By Stacy Peterson
The Fayetteville Observer

RALEIGH - By the time Boston finished its 2 1/2-hour concert Friday night, fans from the reserved seats section had crowded around the stage at the Alltel Pavilion at Walnut Creek.

The crowd had coaxed the band into two encores and couldn't get enough as Boston finished its last song of the night, "Smokin'," just after 11 p.m.

The scene was a throwback to the 1970s, when "arena rock" meant long concerts with smoke, lots of lights and volume. Boston defined the layered arena rock sound with its 1976 self-titled album, which has sold more than 14 million copies.

On Friday, the fans up front, many of them now middle-aged with their children, were back in their element to hits like "More Than A Feeling," "Foreplay/Longtime" and "Let Me Take You Home Tonight."

Boston played nearly 30 songs on a stage that resembled a toxic urban wasteland.

The theme is in keeping with the band's new release "Corporate America," which takes on environmental concerns, big business control and the loss of innocence.

The band brought out its big guns with the giant Boston pipe organ, the "phantom organ player" and a lighting rig that lowered and turned into a spaceship with smoke and afterburners during "Amanda."

The band and Boston founding member Tom Scholz kept things interesting from the first note.

Scholz, who is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate and former engineer, wandered onto the stage dressed as a road crew member.

Wearing shorts and a Boston Red Sox cap, Scholz plugged in his guitar and starting playing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The curtain dropped and the fans realized he was not a roadie.

Boston followed with the new single "I Had A Good Time," and then went into the hits "Rock n' Roll Band," "Peace of Mind" and "Don't Look Back," all in a row.

Much of the attention this time around focused on new bassist, songwriter and guitarist Kimberley Dahme. As the first female member of the band, her playing and vocals added a new element to the band's FM radio staples.

She was the highlight on newer songs like her own "With Me," "You Gave Up On Love" and "Corporate America."

It was during "Corporate America" that the band achieved its highest energy of the night.

Lighting effects illuminated toxic spills on the smoke stacks, and the song ended when a man in a chemical suit symbolically unplugged and band and the entire lighting rig.

The crowd favorites were easy to tell: "Let Me Take You Home Tonight" had the crowd of about 7,000 singing along like a choir, and the band's playing peaked on 1986's "Amanda" and the rocking "Longtime/Foreplay."

Original Boston singer Brad Delp still hit all of those high notes and sang with a charming clarity throughout the show.

Otherwise, Boston's set seemed from a different era, and maybe by design.

Concerts like this one may now be out of vogue for the newer, faster crowd.

But Boston seems to know that the same thing that made the band appealing 27 years ago still works today. It's simply rock 'n' roll.