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FROM ELECTRONICA TO SOUL, A NICE ENDING FOR THE BOWL.

Byline: Rob Lowman Entertainment Editor

The Hollywood Bowl ended its season with two very different notes. On Saturday it presented what could loosely be called a neo-soul show featuring Seal and Zap Mama. Sunday followed with the electronica of Air and Stereolab.

Performing with an orchestra led by Roger Neill, Air, the French duo of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel, spun out their lush, synthesized mood music to packed house of appreciative Air-heads. Essentially, the duo builds a song on a simple, appealing riff set against a pulsing beat and then ramps it up with various overlaid (mostly electronic) sounds.

When something non-electronic is used - as when Godin whistled in ``Alpha Beta Gaja'' - it almost sounds daring. Smartly, Air usually keep tunes short - before things get boring. Familiar numbers included ``Sexy Boy'' and ``Kelly Watch the Stars.'' Best was the lovely, moody ``Alone in Kyoto,'' written for the ``Lost in Translation'' soundtrack.

For Stereolab, think Talking Heads some 20 years later with a laid-back French singer (Laetita Sadier) and without David Byrne. OK, that's a big difference. Stereolab combines polyrhythms - hip-hop, jazz, dance music, etc. - with Sadier's dreamy-sounding vocals. It's often hard to tell when one song ends and another begins. Nevertheless, like Air, Stereolab creates pleasing - if hardly challenging - aural experiences.

Most of the crowd on Saturday came to see Seal, the British soul stylist who fuses folk, pop, dance and rock into his music, and they were rewarded with a spirited, warm, audience-pleasing performance. Backed by a tight four-piece band, Seal gave them what they wanted with hits like the elegant ``Prayer for the Dying,'' and a stripped-down version of the haunting ``Kiss From a Rose.'' In an era of too-often soulless rap and faux-emotional pop ballads, Seal is one of the few major-selling vocalists today who conveys any sense of heart in singing style. And he knows how to get funky, ending the evening with the upbeat ``Bring It On.''

Marie Daulne, the soul of Zap Mama, literally had to do a cartwheel showing off her black lace underwear on the stage before getting the crowd hopped up. Too bad, because Zap Mama displays an intriguing and complex mix of African, hip-hop, soul, Latin and even jazzy sounds. Anchored by Daulne and her three backup singers' rich voices, Zap Mama's sophisticated music deserves a wider audience.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 28, 2004
Words:389
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