By David Hiltbrand
Philadelphia Inquirer

In terms of rock history, last night was an eagerly awaited occasion, when Boston, performing in Philadelphia for the first time in nine years, opened a three-night stand at the Spectrum. Musically, it was pretty ho-hum, as Boston ran through a medley of early hits before playing Third Stage, their latest album, in its entirety.

Tom Scholz, the creative force in the band, writes airy little pop songs with formal choruses. Onto these flimsy structures, Scholz grafts imposing guitar textures. Singer Brad Delt carmelizes this odd mixture with his high piercing voice.

Visually, it was far from exciting. The spotlight kept seeking out Scholz, who stood listlessly hunched over his guitar. But he did give a few displays of feedback sorcery. The use of props, like a monstrous antique pipe organ that loomed above the stage during "The Launch," was uninspired.

Only Scholz and Delp remain from the original group that burst into stardom in the 1970s. None of the four new members had noticeable stage presence, but Gary Pihl, a veteran of the Sammy Hagar Band, worked well with Scholz on the synchronized guitar dialogues that are Boston's signature.

Scholz, who holds a master's degree in engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, lived up to his reputation of being obsessive about every note he creates. This fastidious technocat arrived in town a day early and worked on the sound levels at the Spectrum until 4:30 the previous morning, then double-checked them all afternoon.

Although the multiple guitar effects were muddy at times, Boston managed to reproduce the music from its records with incredible precision. Unfortunately, in the final analysis, it was Boston's songs it was playing so faithfully.

Farrenheit, a rather run-of-the-mill rock trio from the city of Boston, opened the show. Before the first song, their spindly guitarist announced, ''Hey, this is a song we wrote just for you. It's called 'Philadelphia Rocks.' "

Six will get you five, next week he'll be saying, "Hey Cleveland, this is a song we wrote just for you."