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Live Review: My Morning Jacket and the Boston Pops

June 22, 2006 5:01 PM ET

Fresh off their performance at last weekend's Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee last night, Kentucky rockers My Morning Jacket donned tuxedos for the first of two nights with the Boston Pops. While Bonnaroo brought mainly hippies and hipsters, their collaboration with the Pops attracted a bizarre range of music fans — from diehard My Morning Jacket fans ready to shout out their requests to senior citizens with season passes to random Boston tourists. Even the company's conductor Keith Lockhart could tell the mix was unusual, asking the crowd, "How many of you have never heard of My Morning Jacket?"

The Pops, now in their 121st season, opened the show with their own set. As cocktail waitresses delivered bottles of beer and wine to the jazz-club-style tables, Lockhart led the ensemble through orchestrations by other artists who've bridged the gap from pop to classical, from Björk's "Overture" (off the soundtrack to Dancer in the Dark) to Elvis Costello's Il Sogno, the rocker's ballet based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Then the house lights dimmed.

After a short break, My Morning Jacket joined the orchestra of about a hundred, who had prepared for the evening by listening to bootlegs of the band's San Francisco Fillmore shows last November. Beneath an organ which crowned the stage, the rockers launched into the 2001 song "At Dawn," as percussionists walked through the crowd playing handheld instruments. By the close of that same number, however, frontman Jim James and Co. were already up to their usual stage antics.

A wide-ranging set of music followed that ran the gamut of the entire My Morning Jacket discography, with the Boston Pops helping to create a mystical, fairy-tale-like setting. Strings added another, lusher dimension to the song "Golden" (off 2003's It Still Moves), while on "I Will Sing You Songs" (also off It Still Moves) and newer songs "Gideon" and "Wordless Chorus" (off 2005's Z), the Pops added a heavier dose of the Kentucky rockers' trademark reverb.

On another 2003 track, "Just One Thing," James, behind his usual wall of hair, switched to acoustic guitar, while fellow guitarist Carl Broemel stepped up to the mike to deliver backup vocals. The best collaboration came on "The Way He Sings," with the horns propelling the usually gentle track. After closing out the set with the electrifying dance number "Run Thru" to a standing ovation — one that actually brought both the floor and balcony to their feet — James returned for a solo acoustic performance of "Bermuda Highway."

After another standing ovation the tuxed-up rock band, looking like gentlemen for the evening, bowed and exited stage left.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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