There was no flyover, no megastar headliner, and no celebrity host beyond Keith Lockhart. Whether due to CBS pulling its national television coverage this year (after two decades) or some other reason, Thursday night’s Boston Pops concert on the Esplanade seemed scaled down from previous years. But by performing for an exclusively local audience and selecting a quartet of singers with strong area connections, the Pops made the night’s theme “Boston Strong.” It was a show for Bostonians, by Bostonians.
In fact, with so many acts to spotlight, the focus rarely fell on the Pops themselves. With the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, they played just two songs, including “The Star-Spangled Banner,” before ceding the program to soul singer Ellis Hall. (Even earlier, if the preshow songs by Hall and Ayla Brown count.) Hall made excellent use of the orchestra, adding a richness to a clavinet-funk take on “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” that saw him slapping his hands against the keys by the middle and jumping out of his chair onto his feet by the end.