Making Memories at Starlight Bowl Summer Concerts

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Led Zeppelin tribute band Led Zapagain brought back memories from the 1960s and ’70s during Saturday’s Starlight Bowl season opener.

In the moment, a summer evening at Burbank’s hillside Starlight Bowl is one for family, friends and couples to enjoy a picnic dinner and a variety of live music performances. But moving past the moment, it is the thousands of memories that are made during each performance that is the true magic of the Starlight Bowl.  

In the wake of a missed season due to the pandemic, the bowl once again opened for its 2021 slate of concerts with the music of Led Zeppelin tribute band Led Zapagain last Saturday. It was an evening in which the alchemy of turning moments into memories pulsated as strongly as the opening riff of Zep’s “The Song Remains the Same.”   

“I’m really glad to see the Starlight Bowl open again,” said Burbank Vice Mayor Jess Talamantes as he arrived for the evening’s show with his wife, Sandy. “Following the challenges of the past 14 months, this gives the community the opportunity to come back out, enjoy the summer evenings of music at the bowl the way they have for years, and make new memories.”

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Burbank Vice Mayor Jess Talamantes and his wife, Sandy, enjoyed an evening at the Starlight Bowl last Saturday.

Among the memories that were shared by Saturday evening attendees as they entered the venue were those of having seen performances over the years by Little Anthony and the Imperials, Bob Marley and The Wailers, Genesis, and Steve Allen accompanied by the Burbank Symphony Orchestra.   

“I was here on Oct. 1, 1976, to see Nazareth and Lynyrd Skynyrd,” said Mike Chisholm, who was introducing his friend Bob Lujan to the bowl for the first time. “That was the last time I ever saw them because it was one year to the month before the accident,” Chisholm added, referencing the 1977 plane crash that claimed the lives of Skynyrd lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and three other band members.

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Mike Chisholm and his friend Bob Lujan ready for an evening of classic rock at the bowl.

As for new memories, they were being made throughout the amphitheater during Saturday’s show that featured the music of the band widely considered to be one of the most successful, innovative, and influential in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.

Led Zepagain, a Zeppelin cover band composed of Swan Montgomery as Robert Plant, Anthony David as Jimmy Page, Jim Wootten as John Paul Jones, and Derek Smith as John Bonham, has been giving those who never got to see the original band perform a convincing re-creation for over 30 years.

Erin Barrows of Burbank’s Parks and Recreation Department, who oversees the concerts at the bowl, said that while the 2021 season will not be the traditional Summer Concert Series produced by her department, concert-goers will be treated to a more diverse slate of performers, albeit at slightly higher ticket prices.

“This year’s shows will be put on by Sterling Venue Ventures, headed up by Lance Sterling, and L.A. Concert Groups,” said Barrows. “They are bringing in bigger names, which are shows that will have a broader appeal, but are also more expensive to produce.” 

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Concert promoter Lance Sterling is the man responsible for bringing music back to the Starlight Bowl this summer.

Standing backstage as Led Zepagain took to the stage, Sterling said that while costs do, of course, escalate with bigger shows, he is still committed to making tickets available for a comparable or lower price than people would pay to see name performers at other Los Angeles concert venues.

“We’re offering concert experiences that comes with higher costs to put on,” said Sterling. “But we believe we are also offering the value of quality shows and experiences that will provide people with a great evening, great memories, and a desire to return.”  

While the city will not be hosting its annual Fourth of July concert, which traditionally kicks off the Starlight Bowl season, there will be a 9 p.m. fireworks display near the hillside venue that people will be able to view from numerous locations throughout the city.

As for the remainder of this year’s lineup, which will run through October, tonight’s concert will feature Queen tribute band Queen Nation, with next Saturday rounding out the tribute shows with Journey cover band DSB: Journey. July will then conclude with a performance by Blue Öyster Cult and Jefferson Starship on July 25.

Other performers who will be providing memories at the Starlight Bowl this year include the Little River Band, Alan Parsons, Ambrosia, John Ford Coley, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Engelbert Humperdinck, and Pat Benatar with Neil Giraldo. 

For more information on the Starlight Bowl concert series and to order tickets, visit starlightbowl.com.

DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.