Seminole Hard Rock Live, Hollywood
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Better than: The computerized arena pop of today
Though no longer playing arenas, like in their 1970s heyday, Boston still played at a volume loud enough to feel as if it were playing in a mega huge stadium last night. The practically sold out show at the Seminole Hard Rock Live began while some of the audience was still filing in. With the announcement of "Ladies and gentlemen... Just another band out of Boston," the sound of Tom Scholz' distinctively grandiose electric guitar filled the Seminole Hard Rock Live. Soon, drummer Curly Smith joined in, pounding away at his massive kit with the famous Boston logo emblazoned on two bass drums, not to mention the hard-to-miss gong behind him.
The bombast was supplemented by bassist Tracy Ferrie, longtime guitarist Gary Pihl, and the band's newest member David Victor, also on guitar. Singer Tommy DeCarlo came out stalking the stage, and the band kicked off the set with "Rock & Roll Band" off their chart-topping 1976 self-titled debut.
Sporting a graying beard, DeCarlo sang with expected quality, echoing the breathy tenor of Brad Delp, with perfect inflection. Delp had been the band's singer throughout Boston's entire recording history, through 2002's Corporate America. He committed suicide in 2007. DeCarlo, a longtime fan, shared his MySpace page of Boston cover songs with Scholz, the band's founder and songwriter. Scholz clearly found a fitting and passionate replacement in DeCarlo, whose big voice not only kept up with the band throughout the night, but also maneuvered all of Delp's distinctive nuances.
This marked the first date of the band's US summer tour. I came to the show with a cynical attitude, as I never cared for Boston's music and arena rock in general. It's the least subtle sort of rock ever conceived that relishes technique over soul. Fittingly, Scholz began as an engineer and practically invented his own immaculate style of recording that shines of gloss and perfection (in his basement!). But even though all of the band's albums sound the same, there is also a purity to it, and one cannot help but love the sincerity of it all. Boston is a very literal band. It was made for the large live venue, with lyrics like "Come on, put your hands together" in its songs.
In one of the night's showier moments, toward the end of the show, Scholz went over to a bank of synthesizers facing the side of the drum kit. Stacked with four layers of keyboards, he indulged in a lengthy instrumental section. He played the keys rapid-fire style, and a smoke machine started billowing clouds up through the instruments. Above the drum kit, three screens revealed different angles of Scholz' virtuosity. He twiddled a wheel at the end of a keyboard, imitating the sound of a siren.
Though the band indulged us in an instrumental session toward the end, it did not forget its hits and spread them out nicely throughout the set, including "More Than a Feeling" and "Long Time." Scholz introduced Victor as the band's newest member, a few songs into the show, just before Victor took the lead vocals on "Amanda." Though it's one of the band's slower songs, the show did not get any quieter. The two acoustic guitars rambled with a metallic, piercing quality, and sounded high and trebly. The dynamics in Boston ranges from fast to slow but never soft and loud. Sometimes all those guitars sounded like a chorus of angry angels. Throughout the show there were five or six moments of accidental piercing feedback. Though I heard murmurings in the crowd it was all a muffled blur. Even after the show, as we walked out with the herd, it felt as though an explosion had gone off, and I could only hear things as if I were wearing earmuffs.
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The Crowd: Stuck in the seventies (saw more than a few mullets)
Personal bias: I have nostalgia for my elementary school years (the late seventies)
Celebrity sighting: Channel 7 News sports reporter Mike DiPasquale
Setlist (Note: I missed jotting down three songs during the show, so the setlist is not complete. Fill in the blanks, Boston fans!)
Rock & Roll Band
Surrender To Me
Don't Look Back
Something About You
More Than A Feeling
Cool the Engines
A New World
To Be A Man
It's a party
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter at indieethos.