August 6, 2004
Chronicle Pavilion, Concord, CA
By Dan Wall
Set List: Rock and Roll Band, Feelin Satisfied, Star Spangled Banner, I Had A Good Time, Piece of Mind, I Think I Like It, Living For You, More Than A Feeling, Cryin , Someone, Don t Look Back, Cool the Engines, Surrender To Me, Hollyann, With You, Let Me Take You Home Tonight, Walk On, Amanda, Magdalene, Foreplay/Long Time. Encore 1: Something About You, Party. Encore 2: Smokin . 2 hours, 40 minutes.
Ever since the first time Boston headlined a show in San Francisco, the Bay Area has always been a special place for this melodic rock legend. And being in the right place at the right time had a lot to do with it.
Vocalist Brad Delp even mentioned that first show (which took place at San Francisco s Winterland in November, 1976), during the encores here, which happened to be the first major headline show that the band ever played outside of its hometown. Legendary promoter Bill Graham took a chance on the upstarts by promoting them from special guest status after Journey pulled out of the weekend (due to an injury to Neal Schon), the show sold-out and the band s excitement over the chance helped turn a regular Saturday night into one of those unforgettable nights of music that everyone from this area swears they saw (only 5400 did).
(One of the most unforgettable moments in my concert history happened that night. Remember that Boston had just released the first record and most of the country had never heard of the group at the time. But since we had Mr.Graham here (the greatest concert promoter ever), he was willing to take a chance on a band who would eventually become one of the biggest of its generation. Anyway, that night the band played every song it had rehearsed and was finished when Graham dragged them back onstage for a third encore. I will never forget that third encore call; it was deafening. Delp, in tears, told Graham the band had nothing left to play. Graham whispered a suggestion into the young singer s ear, and the third encore played was More Than A Feeling, the band s first single, for the second time that night, as the song was dedicated to Graham and the crowd. It s a moment that no one who attended that show will ever forget, this young band playing its first headline show in San Francisco and earning three encores. That sort of stuff doesn t happen much anymore.)
The group s had a number of these shows in Northern California. Just six months later, the band headlined and sold-out the Cow Palace in Daly City. On the next tour, two nights at the Oakland Coliseum Arena and a huge Day on the Green show meant nearly 100,000 fans saw Boston here in 1978-79. For Third Stage, the band played three nights at the Coliseum Arena. And so on and so on&
The crowd is no longer as big as it was back in the salad days, and for the most part, the band is aging and definitely on the downside of the slope. That doesn t mean they can t play, however, and the crowd here helped make Boston s most recent appearance in Concord another memorable night in Northern California for the band.
It was billed as an evening with Boston, and it turned out to be just that. For over two-and-a-half hours, the band played every big hit from its playbook and a healthy selection of choice album cuts that filled out a loud, raucous set that was much better than the last Boston performance I attended.
That was back in July, 2003 at the RockFest, and you all know how much I love the RockFest. That night didn t really work, though, since the band didn t sound check, it rained, and for some reason, the group left four of its best songs off of the set list.
This time, the group had all day to dial in the sound, it was a perfect 75 degrees on a clear, windless night, and the band played everything (save for A Man I ll Never Be, but that s a very minor complaint.)
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The sound was spectacular from the outset, the lighting bright and adequate, and the staging impressive. The band played on a stage fastened as the inside of cock pit, the lighting truss took a dip and turned into a space ship (the band s logo, of course), and a huge replica pipe organ rose to the rafters during the Phantom of the Opera-type organ solo during Walk On.
Aside from the band s songs, the individual members of the band are the real stars of the show. As introduced by Delp, guitarist Tom Scholz is really a man who needs no introduction. He owns the band, from the songs to the staging to the equipment that band uses onstage. He played guitar, bass and keyboards and looked just as goofy and out of place as he always does, but somehow it all works. (My wife, who doesn t know the whole story, said he looked more like an inventor. Obviously, she was right on the money there, since Scholz graduated from M.I.T., worked at Polaroid as a product engineer and created the Rockman headphone guitar amp.)
To help recreate the majestic guitar sounds from the band s intricately recorded records, Scholz employed no less than five guitarists on some songs. Lynyrd Skynrd was the three-guitar army, the Outlaws were the four-guitar army, but who would have thought Boston would outdo them all? Delp and second vocalist Fran Cosmo played rhythm, while former Sammy Hagar axeman Gary Pihl and Fran s son Anthony played melodic leads with Scholz. When all five guitars were firing and the sound was right, Boston s melodic metal sounded like it was coming from the heavens.
This meant that those gorgeous, shimmering leads on show highlights Feelin Satisfied, Piece of Mind, More Than A Feeling, Don t Look Back and Something About You sounded just as precise as they did on the records. It was very loud as well, meaning those powerful moments were that much more powerful onstage.
Delp and Cosmo did their part to make the evening memorable, with each helping the other reach those unattainable notes on songs like "I Think I Like It, Hollyann and Amanda, and doing a great job bringing all of those harmonies to life. Delp is the original vocalist who is the only member still remaining from the first two records. Cosmo joined the band in 1994 and has been around ever since.
Drummer Jeff Neal was a force, providing a solid backbeat and acing all of those infamous fills (think ebony porn Feelin Satisfied and Long Time ). The real surprise of the band is bassist Kimberly Dahme. Even my wife was impressed, commenting on the way home that it s hard to believe she can play and sing like that and still look like a Playboy centerfold. I couldn t have said it better myself. Her acoustic take on With You, was a highlight. As a matter of fact, the songs from Corporate America, the album the band released last year (that I did not like much at the time) sounded much better onstage here.
Actually, everything went right here, and as usual, it had to do with timing. The band was in the right place (Northern California), at the right time (summer) playing the right songs to the right people. Call it luck, call it skill, but whatever it is, Boston has it in spades when it comes back to what must feel like a second home.