with the Boston Pops
Symphony Hall-June 23, 2005
By Rory Flynn
Boston's Symphony Hall has long been the center of some of the city's finest musical moments. However, throughout its 105-year history there has been a missing edge. That missing link was fulfilled when Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart brought pop-rockers Guster to the hall for the first ever "Pops on the Edge" concert.
As odd as the pairing may seem, the power of music brought these two extremes and their vastly different fan bases together for two nights that perfectly entertained all. "Gusterhead" dominated the balcony while many of the elder Pop's season ticket holders (wheelchairs included) took the floor. However, just as the Pops and
Guster grew tighter on stage, so did their audience. When Guster's lead vocalist Ryan Miller told the crowd to stand up and act as if they were at one of the band's "regular" shows during the encore reprise of "Come Downstairs and Say Hello", this reviewer spotted one 20-something dancing away with a senior citizen. It was definitely a comical yet refreshing sight to see.
As for Guster, the new foursome (with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Joe Pisapia) seemed to be much more at ease and their happy-go-lucky self during this show (night #2). After a rousing opener of "I Spy", Miller told the sold-out audience that the band had been so nervous the night before that they "don't remember what happened, but that ("I Spy") just sounded awesome."
"Backyard" sounded particular strong as the thunderous drumming of Brain Rosenworcel met the sweet horns of the Pops Orchestra. Added to the set list for the second show was "Barrel of a Gun" which came with no rehearsal for the Pops so Miller just asked the 70+ piece orchestra to give the band some kind of "free jazz" lead before the band took it over.
Giving their diehards something that they always wished for, Guster included an extremely rare rendition of "Two Points for Honesty." Rarely played live because of its complexity and lack of appendages, there was no excuse for playing it with the full Pops Orchestra, and the final result was outstanding.
New for everyone in the crowd were "Empire State" and "Deer Valentine", both of which will be included on the band's forthcoming album. The first faired well with country pick-up sound while the second was more of a lethargic ballad.
Though difficult to hear, an encore acoustic "Jesus on the Radio" played with a Pops' violinist was very entertaining with all five musicians making comical faces during the song.
Lockhart's goal of bringing a younger audience to Symphony Hall and introducing them to the Pops was easily accomplished and proved to be quite entertaining. Bringing Boston's own Guster, a college favorite, was also excellent choice and hopefully this is the first of many more "Pops on the Edge" nights to come.