Boston Pops + Lionel Richie = Partay! (All Night Long)

There’s been a sense of dread around our offices over the past few weeks over the upcoming Fourth of July broadcast of the Boston Pops on CBS: Who is going to be the guest singer who sings his or her pablum hits with more bombast than patriotism, and no local color whatsoever? (Basically, I point the finger at you, Toby Keith … and, yes, I know you wrote “The Angry American,” “American Soldier,” and “American Ride.”) The word finally came out yesterday afternoon, and the big star at the Hatch Shell for the national viewing audience to see will be … Lionel Richie.

Yes, he’s the man better known these days as father of Nicole or that notorious video for “Hello” where he played a music teacher singing to his blind music student, who then makes a perfect sculpture of his face. Oh, and he loves to dance on the ceiling — throw in some stunt wires and hydraulics and that’s something I’d love to see him try at the Hatch Shell. Otherwise, the first impression was rather anticlimactic.

Of course, Barstool Sports was quick to have fun with the choice, and while it’s easy to raise a collective shrug, with each passing minute, I’m more on board with good ole Lionel. Why? Because he’s not a totally incongruous presence on the Charles River, and it’s about time we broke the country-music habit. Sure, I like country, and after all, we have plenty of country fans here and the Country Music Festival is perhaps the hugest, rowdiest thing every summer. (Even though this year it’s now more of a Kenny Chesney show than an all-day extravaganza.) But really, Toby Keith, Gretchen Wilson, Big & Rich, and Cowboy Troy? Are they what you think of when you think of the city that brought you Samuel Adams (both the revolutionary and the beer), Honey Fitz, the Great Molasses Flood, and generations of proud Massholes? Last I checked, America’s Fourth on CBS wasn’t broadcast from Nashville.

So why not Lionel Richie? After all, this is the man who led the mighty Commodores, which means that if he does “Brick House” in front of millions watching their screens, then the USA is guaranteed to get collectively funkier. If he croons “Easy” and “Three Times a Lady,” we can all lay back on our couches and slowly nap off our barbecue and beer. And if he does the inevitable finale of singing “All Night Long,” at least it’s about fiesta-ing forever in a most appropriately mellow, content and summery way. In short, I’m for Lionel, because I can’t think of a really good reason to be against him, and when it comes to the always diminished expectations for this CBS shebang, that’s pretty OK.


Matthew Reed Baker
Matthew Reed Baker Matthew Reed Baker, Research + Arts Editor at Boston Magazine mbaker@bostonmagazine.com


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