For those of us raised on the rock of the 1970s, perhaps no band delivered more promise—and, ultimately, greater frustration—than Boston.
The band’s self-titled debut album in 1976, which stayed on the charts for 132 weeks, became the soundtrack of our youth with hits like “More Than a Feeling” and “Peace of Mind”; I personally shredded three different 8-tracks from overplay.
What was it about that album that captured our rock fancy—and led to some 17 million copies being sold? For me, it was the ethereal blended-guitar sound and dramatic keyboard sequences orchestrated by Tom Scholz, which seemed as interstellar at times as the killer guitar-shaped spaceship that donned Boston’s album covers. Throw in the band’s signature vocal harmonizing, along with a logo that turned the three-quarter-sleeved concert shirt into a fashion statement, and the stage was set for a career that would put all other acts from that era to shame.
Or so we thought. After following up its inaugural effort with another chart-topping release in 1978, “Don’t Look Back,” Boston disappeared. Though Scholz was notorious for his deliberate work in the studio, a legal battle involving a breach of contract suit filed by CBS—one that Scholz eventually would win—was at the heart of Boston going dark until 1986. Its long-awaited release, “Third Stage,” would produce a No. 1 single (“Amanda”), but the damage had been done. Music had changed. Michael Jackson’s “Bad” would dominate the charts the following year, hair bands were taking over what was left of rock, and Boston’s window, it seemed, had passed.
But in an era where Journey is still cashing in on a song from 1981 (“Don’t Stop Believin’”), it should come as no surprise that Boston can pack an intimate venue like Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood. On Thursday night, Scholz, the only remaining member from the 1976 lineup, and six band mates kicked off a four-month, 60-plus show U.S. tour with an evening of greatest hits, extended jams and a few cuts off Boston’s new album, “Life, Love & Hope.”
“It’s like having dinner with your family as a kid,” Scholz explained to the crowd regarding the new music. “You have to eat all your peas sometimes to get to the dessert.”
The dessert, in this case, arrived early and often, with the classic cuts “Rock and Roll Band,” “Smokin’,” “Peace of Mind” and “Don’t Look Back” among the first 10 songs. Better still, they sounded remarkably close to the original versions.
Credit a seven-piece incarnation that includes lead singer Tommy DeCarlo—a longtime Boston fan who caught the attention of Scholz after posting a MySpace tribute song to Brad Delp, the band’s original front man, who committed suicide in 2007. Also taking the lead at times on vocals (and hitting the higher notes that DeCarlo can’t reach) is guitarist David Victor, who earned his stripes, naturally, playing in Boston cover bands.
The resulting mix of talent, instead of coming off as a tribute band within a band, proved worthy of the Boston legacy, powering through a 20-song set with enthusiasm and obvious appreciation for the music and the man (Scholz) responsible for it.
The same can’t be said for everyone in the audience. Curiously, while the rest of the venue’s lower section stood during much of the early concert, many of the folks in the first 15 rows only (stage right) sat glued to their seats. Given the age range of some in that section, it could have been past their bedtime. But if Scholz—who, outside of wearing a left knee brace, was in fight-night shape at age 67—could bring it for nearly two hours, the least those in rows 1 to 15 could have done was to get off their asses for one or two songs.
Though the second half of the concert relied a bit much on extended instrumentals—it's a classic part of the Boston repertoire but one, for this crowd, that seemed to stunt the early momentum; the song “Walk On,” for example, went on for more than 10 minutes—Scholz and his band managed to bring the crowd to its feet (even the buzz-killers in rows 1 to 15) with a raise-the-roof rendition of “Long Time” to close the set. (Though two encore numbers followed, many people started to leave after that song.)
It was the second time in three years that Boston has kicked off a tour at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood. Hopefully, it’s not the last.
Rock and Roll Band
Life Love and Hope
Peace of Mind
Cool the Engines
Surrender to Me
Don’t Look Back
Something About You
More Than A Feeling
To Be A Man
Walk On (with instrumental)
I Think I Like It