(Caveat: I was at the rehearsal yesterday, and caught the end of today's telecast. These impressions are composited from those parts.)
It was a bunch of little things that got to me. First, one of the anthems got an arrangement I can only describe as Disneyfied -- sweet, inoffensive and to my mind wholly inappropriate for patriotic music. It was a comfy musical blanket, lulling you to sleep. The tone was entirely wrong, to my mind. Patriotism is dangerous, dammit, and should always demand that you think about it. Anyone who paints it as safe and comfortable is deliberately handing a loaded shotgun to a five year old.
Then there were the guest performers. All perfectly decent but, y'know, three country music acts just doesn't exactly strike me as representative of Boston. This, more than anything I've seen before, drove home that this concert has now been carefully marketed for the national audience. Indeed, there was an odd note of, "Please don't hate us because we're a Blue State" echoing past me throughout the whole thing.
Finally, there was that atrocious medley they did at the end, grabbing "patriotic" phrases seemingly at random and smushing them together -- a stock phrase from the Constitution here, the beginning of the Pledge of Allegiance there, resulting in a sort of lumpy Patriotism Stew. I'm sure that the idea was to make it all super-patriotic, but instead they wound up with Nutrasweet Patriotism -- it sort of tastes right, but there's no substance to it and it leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. (And it's bad for you in large quantities.)
For all my cynicism, I consider myself a patriot, and take that seriously. But the past decade has made me very sensitive to the difference between patriotism and jingoism, and this evening's entertainment came just a step closer to that line than I like. In any other broadcast I would just shrug it off as the times, but this is *Boston*, dammit. This is my city, and a concert that has long been close to my heart. Those sour notes are harder to ignore when they're coming out of my home...