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Music Review

Pops and guests compete with threat of July 4th storm

Jennifer Hudson gave a booming performance Wednesday at the Fourth of July celebration on the Esplanade.

Tamir Kalifa for The Boston Globe

Jennifer Hudson gave a booming performance Wednesday at the Fourth of July celebration on the Esplanade.

If you were watching last night’s broadcast of the Boston Pops Firework Spectacular between 9:25 and 10:10, be aware that what you were watching was a lie. While the area surrounding the Hatch Shell was cleared out as much as it can be cleared out in anticipation of a thunderstorm that never quite materialized, reports filtered in through Twitter that the concert appeared to be continuing apace. Calling Boston’s annual Fourth of July tradition on account of the weather is a shame, but 45 minutes of dead air on television is a tragedy.

Until the feed switched to the tape of Tuesday’s dress rehearsal performance, the Pops served up the usual random but comforting mix of incongruous musical acts that has come to characterize the yearly concert. The US Navy Sea Chanters opened with a necessarily cornball version of “Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In,” but they quickly became invaluable as the glue holding the concert together during the broadcast’s commercial breaks. Too short for most full pieces, those breaks were exactly the right length for the madrigal-like a cappella numbers that showcased the singers’ complex harmonies.

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More raucously straightforward were the Dropkick Murphys, seemingly conjured up after years of Keith Lockhart’s including “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” in the program. Lacking electric instruments, the band seemed at only half power at the start of “Tessie,” but somewhere around the second chorus it seemed to click into place with the orchestra and it lacked nothing from then on. A John Williams 80th birthday tribute followed, complete with enthusiastic flag-waving during the theme to “Raiders of The Lost Ark.”

Following a pair of songs from “Mamma Mia!,” including a winsome “Winner Takes It All” (the romantic melancholy of which seemed an odd fit for Independence Day) from Kaye Tuckerman, came Jennifer Hudson, grandly ebullient on “Love You I Do.” The weather delay took effect immediately afterward, sadly sacrificing Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” in the process.

But if cannons weren’t fired last night, there was at least Hudson’s booming “And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going” awaiting attendees upon the concert’s return.

As the Pops sank their teeth into the song’s lush soul-funk, Hudson seemed to relish teasing out the return to the final chorus in front of so many people. Everybody knew she’d be back, though. They weren’t going anywhere, either.

Marc Hirsh can be reached at officialmarc@gmail.com.
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