LENOX -- Despite a torrential downpour that delayed by 40 minutes the start of Sunday afternoon's Boston Pops concert at Tanglewood, the players, conductor Keith Lockhart and guest vocalist Vince Gill carried on in the best tradition of "the show must go on."
Several scheduled selections were omitted, along with the customary 25-minute Sunday intermission, as the Pops once again demonstrated its chamelon-like versatility as a band that can adapt to a myriad of settings, even as a backup to a widely honored country star of Gill's stature.
Gill, 56, profusely thanked the Pops and Lockhart -- "you guys sound beautiful" -- for the opportunity to perform selections from his voluminous songbook with such lushly-crafted support by arrangers David Hamilton and Ron Huff. He credited a boyhood idol, guitarist Chet Atkins, who collaborated in concert and on records with the Boston Pops in the Arthur Fiedler era, as an inspiration. "The Pops were like rock stars to me as a kid," the singer has noted.
Gill also acknowledged James Taylor, who was in the audience with his son Henry, for inviting him to join one of Taylor's Tanglewood performances two summers ago.
With his five-member band adding a countrified twang to the seven-song set of old and more recent hits, notably the jazz-inflected "Faint of Heart" from the 2006 CD "These Days," Gill soared to emotional heights in "Whenever You Come Around." He explained that he co-wrote the song in 1994 soon after he met and was instantly smitten by his future wife, the singer-songwriter Amy Grant (a classmate of Lockhart's at Furman University in Greenville, S.C.).
Similarly, his anthem of healing and reconciliation, "Go Rest High on That Mountain," demonstrated not only Gill's vocal prowess but also his heartfelt sincerity and authenticity. Originally written 20 years ago after his brother's premature death, Gill has performed the song recently in tribute concerts for the Boston Marathon bombing victims.
Gill and his band took the spotlight as the orchestra sat by for "My Pretty Little Adriana," a country-rocker cheered by the large contingent of fans who had given the singer what Lockhart suggested -- "a warm Tanglewood welcome." Other standouts, with orchestra, included "When Love Finds You," "If You Ever Have Forever in Mind," and "I Still Believe in You."
For prairie-inflected musical flavor, the Pops and Lockhart opened with a melange that included John Williams's overture to "The Cowboys," from the 1972 film starring John Wayne -- the conductor noted that out of his 100 or so film scores, only four were for Westerns.
The somewhat-abridged first half also featured "Corral Prelude" and "Hoedown" from Copland's "Rodeo," the novelty piece "Carmen Goes Hollywood," recently composed by longtime Pops arranger Richard Hayman, now 93, and a Lockhart favorite, the theme from the 1985 western "Silverado" by Bruce Broughton.
A sweetly wistful performance of Dimitri Tiomkin's "Green Leaves of Summer" from the 1960 film "The Alamo" brought back memories of the hit-single cover by The Brothers Four folk group in the same year.
The straight-through, 80-minute concert displayed, once again, the orchestra's adaptability and consummate professionalism. Three more Pops dates are on the summer calendar, including Williams's "Film Night" with guest Audra McDonald, and outings with Michael Feinstein and Harry Connick, Jr.
If a hard rain must fall, who better to navigate than the band of mostly-BSO players with Lockhart, the ultimate showman and master of multiple musical styles, at the helm.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto