By Dean Johnson

"It will be a theatrical triumph of the first order if we get all this junk to go in and out and up and down at all the right times for all the right songs,'' Tom Scholz said with a grin.

The man behind the megaplatinum band Boston was in Manchester, N.H.'s Verizon Wireless Center on Thursday night for the first full band rehearsal in front of the stage set Boston will use for its North American tour. The road trip began here Friday night, hits the Tweeter Center on Friday and runs at least through August.

Designed by Scholz, the set was obviously influenced by his title song for the group's recently released fifth studio album, "Corporate America.'' That track is an attack on big businesses that place profits ahead of people.

"I do feel that (corporate America) is very much to blame for making us a terrorist target,'' said the still-lanky Scholz, now in his mid-50s. "I'm on this big kick about all that and came up with this idea for a set.''

Sitting in front of an enormous onstage pipe organ, Scholz gestured behind him to a scene of industrial decay: slowly rotting chemical tanks, huge factory smokestacks, corroded plumbing. It's a disturbing environment, but one that music battles and ultimately defeats.

Scholz, ever the perfectionist, was worried Thursday that everything wouldn't run right. "At least we have no pods in the set,'' he joked, referring to a scene in "This Is Spinal Tap'' in which band members are trapped inside their stage props.

The band Scholz has assembled for this tour is a revamped animal. Only Scholz, original lead singer Brad Delp, longtime co-singer Fran Cosmo and guitarist Gary Pihl are left from past lineups. The new group seems to have energized Scholz. Always known as an ultimate guitar band, this version of Boston can feature as many as five guitars in its live lineup. It includes a female bassist/singer, Kimberly Dahme, as well as Cosmo's son Anthony on guitars and vocals.

Everyone sings, too, and the result made Scholz gush, even though he knew he was asking for trouble saying it: "I've never heard this band sound as good as it does now. Honestly, it's the best-sounding band I've ever heard, period, and I couldn't say that about earlier incarnations of Boston.''

Asked if he's finally ready to release an official live album, Scholz said it was a possibility, but "after hearing this band, I'm not going to use anything from the old tours.''

The group's new show runs for more than two hours and includes a sampling of the new disc and much of the band's classic repertoire. The "Walk On'' medley can last for nearly half an hour, and the rehearsal versions of hits such as "Don't Look Back'' and "More Than a Feeling'' revealed the signature fat guitar sound, strong vocal work and multiple harmonies.

Longtime fans will like it. A lot. Scholz also noted a recent poll placed Boston as the top band among high school students who listen to classic rock.

Anthony Cosmo, 26, offered his own explanation for Boston's continued popularity. "The reason why Boston's music separates it from other '70s bands is that you can't get sick of it. You just can't get sick of it.''

Boston plays the Tweeter Center, Mansfield, on Friday. Tickets, $27.50-$57.50, are available at the box office and all Ticketmaster outlets.