When I first reported back on My Morning Jacket joining the Boston Pops for two days in June, these are the reviews that I expected. Read on for some thoughts from some readers and our friend danfun at Who’s Driving the Bus?…
Wow! This was easily my favorite concert I have seen this year. Jim James and Keith Lockhart completely out did themselves. MMJ not only melted my face last night but my heart and mind. Hearing Jim sing some of these songs with a full orchestra behind him was just breathe taking. Look for a longer review over the weekend with videos of “At Dawn”, “I Will Sing” and “Run Thru”.
Photos © danfun.
From reader Mike Johnson…
I just got back from Symphony Hall, where My Morning Jacket appeared on a unique bill with the Boston Pops. I really didn’t know what to expect, what with one of the most inventive alternative rock bands around being accompanied by a symphony orchestra. What it became, though, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you are in the area, and you are free tomorrow (Thursday) night, I highly recommend grabbing a ticket to check them out. It only cost me $21 for a balcony seat right over the stage, and it seemed like there were still some empty seats.
For the first half of the concert, the Pops played some more adventurous pieces from their repertoire, so that, as conductor Keith Lockhart jokingly put it, they could provide an appropriate “opening act” for MMJ. Included in their set was a beautiful overture that was composed by Bjork for the soundtrack of Dancer in the Dark, as well as snippets from an opera written recently by Elvis Costello for an Italian ballet company. The centerpiece of the Pops set was “An American in Paris”, chosen by Lockhart to fit the theme of the evening. As he explained, Gershwin was considered almost avant-garde in his time, since he brought the sounds of the blues and Tin Pan Alley into “respectable” venues.
After the intermission, My Morning Jacket came out, all dapper in full tuxes, although nothing could tame front-man Jim James’ wild head of hair. Even their mascot, a stuffed black bear, was in formal wear, holding a baton in his raised right arm for the occasion. For the remainder of the evening, MMJ shared center stage with the entire Pops orchestra, conducted by Lockhart from his podium right behind the band’s drummer. From the first notes of the collaboration to the last, the Pops’ contributions meshed perfectly with the grandness of My Morning Jacket’s sound. Most of the songs that they covered seemed to be from their previous album, It Still Moves, including the gorgeous “Golden” and the moving “Steam Engine”. However, they also did two cuts from their latest, Z: the majestic “Gideon”, and the quirky yet brilliant “Wordlesschorus”. All of this led up to a climactic rendition of “Run Thru”, which ended with the band and the orchestra jamming at full tilt.
As remarkable as the night’s pairing was, probably the most notable thing about the show was just what a gift lead singer/songwriter Jim James’ voice is. It filled the hall, resonating perfectly with the acoustics of the surroundings. After “Run Thru,” the band left the stage to a thunderous ovation, and then James came out by himself to sing an acoustic song, again accompanied by Lockhart et al. With just his acoustic guitar and the gentle backing of the orchestra, James’ tender melody and moving words perfectly capped off a wonderful night of music.
Just got back from tonight’s show, and I have to say it is one of my all time favorites. Prior to the show, a random guy handed out front row tickets to the show to passers by on the sidewalk and I found myself in some seats I never could have afforded on my own. The pops played three pieces prior to the beginning – similar to the Wednesday show was a composition by Bjork to start, an “experimental” song that got booed by an old guy on the left balcony, and then “An American in Paris.”
I was shocked to find My Morning Jacket open with “At Dawn”, both due to the popularity of the song/likelihood of the song to be a closer and also due to my personal introduction to My Morning Jacket through that song. Like the other poster, I too agree that the Pops didn’t enough beyond backing instrumentals in the first few songs, but I attribute that primarily to a lack of time for the two ensembles to put together the arrangements. All in all, the Boston Pops played extremely well though. Keith Lockhardt was in a yoga-like pose the entire night, where he watched MMJ for queues and directed the orchestra accordingly. I found that on some of the closings, MMJ was somewhat off rhythm from the pops. One other thing that kinda irked me was the use of the Syn-drums, although I know it’s necessary in that kind of environment. If they could have placed some sort of sound barrier around a real drum set or had the orchestral drummers take over the parts, it might have allowed the songs to take better advantage of a place like symphony hall. That being said, they still did an amazing job, and it looked like many parties were enjoying the performance (the 50 somethings in front of me loved the show, the first and second chair bassists, the viloa player all tapping their hands during times that didn’t call for their parts.
I don’t know exact names of songs, but the second to last song was Bermuda Highway with an absolutely beautiful accomponyment.
If anyone happens to have a suggestion for how to get a recording of this show, please post!
so yeah…i decided to purchase a $45 ticket for 1st balcony center just a few days before I heard about this show. looks like the boston pops are trying to expand their target audience (increase sales) by accompanying rock groups that they see as having a “unique” sound, as the conductor Keith Lockhard says before the show’s set began.
the boston pops opened up with 2 songs i’ve never heard of and “american in paris” by gershwin. i’m too familiar with this tune but it seemed to overcome the ADD induced hippie attention span and draw a few sets of eyes.
after intermission is when the fun began w/ their accompaniament of My Morning Jacket. First couple of songs (sorry I didn’t write down the setlist) were great w/ the band but the Pops didn’t do a good job, imo, of taking advantage of the stretched out sound that MMJ exhibits. They could’ve done a better job writing better melodies and synchronizing with what MMJ was doing. For these songs, they could’ve just had the keyboard player lay down a “string pad” in the right hand the entire time. very lame. BUT MMJ sounded great.
Only were the last couple of songs did you notice to hear the orchestra doing a better job of supporting the group. instrumentation was better and the orhcestra doubled a lot of melodies going on in the guitar and melodic vocals.
they must’ve came out 4 times as a group with the thunderous ovation (hands hurt like f***) and “who hoo’s”. Old people were probably s***ting themselves hearing fans doing this…I couldn’t stop laughing.
Anyways, the 2nd last song was incredible. Just the lead singer, acoustic, and an entire orchestra in the background. I think it’s on “Z” but it’s a slow ballad. FUCKING AMAZING.
Basically, the Pops did a fantastic job of supporting the band in the later part of the set;however, a big negative that i noticed was the lack of communication and sychronization of the MMJ drummer with the Conductor of the Pops. They f***ed up so many times it was disgusting. But I give MMJ props for putting their balls out on a stage with one of the nation’s best orchestras. It’s hard as hell making such an adjustment from playing with 4 other players to playing with over 60 musicians.
Amazing show to say the least and I’m highly anticipating some type of recording but I doubt there was one.
immedieatly following the show, in on of the many other recital rooms within Symphony Hall, The Slip played from 10pm – 2am. Great act but I’m not digging their catchy little pops tunes these days. Much respect for Brad B but I’m just not diggin it..but it was cool to see the boys up close again in a really cool concert hall.
I’m stoned, just ate peanut butter and crackers and ready to call it a night. Cheers to good music.