewitt. The first concert I went to was Sonny and Cher and The Turtles at the Hollywood Bowl, which Cher has always found amusing when we were involved with one of her many farewell tours.
Silva: The promoter saw her when he was 6.
Hewitt: Bill is correct. We probably used to focus on pop and rock and singer-songwriters but it’s really across the board. We’ve had a lot of success with country music and comedy has been extraordinary this year. The (Dave) Chappelle business was record-setting.
We’ve had the privilege of doing shows with artists like Pavarotti to Van Cliburn at the same time also. And, of course, you’ve got Chance the Rapper, Jay-Z and Nas.
Silva: And Kanye and many others. I think that’s where our friends at Live Nation Touring have really helped diversify the program with the relationships they have.
Arthur Fogel (now Live Nation CEO of global touring) sold us our first show, Paul Simon, in 1991 before there was any dream of what Live Nation would be. Arthur sold us the first show back then when he had the tour.
One of the keys in the partnership with the Philharmonic has been hearing not only what the artists and the artist community has to say and the production and touring personnel who are so critical in getting our shows to fit, but the audience feedback, and over the years continuing to try and improve and adjust the experience to match technology, size, scope, finances, all of it. Fingers crossed, it all seems to be in the sweet spot of the magic formula.
Hewitt: We’ve also had the opportunity to work with artists on some of the Philharmonic galas where we took an artist like Journey and they had an opportunity to work with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Thomas Wilkins, which was a great night for them.
Also, we did that with Steely Dan and The Moody Blues, which were all Philharmonic summer galas, their opening galas, that we helped with. The Moody Blues, I remember there was a moment at the end of the show and you could tell the two leaders of the band, Justin Hayward and John Lodge, when they looked at all of it and the orchestra and the bowl and you could tell that they just knew that this was a moment they would probably never really have again.
Silva: You’ve got to tell the story of Robert Plant after the Plant/Page show.Hewitt: It was the Plant/Page tour when they put that record out, Walking Into Clarksdale. The show consisted mostly of rearranged and not-rearranged Led Zeppelin songs and I had the privilege of watching it with my childhood friend (film and TV producer) Bill Gerber and some other friends and afterwards we were standing backstage and it was Robert and Jimmy (and their manager) Bill Curbishley.
There weren’t many people, so I just came back and said, “That was the best show I’ve ever seen you guys do. That show was amazing.” And Robert Plant says, “Yeah, it’s the best show we’ve ever done.” And I said, “You mean as Page/Plant?” and Jimmy said, “No, that’s the best show we’ve ever done anywhere.”
Jimmy explained that because they had been playing arenas and they had made these changes to their set, this was really special for them and the musicians they were playing with on that tour were extraordinary. It was just one of those magical nights. I had seen Zeppelin many times when I was a kid, and they were never that good as they were that night.
Is the process of promoting shows at the Bowl down to a science for you guys, given your many years of working there?
Hewitt: I don’t think the concert business is ever easy. We always have challenges in any venue and we have to keep reinventing the ones we work with.
The timing of joining up with Live Nation in 2018 seems fortuitous given what happened with the pandemic.
Hewitt: Of course, but the truth is, we’ve had a relationship with Michael Rapino and Arthur Fogel and the Live Nation Touring people since it really started in the mid-2000s. It’s grown and grown and their market share and the variety and types of acts they are doing are extraordinary.
Getting to work with Omar (Al-joulani, Live Nation president of touring) and Arthur and the Live Nation team, they’re our colleagues and friends and our partners in booking the Bowl and it’s been a real priority for them, and it shows.
Photos courtesy Hollywood Bowl
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