Reprinted from late editionsof yesterday's Globe.
The 120th opening night of the Pops -- and conductor Keith Lockhart's 11th -- stood at an intersection between tradition and innovation, the way the Pops is supposed to. Wednesday night's program brought a patriotic salute to ''The Greatest Generation," the Americans who fought World War II and won it 60 years ago. Not coincidentally, this part of the program was also an infomercial about the forthcoming Pops patriotic album ''America." Lou Rawls then came on for an extended set.
The veteran vocalist turns 70 later this year; out of this small, delicate-looking man a lot of voice still emerges, and he knows how to put over a song, although he's picked up a few too many Vegas touches. Only two octaves of the four mentioned in his program bio were on display, but they were in great shape, and the range sounded even wider than it is because of Rawls's ability to taper off a top note and make a low G sound like a drill headed for the center of the earth. His songs included tributes to Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong (''Satchmo taught me about gumbo," Rawls growled), as well as hits associated with his own career (''Lady Love," ''Tobacco Road," and ''Groovy People"). ''Send in the Clowns" featured long-sustained notes followed by a jazzy ricochet around the neighborhood. By the end he had most of the audience clapping to ''You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine," and chiming in with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus on the line ''You're gonna miss my lovin'." One lamentable aspect of tradition was the overloaded sound system.
2004 POPSearch winner Tracy Silva led off with the national anthem and returned later for ''America the Beautiful," backed by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. Silva sings with a sweet, true voice capped by soaring high notes; she delivers the goods without promoting herself -- she is a meaningful singer who shares feelings and communicates sincerity.
A terrific Andrews Sisters medley found three members of the chorus -- Rachel Hallenbeck, Louise-Marie Mennier, and Renee Dawn Morris -- singing and dancing in close harmony while sporting World War II uniforms, period lipstick, and spectacular '40s hairdos (courtesy of Michael Roffi of Salon M).
Only part of the promised new look for the Pops was in place; the revised stage set has been postponed until next season. But new tables and chairs are in place; the tables are black (concealed Wednesday night under white tablecloths) and the chairs are wider, sturdier, and more comfortably upholstered.
The posters outside promise ''jazzin' and jammin' " and ''groovin' and rockin', " but there wasn't much of that going on, nor was there any classical music, if you don't count ''D-Day" from Richard Rodgers's ''Victory at Sea," led with characteristic energy by Lockhart and splendidly played. It was a relief to be spared the traditional opening night prodigy violinist, but it felt strange that the season should open with so little focus on the Pops.