- Monday, July 7, 2008
- Boston is one of those bands that, no matter what you think of them, no matter what age you are, you've heard of them. Boston was the band that inspired many relationships and friendships with their solidly fused sound. They were the band that ran the rumor-mills of the reclusive genius M.I.T. graduate who had hid away as a mad inventor, musician, and song-crafter after inventing the Polaroid camera for Kodak. Boston was the band who inspired many to really sit down and appreciate music, rock music more specifically. And, Boston had its nay-sayers as well.
There were those who felt bandleader Tom Scholz was too much the perfectionist and took much too long in releasing albums. Then there were the claims of being corporate rock - which in Bostons case could have been a blessing or a curse. And more recently, the band could have been lumped into the category of has-beens or old classic rockers flying the resurgence craze. Of these arguments, the latter could not be further from the truth. Boston is proving once again that good things are always worth the wait, and will last the long run in the bigger picture.
After the sad passing of original lead vocalist Bradley Delp in March 2008, the band had done a tribute to him that featured the former members of Boston. It was during this time that the Tom Scholz discovered amateur vocalist Tommy DeCarlo, a credit manager at Home Depot at that time, through MySpace, and asked him to sing as part of the tribute. Following the success of that show, the solidified band, which now also included vocalist/guitarist Michael Sweet from Stryper, decided to tour. And that's where the fun begins.
This show was originally scheduled to be held at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, CA, but was moved to the Flint Center in an apparent middle of the night change. There were either technical issues at the last minute, or the stage areas wasn't finishing rebuilding. Either way, it was going to be a madhouse day for anyone involved, and going to the show. Luckily for us, we found out in plenty of time, and were fine either way. In the end, the Mountain Winery might have been a classier outdoor setting, but the Flint Center really delivered on its acoustics and overall sound. This was the place to see the technically staged Boston deliver its goods.
For me to name songs that were performed is really irrelevant. You know them by name or you don't, but if you've ever listened to a radio in the last 30 years, you have heard a majority of them. The simple fact was that this show was a hit machine that just kept flowing. In between the more popular songs was something that I had not seen the band do (at least not much) since I first saw them in 1978, and that was having improvisational jams. Well, knowing Scholz, I'm sure they were so much improvised as they were planned out, but jams they were, and they were great to listen to.
One song to note though, was To Be A Man, from the Third Stage album. This was dedicated to Bradley Delp, and sung wonderfully by Michael Sweet, with Tommy DeCarlo following later. Consider the tribute, and the style in which it was presented, this song had much more meaning than probably originally. A stand-out tune in the midst of the rest.
The show ran just about two hours, which was enough time to really fill out their repertoire, but as they were the only band (a sort of Evening With... show), I almost expected a bit more. Either way, it was a most satisfying performance. It was humorous to notice the crowd reacting like a Catholic mass - sitting between tunes, and during slower sections, and then immediately rising in fevered cheers, arms waving high above, all throughout the show. Up, down, up down. Then, when vocalist Tommy DeCarlo walked along the edge of the stage, slapping hands and doing the knuckle bump with fans, I was almost waiting for a communion wafer. Actually, that did come in the form of guitar pics that Tommy threw out to the crowd. A friend sitting next to me, in the $99. 2nd row seats, grabbed a pic in midair. I reminded him to enjoy that $99. pic as he had earned it buying those seats. The sense that the crowd really did not want to miss a moment of this show became apparent as the typical bathroom breaks happened. I couldn't help but notice that people would make a beeline like a Maalox moment happening, so they could get back without missing a beat. Strange, and quite unrestrained. Perhaps it was the Mexican restaurant across the street that caused the surge. It had been packed for an hour before curtain call.
The songs were performed, as always, almost flawlessly. Tom Scholz has always kept a tight rein on putting on the best performances possible, and recreating the recorded album sounds as close as could be.
The band - As it stands, since 1976, Tom Scholz is the only original member in the band, which is fitting as he pretty much wrote all the music. His talent is unquestionable as a writer, arranger, guitarist, and keyboardist. In the studio or live, he has always given his best. The second longest lasting member has been guitarist/keyboardist Gary Pihl, who joined Boston just after his tenure with Sammy Hagar, in 1985. Gary is the right-hand man to Tom, and holds his own onstage in full force. He is one of the most seasoned musicians one could hope to see onstage.
