By Raymond Britt
It's as simple as this: the band Boston was nothing short of spectacular at their August 10, 2014 concert in Aurora's RiverEdge Park.
On August 25, 1976, Boston's debut self-titled album was released. On that day, the first copies of that album flew off the shelves, winning rave reviews from critics and creating life-long fans that would buy more than 20 million copies over the following decades.
As Boston took the stage for the 49th performance on its Heaven on Earth Tour, it was also a mere 15 days shy of the 38th anniversary of the debut album's release.
The show had it all -- Boston's classic hits, the intricate arrangements, the tight musicianship, and the exceptionally unique Boston sound combined to bring the venue's sold-out audience to its feet again and again.
That's what decades of Boston's timeless music has been doing at every stop on the band's bold 2014 tour journey of 69 planned concerts: grabbing audiences from the first notes of the opening song 'Rock and Roll Band' and not letting go until the final crescendo of the encore 'Party' wrapped up almost two hours later.
In-between, Boston didn't seem to leave anything out.
'Smokin'' and followed the opening number to complete a one-two punch of solid classic rock before a toe-tapping, head-bobbing audience. 'Feelin' Satisfied' wrapped up the opening trio of songs from the early years.
Tom Scholz then posed the following question to the audience: to paraphrase, he asked 'just because bands have a lot of hits from long ago doesn't mean they shouldn't continue to release new records, right?'
The audience voiced its extremely positive approval, and the group took the cue, launching into two well-received numbers -- the instrumental 'Last Day of School' and the title track from its latest album 'Life, Love and Hope', which was released last December.
From then on, Boston seemed to grip the audience in a euphoric rock and roll trance. 'Peace of Mind brought the entire audience to its feet, cheering and singing along. Balloons started flying throughout the crowd.
The hits kept on coming: 'Cool the Engines'; 'Surrender'; 'Don't Look Back'; 'Something About You', which featured a twist - a double-length intro; and a rearranged, more acoustic version of 'Amanda', as played in the 2008 US tour.
'The Launch' was next and more than served its purpose, leading into perhaps the band's most memorable hit - 'More than a Feeling'. Like the version on the record? The live one is better, rocks harder, means business and yet retains the acoustic intro and outro elements that captured the attention of the music world 38 years ago.
For those Boston fans who think the group's best music comes from the 1970s, I strongly advise buying the CD 'Walk On', skip the CD player to the 'Walk On Suite', an prepare to be blown away. If you thought 'Foreplay/Long Time' was without peer in the band's catalogue, you are mistaken. Walk On is every bit a solid match compared to its underrated equal.
The same proved true in Aurora as Boston played both back-to-back to close the show in front of a completely astounded audience. They came to see the Boston of the 1970s; they got a great deal more than they bargained for.
As a unit the band seemed much tighter than in 2008 when I last saw them. Tom Scholz, lead guitarist, literally personifies Boston as its multi-instrumentalist, writer, producer, mixer and - I mean this in the kindest of ways -- obsessive perfectionist, led the charge.
Chicago's own Gary Pihl, a 28-year Boston veteran on lead guitar, keyboards, anchored the group on stage, stellar as always. Gary seemed featured in more pieces, nailing them a Steinberger Guitar modified with special sustainer pickups, with great tone.
Kimberly Dahme, who had played bass on several recent tours (except in 2012) really impressed with her guitar playing, seemingly much more confident than in 2008, hitting the essential chords, and performing with excellent ability on Vocals.
The solid rhythm section was comprised of Curly Smith, reliably steady throughout on drums, and Tracy Ferrie brought an unexpected energy, bounding across the stage with his 5-string Fender bass guitar.
Most improved seemed to be Tommy DeCarlo, strutting the stage confidently, sounding more like Brad Delp than ever. And for extra credit, the band brought American Idol contestant Siobhan Maganus to raise the roof on the song 'Walk On.'
The encore 'Party' captured what the whole evening had been: an extraordinary party, powered by unforgettable music, some of which was, amazingly, just 15 days short of reaching that 38th anniversary of Boston's debut album.