Boston anticipates  certain magic

By DALE CARRUTHERS, The London Free Press

Boston guitarist Gary Pihl has never been to London, but he has more than a feeling he's going to love playing at Harris Park Saturday.

The 61-year-old musician and his American rock band are headlining the closing night of the three-day Rock the Park festival in London.

While Boston has played hundreds of sold-out stadium shows, Pihl says there's something "special" about playing under the stars on a summer night.

"Outdoor (shows) have a certain magic to them," Pihl said. "There's definitely something special about it. The sound travels further, it just keeps on going."

And Pihl knows a thing or two about good sound; he plays an active role in managing Boston's audio and technical equipment for tours.

Though the acoustics at some outdoor shows can be questionable, concertgoers can expect top-notch sound Saturday.

After all, Boston founder Tom Scholz, a graduate of MIT, invented all of the amplifiers the band is using at Rock the Park.

"We're the only band in the world that uses the amplifier they built," Pihl said. "When something is broken or we're adjusting something, I'm definitely in there . . . helping the crew guys through it."

Boston made a big splash on the music scene in 1976 with the release of their debut self-title album, which went on to become the second-best selling first album of all time in the United States.

But it wasn't until 1985 that Pihl joined the group, after spending eight years playing guitar in a band with Sammy Hagar, who went on to be the frontman for Van Halen.

Boston released five albums during the years, but they're still best-known for hits from their first album like More Than A Feeling, Peace Of Mind, Foreplay/Longtime and Rock And Roll Band.

So what's Pihl's favourite song to play on stage?

"Certainly, we do a song like More Than A Feeling and it's so great to stand there and have the audience singing back louder than the band, so there's nothing better than that," said the Chicago-born rocker, who started playing guitar at age ten.

"But on the other hand, songs like Walk On is very complex and technically difficult to play. It's a long song, so we certainly get a certain satisfaction from playing that well, because again it's not easy. When we pull that one off . . . wow, that's a good feeling."

While some '70s bands are known for their aged audiences, Boston has a fan base ranging from teens to seniors.

Pihl credits rock video games like Guitar Hero for introducing younger generations to Boston's music.

"So we have young kids saying 'We learned about your songs playing this video game and I had to check it out,' " he said. "To see younger fans show up . . . it's real confirmation that the songs stand on their own after all this time."


What: OMAC Mortgages Presents Rock The Park 9, a three-day fundraising rock festival for Bethanys Hope Foundation.

When: Thursday to Saturday, gates open at 4 p.m. each day.

Where: Harris Park in downtown London

Details: $63 a night, two-day (Friday and Saturday) passes, $99. Visit or call 519-672-1967.


Thursday: Slash with Myles Kennedy, Bush co-headline; I Mother Earth, Monster Truck also on bill.

Friday: Steve Miller Band headlines, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, David Wilcox, The Romantics also on bill Saturday: Boston headlines, REO Speedwagon, 54-40, Prism also on bill.

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Show Time Lapse

Pretty cool! Check out this time lapse video that our video guy, Taylor Price, put together. It's the whole show from load-in, set-up, sound check, performance and load-out.

More than a feeling for Boston guitarist

Gary Pihl could be the poster child for why drugs aren't necessarily considered de rigueur in the rock n roll culture.

Pihl's drug-free lifestyle  not to mention his solid guitar licks  set in motion a chain of events that led to the gig of a lifetime. For nearly 30 years, Pihl has been a guitarist with the long-running band Boston.

He earned the spot the old-fashioned way, by working his way up through the ranks as a member of Sammy Hagar's first band, which opened for Boston during its 1978-79 tour.

Pihl had been playing in a band called Stark Raving Mad in the San Francisco Bay area, and they were looking for a new singer. Pihl knew that Hagar had recently left the band Montrose, so he reached out to Hagar to see if he'd be interested in joining Stark Raving Mad.

Thanks, but no thanks, Hagar told Pihl. Hagar was going to put together his own band and he asked Pihl if he was into drugs. Pihl told him he was clean, then wondered why he asked the question.

"Sammy said the last (guitarist) he had was (into drugs) and he was looking for someone who wasn't," Pihl recalls. He offered Pihl a spot in his new band, but Pihl wasn t sure whether to take it.

Just then, Hagar's manager called with some news that couldn't have been timed any better. Boston was looking for an opening for the last two weeks of its first-ever tour, and if Hagar could find a guitarist, the gig was his.

A few weeks later, Pihl was on stage with Hagar opening for Boston, which was watching the new band from the wings.

If hooking up with Hagar was one significant career turning point for Pihl, then befriending Boston founder and technical genius Tom Scholz was another.

Prior to his music career, Scholz had earned bachelors and masters degrees in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Scholz went on to earn 29 patents for products he invented while he was a senior product design engineer for Polaroid.

"The last secret to (Boston s) success is that we all use amplifiers that Tom built," Pihl, 61, explains during a phone call ahead of Boston's Saturday night gig at Trump Taj Mahal. "He had his own company called Scholz Research and Development, and he (invented) the Rockman guitar amplifier. To this day, we re the only band in the world that plays its own amplifiers."

