More than a feeling

Mega-stars Boston come to Fraze

By Alan Sculley

Photo: Boston founder Tom Scholz will perform with Boston at Fraze Pavilion on July 2; photo: Kamal Asar

Boston’s Tom Scholz is famous for being one of the most meticulous artists in the studio in all of rock.

As the man who writes Boston’s songs and records the vast majority of the instruments himself in his own studio, he is known to spend months on end with a single song, tinkering with different arrangements, instrumentation, recording multiple parts on top of parts, until he gets the version that seems just right.

Yet for all the sonic detail and instrumental overdubbing that can go into the songs, Boston is one of the increasingly rare bands that does not use backing tracks in concert and plays everything live.

“There are no tapes going on,” guitarist Gary Pihl said in a recent phone interview. “A lot of us play more than one instrument. Of course, [singer] Tommy DeCarlo plays keys. He’s a great keyboard player. I play keys on a few songs, and of course, Tom [whose main instrument is guitar] is one of the best keyboard players ever. So we switch off and try to get the sounds happening as best we can.”

Getting everything right in concert doesn’t come easily, and Pihl says preparing for a tour is pretty much an ongoing endeavor in which he follows a daily practice routine when Boston isn’t on tour.

Then the entire touring band also does an intensive round of rehearsals before the start of each tour, and Pihl says that’s an all-business, play-it-like-you-mean-it process.

“We’re not holding back at rehearsal, for sure,” he says. “Of course, that’s what it takes. You’ve got to push it to the limit all the time because that’s what you’re going to be doing on tour every night.”

This summer’s tour, for the most part, takes Boston to cities that weren’t included on last summer’s major market tour.

The outing will once again be in support of Boston’s 2013 album, Life, Love & Hope. It was the sixth album from Boston and first release since the 2002 album, Corporate America.

The long gap between Boston albums is a product of Scholz’s approach to writing and recording music. He almost always works alone throughout the writing and recording process, usually playing the parts himself or supervising every last detail of the music and vocals as they are completed.

That was the way he worked when he did the final batch of demos for Boston’s self-titled 1976 debut album.

“I had no expectations that it was going to have a massive audience,” Scholz said of the first album in a separate interview ahead of last summer’s tour. “In fact, I was told after people heard the (earlier) demos that there was no chance this was going to be a big success because disco was the new incoming thing. So I was prepared for relative failure in a commercial sense. But I just wanted to do something that I liked and I was proud of.”

The rest, of course, is history. The Boston album became one of the most popular rock albums ever—its sales are now more than 17 million copies—and hits from the album like “More Than a Feeling,” “Long Time” and “Peace of Mind” still get regular airplay on classic rock radio.

The one time Scholz let others into the writing and recording process was for Corporate America. It was a mistake, he said.

Corporate America was the aberration,” Scholz said. “That was the one time that I didn’t do it all myself. I involved other people, other writers, other players, even people working on production. It was an experiment and it was a failed one.”

So Scholz started the 11-year journey to finishing Life, Love & Hope by once again taking control of the songwriting and recording, meticulously crafting the eight new compositions on the album.

He also re-did three songs from Corporate America: “Someone” and “You Gave Up on Love” because he was unhappy with those versions and “Didn’t Mean to Fall in Love” because he wanted to give that song a second chance to reach a larger audience.

Not surprisingly, Life, Love & Hope sounds very much like a Boston album, too. Melodic rockers like “Heaven On Earth,” “Someday” and the title song fit right in alongside earlier hits like “More Than a Feeling.” Those songs are balanced by ballads like “Didn’t Mean To Fall In Love” and “If You Were in Love,” as well as a pretty instrumental, “Last Day of School.”

This summer’s tour will feature fresh video and a set list that figures to give fans what they want.

“We’re certainly going to be playing all of the hits that people have come to love over the years, ‘Rock and Roll Band,’ ‘Peace Of Mind,’ ‘Smokin’ and ‘More Than A Feeling,’” Pihl says. “And of course, we’ll do some stuff from the new album, Life, Love & Hope. But fans have written into our Facebook page and asked gee, can you do this song or that song? And we were like ‘Yeah, let’s do that.’ So we’re going to dig deep into the vaults there and pull out some songs we haven’t done in quite a while.”

Boston will perform on Thursday, July 2 at Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Blvd in Kettering. Kelly Richey Band will also perform. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit Fraze.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at AlanSculley@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at AlanSculley@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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