With all that’s happening in the world today, it’s nice to just sit back, watch the pros and take a chance on rock ‘n’ roll.
Boston brought their 40th Anniversary tour to Portland, OR on Saturday to a lively and robust crowd at the Moda Center, setup in the smaller Theater of the Clouds amphitheater format, tackling all the fan favorites in a well-polished and consummate performance extending nearly two hours and 22 songs.
Tom Scholz, who is more or less Boston at this stage being the remaining founding member, ripped through classic song after classic song and a whole bunch of deep album cuts and seemingly never stopped playing whether it was for his signature guitar sound, signature keyboard sound or on acoustic guitar.
The band, make that Scholz, started things off with the very apropos “Star Spangled Banner” complete with a backing video of the American flag and then everyone else dropped in with “Rock & Roll Band.”
Boston tore through three more classic radios cuts with “Smokin’,” “Feelin’ Satisfied,” and the quintessential “Peace of Mind.” Then a break from the traditional radio fare as they tackled deeper album tracks off their first three records like the very cool “Cool the Engines” with an awesome video backdrop of the signature guitar-shaped spaceship which led right into “We’re Ready” continuing the space theme with a rocket launch video. Boston included “Higher Power” an ode to Alcoholics Anonymous recorded for their Greatest Hits release in 1997 and of course dedicated their beloved ballad “Amanda” to everyone with the same name.
Boston didn’t play anything off their latest Life, Love & Hope out in 2013 or Corporate America from 2002. But it was pretty clear they wanted to break out mostly the songs from the albums that’s kept the group delighting audiences for 40 years. Long time guitarist Gary Pihl, who has worked on every Boston album since Third Stage back in 1986, asked the crowd if they wanted to hear anything off Life, Love & Hope or something from their 1976 self-titled debut album and clearly the crowd wanted a track from one of the best selling albums of all-time which brought forth “Peace of Mind.”
Despite the sometimes revolving door of members and the devastating loss of original singer Brad Delp in 2007 to suicide, Scholz has done wonders finding accomplished musicians to fill the void. Current singer Tommy DeCarlo who jumped on-board in 2007, does a solid job reaching those iconic high notes and duplicated Delp’s tone throughout the evening, really shining on “More than a Feeling,” “Foreplay/Long Time,” and “Used to Bad News” but a bit off for “I Think I Like It.”
Guitarist Beth Cohen sang on three songs which made little sense considering DeCarlo was handing the mic just fine and had the prowess to rise above the soaring guitars. Cohen’s vocals were completely washed out during “Long Time Segue” and “Higher Power” the latter she almost looked lost at times. She did pull through with “Walk On.”
Regardless, Scholz’s mastery rules the stage. He’s the brains behind each and every song, all delivering straight up guitar-centered rock, somehow sounding like half a dozen guitarists on stage at any given time, yet it was just Scholz and the right-hand man in Pihl but when the two worked the fretboard together playing the same chords and riffs, it was spellbinding.
Big, bold and beautiful.
Scholz was not only never without an instrument in hand but rarely not playing. He left the stage once, briefly, during “Something About You” but when he wasn’t ripping off solos mid-song (nice smashing guitar work on the E jam instrumental!) he used them as segues between songs. By the way, he’s pretty adept on the keys, too.
Boston let it all out for the title track off 1994’s Walk On during an extended jam session as Scholz commanded the keyboards and turned fooling around with various sounds and instrumentation into an art form. That led right into “Foreplay/Long Time” which closed the opening set as Scholz remained behind the keys, allowing Pihl to lead on guitar but watching (and hearing!) the two jump on the acoustic section together injected new life into this oft played radio tune.
Boston encored with the relaxing beat of “Used to Bad News” and “Party,” both off 1978’s Don’t Look Back. And, oh but they did. It was a most welcome and entertaining trip through the past.
Dennis DeYoung, the original singer for Styx, opened for Boston and played an exceptional hour-long 10 song set of all Styx songs including “Mr. Roboto,” “Babe” which he wrote for his wife in 1979 (who helped with back-up singing duties) that became a cornerstone of the Cornerstone album, and the iconic “Come Sail Away.”
At 69 years young, DeYoung looks more like a Presbyterian minister then a rock and roll singer but his vocals? Flawless. Sounds just like they did 40 years ago. Considering he didn’t play any of his solo music, you have to wonder where it all went wrong and what could have been had the two sides of Styx figured out how to live with each other.
Boston – Portland (Moda Center) Setlist
- The Star Spangled Banner
- Rock & Roll Band
- Feelin’ Satisfied
- Peace of Mind
- Long Time Segue
- Cool The Engines
- We’re Ready
- Higher Power
- I Think I Like It
- Don’t Look Back
- Something About You
- The Launch A) Countdown B) Ignition C) Third Stage Separation
- More Than a Feeling
- “E” Jam (instrumental)
- The Journey
- To Be A Man
- Walk On
- Foreplay / Long Time
- Used to Bad News