Western New York’s jam-packed summer concert calendar has been, at times, meteorologically challenged: thunderstorm with a chance of cancellation has been a trend. But rock ’n’ roll forges on.
Fans of the long-running, classic-rocking band Boston may have had collective, sinking hearts on Tuesday afternoon as teeming rain and dark gray skies took over the region hours before gates were to open at Artpark. Tuesdays in the Park shows are rain-or-shine affairs – but what fan, band member or roadie relishes the idea of a concert experience amid a torrent?
But a rock ’n’ roll miracle happened: At 4:30 p.m., the sun emerged.
The sold-out show was a sea of several generations of Boston fans, ranging in age from 20s to 60s, singing along to most of the songs and filling in all areas of the amphitheater. Optimistic Boston fans wore their best concert attire; there were few rain ponchos visible.
Just before Boston hit the stage an oversized gong emblazoned with the band’s logo was raised behind the drum kit: It was difficult to discern if it was functional or merely decorative. A video panel began an enigmatic flow of collaged images of control panels, fleeting numbers, flickering flames and other atmospheric snippets. Hitting the stage just after 8 p.m., Boston was met with a roar.
After a guitar overture they sprung into one of the best-ever set openers, “Rock and Roll Band” with the lyrics “Rock and roll band/Everybody’s waitin’/Gettin’ crazy” with every member of the band on microphone for rich signature harmonizing. A beaming and lanky Tom Scholz (Boston founder, guitarist and organist) was in what appeared to be a leg cast, visible below his cargo shorts.
Lead vocalist Tommy DeCarlo, who also takes turns at keyboards, jumped up on two wooden boxes on the stage to get a better view of the fans before him. He pointed at those on the lawn nearest the stage and those at his feet, giving big thumbs-ups and wide smirks in praise/gratitude.
“Lewiston, c’mon talk to us!” he shouted, to rile the crowd further. Scholz added, “Thank you guys for coming out to see us, we really appreciate it,” in a manner that belied the breadth and years of his rock ’n’ roll timeline. Started in 1976, he’s the remaining founding Boston member: shockingly, for all that mileage, the band released its sixth studio album in December, “Life, Love & Hope.”
Scholz tentatively introduced its title track and, as if on cue, two prop planes lumbered over the scene. It was one of several moments during the set when thousands of hands pointed at something: a plane, a second plane, a rosy sunset, a fine rock moment upon the stage while hearing a beloved rock classic.
The set list featured four instrumental interludes with the musicians not only showcasing their prowess, but fleshing out each layered composition to become a fuller version than on recordings. Placing one of their greatest, “More Than a Feeling,” between raucous instrumentals made for lovely rock opera.
“We have a special guest, from ‘American Idol,’ Siobhan Magnus, from Season 9,” Scholz exclaimed, as the singer bounded on stage to join in for an extended version of “Walk On” almost at set’s end. It began raining, and only a few people exited; all others held firm.
Opening was Bruce Wojick and the Struggle, a masterful five-piece blues-rock ensemble from Buffalo – and beyond.