PITTSBURGH -- Each night he's on stage, Gary Pihl gets to play one of rock's most famous 12-string guitar intros.
Crowds go wild once they realize it's "More Than a Feeling."
"I'll start that riff, and after about five seconds everyone in the audience recognizes it and starts smiling," said Pihl, lead guitarist for classic-rock band Boston. "Pretty soon they'll be singing along with Tommy (DeCarlo), even singing louder than him and the rest of us. I get a lump in my throat when that happens. I love it. There's no better feeling."
That feeling will be experienced Friday when Boston performs outdoors at Stage AE in Pittsburgh.
Led by founding guitarist-keyboardist-lyricist Tom Scholz, the band will perform a greatest hits-filled show heavy on its eponymous self-titled debut, released 36 years ago this week. Spanning the 8-track, cassette tape, CD and now digital eras, that album sold more than 17 million copies and became the soundtrack to infinite basement parties, backyard cookouts and liberating road trips.
Songs like "Foreplay/Long Time," "Peace of Mind," "Smokin'," "Rock and Roll Band" and "More Than a Feeling" helped set the foundation for classic-rock radio, along with the title-track to Boston's second album, "Don't Look Back."
A third album, 1986's "Third Stage," produced two top-10 songs; the ballad "Amanda" and a rocker, "We're Ready," which drew from the earlier strengths of Scholz' meticulous production and singer Brad Delp's high, soaring, instantly identifiable vocals.
Delp committed suicide in 2007.
The lead singer is now DeCarlo, who was discovered on MySpace a few years ago singing Boston covers. Brand-new Boston-er David Victor supplies harmonies and some vocal leads, too.
"With those two harmonizing and all six of us helping with the singing we've captured that Boston sound from all the albums," said Pihl, a guitarist in Sammy Hagar's pre-Van Halen band, who joined Boston after playing guitar on the "Third Stage" cut "I Think I Like It."
Tracy Ferrie, formerly of Stryper, is the new bassist; Curly Smith, from Boston's '90s lineup, is at the drums.
"We've got a terrific lineup," Pihl said. "People come up to us after the shows and say 'I couldn't believe you sounded like you did on the record,'" Pihl said. "That's when I know we've done our job."
Reluctant to reveal any surprises, Pihl said the concert includes a video screen projection that pays homage to the band's history.
There's more history to be written, including a new Boston album.
"It's not quite done yet," Pihl said. "But Tom called me a while back and said he's itching to play, so I said, 'Sure, sounds like fun -- let's do it.'"
So Boston hit the road, which leads Friday to Pittsburgh. If the Stage AE crowd is like others on the tour, there'll be a new wave of fans there who discovered the band via Guitar Hero and Rock Star video games.
"That's really a testament to the music," Pihl said, "that there's young people in the audience 11 and 12 years old singing along, and not just because their parents dragged them there."