An online promo for Boston’s newest Hyper Space Tour states that the rock legends deliver song performances “faithful to their studio recordings.” After their show on Sunday, June 11, at the Santa Barbara Bowl, fans in attendance would consider that claim a massive understatement. Ironically, those studio recordings sound soothing, almost dreary, compared to the live versions’ searing-hot energy and absurdly pinpoint musicianship. Backed by brand new visual accompaniment that charmed and awed despite the occasional over-the-top silliness (one scene depicted the celestial journey of an electric-guitar-shaped spaceship), the band whipped the crowd into a state of fervor, proving that their face-melting capabilities have not diminished over their four-decade career.
The nearly two-hour set contained all the expected hits, a few deeper cuts, and generous fillings of jams that transitioned between songs. Tom Scholz and Gary Pihl took turns peeling off organ and guitar solos that were huge and technically impressive. On occasion, one would shift over to center stage, where lead singer Tommy DeCarlo spent the evening. The highlight of their constant shredding was the harmonies they played off each other. One extended duet saw the tenured bandmates ferociously tapping on their guitar strings as the crowd roared in approbation. In another portion of the show, Boston took advantage of the dimming sunlight and brought out instruments with lights that would trigger when a note was played.
Members of Boston have often proudly pointed out the lack of backing tracks in their live shows. This fact can be respected for its merits, but not fully understood until one has the chance to experience it. On “Peace of Mind,” for instance, the vocal harmonies backing up DeCarlo’s booming voice over the chorus were flawless. All parts that make up Boston — drums, guitars, keys, and everything else — were executed perfectly.
In the second half of Boston’s consistently spectacular set, Scholz introduced a gentleman waiting in the wings who planned to propose to his girlfriend, Melissa, who was in the audience. The stage crew darted the spotlight through the crowd until she was found. Melissa went to the stage and said yes, and the newly engaged couple embraced while Pihl strummed the first chords on “Amanda.” The stage was set for DeCarlo to substitute the name referenced in the song with, maybe, another recently mentioned, three-syllable name? That would have propelled Boston’s S.B. show into almost unbelievable fantasy. For now, they remain just exceptionally good.