Following that, the rest of the members have all come on board in the 2000s. Bassist/guitarist Kimberley Dahme has been with the band since 2001, and has the distinction of having been the only female member of the band. Her talent is honed on the bass, stemming from her originally being a guitarist. In addition to her musical abilities, there is no question that she is an amazing grace to view upon stage. Although many Boston fans may not have realized that a girl had joined the band, once finding out, the guys all seemed to have their laser-eyes set on her. Her onstage demeanor was one of friendly shyness. She smiled often to the audience, in a most appreciative manner, not to mention that she has a most expressive face. This is a woman who knows how to dress and perform both classy, and yet bringing sexy on in the best way.
Jeff Neal, on drums, is a most formidable performer. His hard-hitting style is augmented by his stylish approach. He definitely plays with flair and panache, without overdoing it. There was a bit of question about his possibly slowing down in the midst of More Than A Feeling, but that aside, his showmanship was right on.
Amongst the latest additions to the band, if only for the touring version, is vocalist/guitarist Michael Sweet, he of the Christian metal band Stryper. Michaels voice is unmistakable, and rather remarkable. His rocking screams are a trademark of his craft, along with his sometimes flamboyant stage presence. Although he was a bit downplayed in outfit, compared to his former metal-god days of Stryper, with hair flowing and yellow/black striped spandex shining through, you could tell that his rocker stage persona definitely wanted to be let out of its cage. In some ways, Michael seemed a bit out of place with the band. This is not meant to be in a negative way, but just that his style is considerably different from the rest, and it was noticeable. The majority of the band, although rocking with the best of them, are still a bit laid back, with a mellower stage presence. They do their job, and perform it well. Michael, on the other hand, did a lot of the more metal band moves and poses and postures. It seemed as though he was the fidgety kid on the family vacation who really wanted to go outside and run free through the hills. The other thing was that he didn't really seem to smile as much as everyone else did, at least not from my perspective. Not sure what that means, and it could be anything, but it was something to mention. Having said that, Michaels vocals are, of course, amazing. One thing that really was handled well is that Michael sang everything right. With his powerhouse voice, he could easily oversing anything, and hold those notes until infinity, but he had restraint, and really kept it within the limits, playing well with the team. I saw this in comparison to some YouTube videos I had seen of earlier performances. So Michaels infamous vocal talents, along with his wilder persona, did add to the whole show.
The final addition, and certainly not the least, was new vocalist Tommy DeCarlo. Tommy is a very likable and unassuming frontman. After having been discovered, and had the Cinderella story of performing at the Bradley Delp tribute, he got to tour with one of his favorite bands. Tommys voice, and more importantly, his ability to handle Bradley Delps vocal stylings, is amazing. If you shut your eyes, you really could not tell the difference. I have to laugh that Tommys boss is still holding his job for him. If I had my way, this would be the new final lineup of Boston, and it should continue touring ad infinitum (that's forever for you Latin impaired). Granted that his stage presence was not as seasoned as could be, but Tommy was definitely having fun, and seemed to have learned how to handle the stage quickly. His hand-on-the-hip every so often, while singing, seemed to be signature, and reminiscent of other singers who would use similar moves to accentuate a point.
This was it. Boston! Returned once again, since touring five years ago. Seeing the band on this evenings performance was something special. It wasn't just the usual by-the-numbers performance, this was a band that really had fun and appreciated their fans. But to those who like to fling around the term dinosaur rock, the truth is that Boston has a vitality, longevity, and creativity to go on for a long time yet. Of all that I could say about this band, is that they really know how to make music happy. I don't want to use the cliché term feel good music, but that really does apply to their style. You cannot help but smile and sing along to every song. Whether it's Tom Scholzs writing style, or the way the band brings it all together, this was the show to bring on the future. Other bands should take notice. As long as their is a Boston, there is a reason to really enjoy rock music, in the way it was originally meant to be - pure, and heartfelt.
This concert really was more than a feeling, it was a camaraderie in which we were all made to feel as though we were members of a rock n roll band (to quote their song). And most important, in the midst of being a tribute, it celebrated life, and the love of music.