Rock band Boston to play White Plains with 'lucky' singer


As lead singer of Boston, Tommy DeCarlo is on a North American tour that includes a July 22 stop at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. But it wasn't long ago that he was just a lifelong fan, working at a Home Depot in Charlotte, N.C.

"I'll say to myself, 'How the heck did this happen?'" said DeCarlo, 47.

Growing up in Utica, DeCarlo was a teenager when he first heard Boston's "More Than a Feeling." He was mesmerized. Today, he acknowledges that "as corny as this sounds, it's been more than a feeling ever since."

But not all those feelings were happy. In 2007, DeCarlo was among the Boston fans who were devastated by the news that Brad Delp, the band's original lead singer, had committed suicide. In response, DeCarlo decided to record his own songs as a tribute to the late singer.

DeCarlo's daughter, Talia, was so moved by what she heard that she helped him post the tracks on Myspace. That's when the clips started to go viral, and an enthusiastic fan passed along an email address of someone supposedly affiliated with the band.

DeCarlo expected nothing when he emailed a link of his performances to that address. What he got in return, however, was a reply from Boston's founder and lead guitarist, Tom Scholz, who marveled at how much the Home Depot credit manager sounded like Delp.

On Aug. 18, 2007, Scholz flew DeCarlo and his family to Boston (the city), and invited him to the band's rehearsal for a Delp tribute show scheduled for the following night. DeCarlo says he suspected, even in that moment, that something more might be on the line: "I just knew that if I'd just performed well at the tribute show, I knew [Scholz] would want to have me back."

The next night, DeCarlo took the stage to perform two of Boston's hits -- "Smokin'" and "Party" -- marking the first time he'd ever sung with the band in front of an audience. After the show, while DeCarlo waited for the car that would take him back to his hotel -- and, he assumed, back to his normal life -- he thanked Scholz for the opportunity.

"I said, 'I appreciate your having me on, and everything,'" DeCarlo recalled. "And he said, with a big smile on his face, 'We'll be in touch.'"

DeCarlo was stunned: One of his dreams had come true.

"I never went back [to Home Depot]," he said with a laugh. "Tom Scholz pays a little better than Home Depot, fortunately enough."

DeCarlo said he "didn't know anything about touring" at the start of Boston's 56-show road trip in 2008, and he was tough on himself when it came to his earliest concert performances.

"Quite honestly, I wasn't particularly fond of my first eight to 10 shows," he said. "I mean, the fans liked it; Tom liked it; but I knew in my heart, he didn't get my best, because I was a nervous wreck, singing in front of sold-out stadiums ... It took eight to 10 shows for me to actually calm down and start having fun and enjoying it."

After that tour ended, DeCarlo waited four years for the other members of Boston to agree to hit the road again, but during the interim, he says, he worked on improving his rock star vocals -- and his rock star look.

Before the 2008 tour, "I really wasn't working my vocals the way that you should, in terms of getting ready for a big tour," he said. "So, a lot of [the preparation since 2008] was a lot of vocal work, and building up my vocal muscle, as well as getting myself in better shape. I was just an average guy; I wasn't a real workout nut, but once I saw some pictures of me from the 2008 tour, I said, 'You know somethin'? I don't think I like the way I look. I need to drop a few pounds, grow the hair out a little bit more, and just kind of embrace the role a little bit more.'"

This time around, DeCarlo says, his nerves are gone, and he's having a lot more fun.

"Rehearsals have been great," he added. "The band sounds amazing. And I think I will always consider myself an extension of the fans, because I just kind of latched onto these guys so late in the game in my life. I'm 47, now, so as odd as it sounds, I always look at them as the band, and I'm just lucky enough to go up and sing with them ... If you can't go out and have a great time touring with your favorite rock and roll band, I'm afraid you just can't have a good time."

In addition, he says, the fans that had been supportive in 2008 are even more enthusiastic in 2012.

"I think they're just dying for this music," DeCarlo said. "And as a fan, I'm the same way ... I have never experienced being in one room -- whether it be a sold-out venue or whatever it may be -- with so many people who are so happy at one time. I think that's got to be the most amazing thing to me: With all the craziness in this world that's going on today, you can put 15,000 to 20,000 people in one room and everybody's on the same page."

Even after five years of knowing the band personally, DeCarlo's reverence toward his bandmates remains consistent, as he refers to Boston as "they," rather than "we." Part of this likely stems from the fact that he's been just a face in the crowd at their shows for decades, but it may also have to do with the very reason he has this opportunity.

"If there's one thing missing from this entire experience that I've had thus far," he said, "I truly wish in my heart that Brad Delp could have been a part of it."


Who: Boston

When: 7:30 p.m., Sunday, July 22

Info: Westchester County Center, 198 Central Ave., White Plains; 914-995-4050;; $47.50-$109.50


Back to Boston)

Interview the classic rock band's Gary Pihl.
By David J. Spatz?

Gary Pihl could be the poster child for why drugs aren t necessarily considered de rigueur in the rock  n roll culture.?