Heavy-on-the hits old fave will wrap up Musikfest

By Brad Patton
The Times Leader

As the 10-day Musikfest winds down Sunday in Bethlehem, one of the biggest bands of the 1970s will take the stage.

Boston, the band that sold 17 million copies of its self-titled debut from 1976 and went on to become a staple of classic-rock radio, will perform at the Sands Steel Stage at PNC Plaza at 8 p.m. Sunday as the 29th annual Musikfest comes to a close.

The band's architect (and only remaining original member) Tom Scholz first began writing songs while attending MIT in 1969 and started putting the band together the following year when he met vocalist Brad Delp. After a few years of demos on which Scholz played all the instruments except drums and various band names, Scholz and Delp were signed to a recording contract as Boston in 1976. They recruited three more musicians who could replicate Scholz's studio creations on stage, and soon the band released its first album.

Thanks to songs such as "More Than A Feeling," which hit No. 5 on the singles chart, "Long Time," "Peace of Mind," "Let Me Take You Home Tonight" and "Rock and Roll Band," the album was a huge success, eventually selling 17 million copies and becoming the second biggest-selling debut of all time (trailing only "Appetite for Destruction" by Guns N' Roses).

Two years later, the second album sold 7 million copies, but the follow-up never appeared until 1986 after a long, drawn-out court case and a switch in record labels. "Third Stage," though, continued Boston's winning ways and spawned the No. 1 hit "Amanda" and its Top 10 follow-up "We're Ready."

Gary Pihl, who took guitar lessons when he was 15 from Jerry Garcia and went to see his instructor play with his band The Warlocks (who later became the Grateful Dead) at a pizza parlor, was recruited during the recording of the final song for that third album.

"Back in 1977, I was playing in a local band in San Francisco, and Sammy Hagar had just left Montrose," Pihl said in a recent interview with The Times Leader. "We asked him to join our band, but I ended up joining his, and after two days of rehearsals, we were opening for Boston.

"We ended up opening their entire second tour in 1978 and 1979, and when Sammy left in 1985 to join Van Halen, Tom (Scholz) called me up and asked me to help him record the last song for ‘Third Stage.'

"And 27 years later, I'm still here."

Only two more albums have appeared in those 27 years – 1994's "Walk On" and 2002's "Corporate America" – as numerous band members came and went. Original lead singer Delp left the band twice, ultimately committing suicide in 2007.

The current version of the band now includes Scholz (guitar, keyboards), Pihl (lead guitar), Tommy DeCarlo (vocals, percussion, keyboards), David Victor (vocals, guitar), Tracy Ferrie (bass) and Curly Smith (drums).

Pihl said the band is working on a new album.

"As you know, Boston albums take years not months, but I would say we are about 85 percent complete," he said. "Tom, like most musicians, is a perfectionist, and we keep going until we get it right."

Pihl said the band won't play any of that new material in Bethlehem on Sunday but will play all the songs you would expect and then some.

"We will play all the hits," he said, noting the band is playing 40 dates on this year's summer tour. "Plus some songs we haven't played in a while. So we feel we really have something for everybody."