Iconic arena rock band Boston plays the Amphitheatre on July 1
By Nick Mcgregor
No other rock band will ever begin life like Boston did, birthed in an MIT graduate's hand-built basement studio. No other band will ever sell 17 millions copies of its first album, or make their New York City debut at Madison Square Garden. No other band will, nearly 35 years later, still be able to draw gargantuan crowds based on the strength of only five records, all of which are adorned with silly sci-fi spaceships. And no other band will ever get everyone from prog-rock guitar nerds to drunk and rowdy bikers to suburban regular Joes head-banging, air-guitaring and singing along with epic, arena-ready hits like "More Than a Feeling," "Peace of Mind" and "Don't Look Back."
But for all the ensuing drama - founding member Tom Scholz's long-running legal disputes with disgruntled managers, a bevy of lawsuits from unhappy record labels, or lead singer Brad Delp's tragic suicide in 2007 - Boston's recent story is fit for a Lifetime miniseries. Before the tribute concert held in Delp's honor, longtime fan and regular guy Tommy DeCarlo sent a few karaoke tracks to Tom Scholz. Boston's mastermind liked what he heard, invited DeCarlo to join the band as its new lead vocalist, and the rest, as they say, is rock 'n' roll history - precisely the kind of history that will probably never be repeated again.
Drift chatted with DeCarlo about his unlikely ascension from Home Depot employee to rock star, Boston's collaborative and healthy philosophies, and returning to St. Augustine.
Drift: This upcoming St. Augustine show serves as a make-up for one that got canceled a couple of years back, right, Tommy?
Tommy DeCarlo: Yes. Back in 2008 there was a hurricane that blew through, and unfortunately St. Augustine was the one venue on the entire tour that we had to cancel. It's a long time coming, and we're really excited for the fans that want to come out and see Boston make up for that gig.
Drift: Spoken like a true rock star. But you weren't one five years ago. How'd you end up from 9-to-5er to the lead singer of Boston?
TD: Well, it all stems from the unfortunate suicide of Brad Delp, which, for anybody who was a Boston fan, was a tough thing to hear about. Like any other fan, I was on the Boston website seeing about the tribute show being put together by Tom Scholz. I got the band's email address from someone who said, "Hey, you ought to send your stuff out to see if Boston could use any help." I sent the band some mp3s of me singing a few tunes to karaoke, and, lo and behold, they made their way to Tom, who liked what he heard. That's how I came to perform with the band at the Brad Delp tribute show in 2007, which was the first time I had ever walked out on stage to perform with a live band.
Drift: How much vocal coaching did the band have you do after you joined?
TD: Believe it or not, Tom never had me doing major training - I took the initiative to get my craft to where it needed to be for live performances and studio work. One of the great things about this band is everyone lives in a very healthy way. Tom's a vegetarian, as is Gary Pihl, who's been with the band since the early '80s. You can't help but pick up on their habits, which is really a blessing because I've ended up eating better and taking care of myself more. That definitely helps physically when there 's so much demand on the road and you're really pushing yourself every night to perform for the fans.
Drift: Do you think those fans have accepted you?
TD: The majority have been very supportive. You're always going to have a few skeptics, but that goes for anything, whether you're in a band or paving driveways. I always tell people that I've been a fan a lot longer than I've been a member. Am I still a little bit star-struck? Yeah, absolutely - at the same time, it's really nice to know that Tom has enough confidence in my vocal abilities to fill that role of lead singer.
Drift: How hard was it to learn the whole catalog - or at least the portion you guys perform live?
TD: It's not easy. Brad set the bar incredibly high on a lot of the notes and keys the songs are sung in. We all do our best, though, and it's really gratifying to leave an audience happy about seeing their favorite band perform the music they've come to love over the years.
Drift: New co-vocalist and guitarist David Victor will handle some singing on this upcoming tour. Who decides the breakdown?
TD: The set list and who sings what comes from Tom, but it really is a collaborative effort between everybody. We all spend hours working on harmony parts, so whenever you're not singing lead, you're singing harmony. I consider anybody singing as singing lead because the parts are so challenging.
Drift: Supposedly there's a new Boston studio album in the works. Can you comment on that?
TD: That's a question better suited for Tom. I was able to record some stuff for that particular album, and I'm excited to hear it myself. But we've been so busy with this tour that we really haven't done anything else in the studio. With any luck, though, we'll all get to hear it someday soon.
Drift: Has the Boston experience drastically changed you or your family?
TD: I definitely feel like I'm the same person. One of the most gratifying things for me is that my wife and kids have been able to share in this experience. We're such a close family; my wife and I have been married going on 25 years, and both of our kids are in their early 20s and still living at home, so we must be doing something right. They're both musicians, so we're constantly sitting around in the music room trying to come up with song ideas.
Drift: Do you ever get treated like a rock star - and secretly enjoy it?
TD: I'm pretty average. You could pass me in any store and you'd have no idea. And if people do recognize me, I always take the time to be polite. If I ever ran into one of my favorite rock stars, I would hope they were cool enough to take a minute and talk to me. I've always considered myself to be an extension of the fans out there -it was only a handful of years ago that I had nosebleed seats with my son watching Boston from way in the back. So I love the fact that I have the opportunity to be a fan and still be up on stage with the band playing them. I feel very thankful and fortunate.
Boston performs at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 1 at St. Augustine Ampitheatre, 1340 A1A South. Tickets range from $39.50 to $125, and more information can be found by going to www.StAugAmphitheatre.com or calling 209-0367.