Joey Sack ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The Boston Pops began its 131st season Friday, May 6, with Opening Night with Seth MacFarlane, the man behind Family Guy, American Dad!, Ted, Ted 2, and many more. He is also an accomplished singer in the same big band, jazzy style as Frank Sinatra and others of his era. MacFarlane’s talent as a singer was enough for many to check out the beginning of the Boston Pops season; but in reality, MacFarlane is the dessert and cherry on top when compared to the robust main course that is the Boston Pops Orchestra, as both feature a timeless sound that delight all who hear it.
The first half of the concert featured six pieces either written by American composers or written in the United States and which greatly influenced the way American orchestral music formed over the years. Under the conduction of Keith Lockhart, the Pops conductor since 1995, the concert began with the “Overture to Candide,” wasting no time once Lockhart stepped up to the podium; no introduction, no opening speech. They just got right into the music.
Lockhart emanated a bright and positive energy with his conducting, and that energy showed in the orchestra’s performance; everyone on that stage was having fun, and it set the perfect mood for the rest of the evening. But it wasn’t just orchestral music the Pops played; they also gave the audience a haunting rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” providing an epic orchestral feel to an already epic piece of American music.
To close out the first half of the concert, the Pops performed a piece composed by former Pops conductor John Williams, who remains, according to Lockhart, “the definition of a tough act to follow.” The Williams piece in question was “The Jedi Steps and Finale,” and came from his latest film score for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It was an excellent way to end the more orchestral side of the show, delighting those who have seen the new film, and gracing all others with a powerful example of contemporary film orchestration.
After a brief intermission, Seth MacFarlane took to the stage, starting off with “I Got Plenty of Nothin’,” a fast-paced song to established the mood for the rest of his set. It was clear that MacFarlane was perfectly at home with the Pops, bobbing his head to the rhythm and interacting with the musicians and Lockhart.
Of course, it’s Seth MacFarlane, the man who brought us Family Guy, so a bit of humor was to be expected. “It’s a little odd,” MacFarlane noted, “that I do both Family Guy and…this…The guys behind Bob’s Burgers will be doing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony next week,” he joked. He also found time to do a few of his voices from his shows, including Roger from American Dad!, and Peter, Stewie, and Quagmire from Family Guy. “This is why you’re here, isn’t it?” MacFarlane said while channeling Stewie. “To hear him barking like a seal?”
MacFarlane’s set consisted entirely of classic pieces from the mid-20th Century, par for the course for the “Renaissance man,” as Keith Lockhart described him. But his song selections had another consideration: “[These songs] are chosen,” MacFarlane said, “to showcase the majesty of the ensemble behind me, the Boston Pops.” He later expressed his love of older songs “because it reminds us that there was once a time when music wasn’t Swedish guys dicking around with laptops,” he said in his usual off-the-cuff
MacFarlane’s set alternated between fast paced and fun, to slower and contemplative, but both ends of the spectrum were enjoyable and showed off both MacFarlane’s vocal range and the versatility of the Boston Pops. “I like the dark, melancholy tunes “‘cause I can relate to them more,” MacFarlane said.
Performing with the Pops was not only a fun time for the audience, but also fulfilled a lifelong dream of MacFarlane’s. “There were only two things on my childhood wish list,” he mused. “Perform with these guys, and meet the stars of Lethal Weapon, which was half amazing and half uncomfortable.”
For MacFarlane’s final song, he performed “When You Become a Man,” which had fast and slow moments and is, according to MacFarlane, a soliloquy of a man who realizes he is not as young as he used to be. Of course, this was not the end, as MacFarlane came back for three encore songs, with the last song, “One More For the Road,” performed by MacFarlane and the three musicians he had brought with him from L.A. He performed parts of the song as Peter, Stewie, Quagmire, and ever Roger the alien, giving fans of his comedy shows a real treat to go out on.
The Boston Pops Opening Night with Seth MacFarlane was a great time for fans of this talented comedian and musician, as well as for fans of great American orchestral music. If this concert was any indication of the season ahead of them, the 131st season of the Boston Pops is one you won’t want to miss.