Seven years into his rock and roll fantasy as lead singer of multiplatinum-selling supergroup Boston, Tommy DeCarlo still finds performing the band's biggest hits before thousands of fans a bit surreal.
"I'm incredibly comfortable right until I have to walk out on stage," said DeCarlo, who performs with Boston at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 6 at the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne. "I think that part of it is always going to be there."
A former credit manager at a Charlotte, N.C. Home Depot who had never been in a band before, DeCarlo was plucked from obscurity to become Boston's frontman in 2008. At the urging of a friend, DeCarlo sent Boston's management some recordings of him singing Boston tunes to a karaoke soundtrack on his MySpace page as a tribute to lead singer Brad Delp, who committed suicide in 2007. Boston founder Tom Scholz heard the recordings and flew DeCarlo and his family to Boston for an audition. DeCarlo made his first-ever stage appearance before 4,000 fans at a Delp tribute concert, and the band made him its lead singer soon afterward.
"I would have never believed this could happen in a million years," said DeCarlo, a Utica, N.Y. native, married father of two, and Boston fan since his teens.
DeCarlo understood that he had big shoes to fill when he took over for his idol Delp, whose soaring vocals and range on such songs as "More Than a Feeling," "Peace of Mind" and "Don't Look Back" made Boston an iconic rock act from the release of its self-titled first album in 1976. That album went on to sell 17 million copies and became the most successful debut album in rock history. The band currently is touring behind its sixth album, 2013's "Life, Love & Hope."
"It was never my goal to be another Brad Delp or be better than Brad Delp," DeCarlo said during a telephone interview from Charlotte. "I wish I could sing that well. In my opinion, he's the best rock singer of all time. To Brad's credit, I think he set the bar very high, and I'm constantly reaching for it in every show. So I'm hopeful that some of the fans have come around. They seem to. We have great feedback from our fans and every show is usually a sellout, so I think that speaks for itself."
DeCarlo, who turns 50 this month, prepares his voice for a multicity tour by working with his vocal coach before the tour starts and by sticking to a strict regimen while on the road. "I think given the fact that I have not been a touring vocalist -- I didn't start doing it until I was 42 ? was actually a blessing in disguise," said DeCarlo, who was told by a doctor in Boston shortly after he joined the band that he had the vocal cords of a much younger man.
DeCarlo's Cinderella story is similar to that of Arnel Pineda, a Filipino singer who became the lead vocalist of Journey after band members heard him perform in YouTube videos. DeCarlo and son Tommy Jr. met Pineda at a Journey concert show in Charlotte a few years ago. "It was such a cool moment because we both knew each other's story and it was nice to talk to somebody who knew the feelings that I had in getting this opportunity because he had the same opportunity," DeCarlo said. "He's an awesome singer and a super nice guy."
Some of DeCarlo's most gratifying moments on tour are when he sees parents with their children at Boston shows, because he also brought his son along when he first saw the band in the late 1990s. "I grew up loving the music and now my son is a fan," he said. "It's always a great time to go out there and perform the music and look down and see some young kids singing word for word. It's amazing. That's a great feeling."
When not touring with Boston, DeCarlo is the lead singer of the band DeCarlo, which enables him to work with his guitar-playing son.
"We're a three-piece group, but we pack quite a punch," DeCarlo said. "We all go out and perform right around Charlotte. One of the exciting things about that is a lot of the people who come out to see Boston, they get to come out and see a band member of Boston right up close. And they really love that and I love that for them, because I've been such a fan of Boston music over the years. I know the feeling of how a fan feels."
Boston is in concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 6.
Maxwell King Center for the Performing Arts
3865 N. Wickham Ave., Melbourne.
Tickets start at $58.50.
To purchase tickets, call 321-242-2219 or go to KingCenter.com.