My Morning Jacket rocked a sold-out crowd at Boston’s Symphony Hall this past Thursday night. However, this was no ordinary My Morning Jacket concert or crowd. Accompanied by the entirety of the Boston Pops, the Kentucky-bred powerhouse tore through a set of tunes that stretched from all ends of their catalog and incorporated the classical orchestra into their pieces with a compositional competence that is rare in the mainstream musical community today.
At Symphony Hall, ticket holders were ushered to their seats in between songs, whereas at the group’s previous performance at Bonnaroo, one merely had to incorporate the risk of getting trampled on while pushing his or her way to the front of the crowd. Things were clearly following the customs and traditions of what a person would expect from a crowd of Symphony Hall season ticket holders. It may have been My Morning Jacket’s set, but it was the Pops’ house, and things went by the Pops’ rules. Not only was champagne being served to folks in their seats, but the more conservative members of the crowd even applauded as Pop’s conductor Keith Lockhart took time to pay the bills and asked for a round of applause for their corporate sponsors.
As alien as the atmosphere may have been to someone planning on attending a Pops/My Morning Jacket concert, it was clear from the get-go that it would be the rockers who would be teaching the classical Pops crowd how to have a good time. The Pops had already completed a set with compositions ranging from Bjork to Gershwin, but when My Morning Jacket front man Jim James led his group of Crazyhorse-esque musicians on stage, the rockers in the crowd erupted into frenzy that the Pops don’t get treated to very often.
The group initially tore into the album defining “At Dawn,” and then led a stage full of classical musicians through a set that stretched from their newest album opener, “Wordless Chorus,” to their sweet-yet-somber “I Will Sing You Songs.” As the night moved forward and the set progressed, it amazed the attendees how orchestra-friendly My Morning Jacket’s material is. But what truly stood out as the sight of the night was Keith Lockhart leading his famed orchestra while taking stage cues from Jim James.
All in all, the night’s cross-pollination of cultures was a success. Leaving Symphony Hall, folks could imagine full-orchestral accompaniment with My Morning Jacket songs that weren’t even performed. The majority of the songs My Morning Jacket fused with the Pops were from the mellower end of their repertoire, but had they incorporated more of their energizing compositions like “One Big Holiday” or “Mahgeeta,” the cultural fusion would have been complete. However, a less-than-satisfying set list isn’t nearly enough to overshadow the clash of the cultural titans that took place in Symphony Hall.
Photos by Andrew Bruss