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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014

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Boston lead singer Tommy DeCarlo may be new to the game, but he has the polish of a pro.
Boston lead singer Tommy DeCarlo may be new to the game, but he has the polish of a pro.

Boston wins over BMO Harris Pavilion

The concert-goers of Milwaukee and the BMO Harris Pavilion have a new relationship. They're in that awkward place. We've all been there. One moment you think everything's great, you've found the one, they like all the same music that you do! And then the next moment you find out something weird about them, like maybe they're disorganized, and on top of it Daughtry cancels and all of a sudden you don't want to take the BMO Harris Pavilion home to meet your mom anymore because you're angry and confused.

Several people were angry and confused tonight due to various snafus with held tickets and other irritating byproducts of busy concerts. "No wonder this place is failing," one man ahead of me in line said angrily when his tickets were not available immediately. 

But I think in the end Milwaukee will decide that the BMO Harris Pavilion is the one, or at least that they can't do any better. The place has cupholders on the back of the seats, for crying out loud. How do you not love that?

And when all else fails, the BMO Harris Pavilion gets by with a little help from its friends. Because after Starship and Boston began their shows tonight, no one was angry anymore. Such is the magic of classic rock.

On Aug. 1, Boston lead singer Tommy DeCarlo told OnMilwaukee.com that fans could expect classic  hits from the band’s early albums. Tonight, he delivered on his promise. 

And best of all, it didn't sound overly familiar. It didn't sound tired. It didn't sound done. Rather, songs as recognizable as "Peace of Mind" and "More Than a Feeling" seemed fresh, energized and even surprising. 

It might have to do with Boston's new blood. The band has had a lot to weather over the years, including the 2007 suicide of lead singer Brad Delp. Guitarist, keyboardist and singer Tom Scholz (the songwriter behind most of the hits) is the only remaining original member. Guitarist Gary Pihl has been with the band since 1985, but other than those two everyone else is pretty fresh.

For his part, DeCarlo is a repurposed fan; he's only been fronting the group since 2008, when the then-Home Depot employee caught Scholz's attention with impressive Delp-like covers of Boston songs.

But take note: this ain't no cover band.

Along with fellow lead singer and guitarist David Victor, drummer Curly Smith, bass player Tracie Ferrie, Scholz, Phil and DeCarlo delivered rousing, impassioned renditions that had every fan on their feet, dancing like it was 1989.

The crowd was comprised of mostly couples over the age of 50, and Boston had them wrapped around their proverbial little finger. These people paid to hear certain songs, and hear them they did. 

"I think you might know this next song," said DeCarlo before "Peace of Mind." The cheering rose into a crescendo. They did know that song. That's why they came. 

Other favorites included "Walk On," "Something About You" and "Don't Look Back." Things got romantic when Victor began to sing "Amanda," and it brought to mind the reason these songs are so beloved: they mark unforgettable feelings, relationships and moments in the listener's life. 

This is why people pay for concerts.

It's a risky move letting an unknown front your band, and riskier still when he has no professional music experience. But DeCarlo is a polished performer, and his vocals are uncannily similar to Delp's. The same can be said of Victor, who also plays in a Styx and Boston cover band. These boys don't mess around. They are supremely comfortable before their crowd.

Scholz is the real star of the show, however, and he shined in the second half, which was dominated by instrumental numbers. He's like the quiet kid in the back of the class who never raises his hand but aces every test. Scholz stayed quiet all night, giving DeCarlo free reign of the spotlight,  but he blew the audience away with an explosive guitar solo and lightning-fast fingers on the keyboard.

All in all, this was a high-energy, take-no-prisoners classic rock show. The Pavilion was about two-thirds full, but those who did come came to rock. And Boston let them.

Opening act Starship was equally impressive, inspiring standing ovations and dancing in the aisles with numbers like "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now," "Stranger" and "Loveless Fascination." Lead singer Mickey Thomas was unstoppable, shimmying like a 20-year-old (he's 63) in leather pants to "Somebody to Love." Ever the rocker, he kept his sunglasses on even as the sun set. 

So were there some tense moments at the BMO Harris Pavilion tonight? Yes. Do we still wonder if Milwaukee will break up with it for good? Maybe (well, actually no – it was pretty expensive). But in the end, the place has cupholders and classic rock. What's not to love, really?

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