By Matt Wardlaw
Cleveland Scene

If you're a Boston fan, you know that band leader Tom Scholz doesn't get out much, something that the veteran guitarist/producer himself acknowledged during a recent interview. As a result, when Scholz takes Boston out on the road, he really puts a lot of effort into making sure that the band delivers a memorable show. They did just that during their performance last night at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica in front of a crowd of more than 3,000 people. Dark clouds, which quickly turned into a torrential downpour, would make it a challenging evening for both the band and the road crew, but from the smiles that both Scholz and fellow guitarist Gary Pihl had plastered across their faces throughout the night, you wouldn't have known that it was anything other than a regular summer night out under the stars.

Vocalist Tommy DeCarlo handles most of the vocals for the band these days in the absence of the late Brad Delp and he proved to be worthy of the job. Plucked from his day job at a Home Depot location in North Carolina in early 2008, DeCarlo's vocals were unbelievably reminiscent of Delp's classic voice. He wasn't an incredibly dynamic performer visually, but he was a fan-friendly presence, often making eye contact with those in the crowd and even walking to the edge of the stage to exchange high fives and handshakes with those in the front row. But most importantly, he provided the missing link to make the classic Boston hits sound just like you remember them.

As Scholz had promised, the new material was kept to a minimum, with a heavy focus placed on the hits, but the new songs that were in the setlist, particularly the title track from the band's new album Life, Love, & Hope, were strong. Equally so, it was easy to see why Scholz has kept Gary Pihl, the longtime Boston guitarist who first joined Scholz in the Third Stage era, as a vital part of the Boston lineup. It was Pihl who filled in the classic guitar riffs where necessary when Scholz needed an extra set of hands, either to shift to the organ or play additional guitar parts. There were plenty of moments where they traded riffs back and forth. While he didn't converse much with the audience, Scholz did take a moment early in the show to acknowledge that he had grown up "about an hour from here," saying that "it's great to be back."

Late in the set, Scholz and Boston were joined by American Idol finalist Siobhan Magnus, whose stage presence really added extra punch when she came out to sing lead vocals on the title track from the band's 1994 album Walk On. She also came back out for "Foreplay/Long Time," which closed the main set, nailing the classic high note in the middle of the song with a lot of flair. The encore set brought "I Think I Like It," a deeper cut from the Third Stage album followed by the more familiar "Party," an appropriate closer to what had been a surprisingly brisk hour and 45 minute set.

From the crowd's response, it was clear that Scholz and Boston had been missed — it had been 10 years since the band's last performance at the same venue in the summer of 2004 and with Scholz, you never quite know when the next time is that you're going to see him emerge from his basement studio, but Tuesday evening's show left many hoping that it will be sooner rather than later.