Concert Review: Boston Strong Benefit Concert at the TD Garden
Boston Strong – This show had the potential to be one for the ages with predominately Boston based musical acts all coming together to help aid our own in the wake of one the most heinous acts of terror we have seen on U.S. soil. Huge bands, legendary solo performers, some stellar Boston based comics and throw in a few Boston sports legends how can it go wrong? Trust me there were moments of boredom, bewilderment, and bedlam but there also very touching moments and heartfelt speeches and even a poem prior to the first band playing! So the biggest question of the night was, WHY was this concert not broadcast on any local channels? It’s so obvious to me that so much more money could have been raised for the victims if a phone number had been scrolled down the bottom of the screen during the roughly five hour concert. It’s done all the time..on occasion even helping to aid international tragic events let alone one that hits so close to home as the Boston Marathon bombings. Whatever the reason it’s just a shame some of the more moving tributes and meaningful gestures were not seen by the millions that were not at the event but only by the thousands of us lucky enough to be there in person, but could have been very easily. All in all a very moving event with a few surprises and a “smoking gun” so to speak that occurred in my section. More on that later.
Matt Siegel (local Boston Radio DJ for many years) played MC for most of the night, although he was only seen on stage at the start of the show. That sort of set the tone for things to come. The night kicked off with a victim impact speech followed a by a touching poem before the band Boston hit the stage. It’s been a long while since I have seen them so it took me a bit to figure out who was the band. Tom Scholz of course was very easy to pick out, as well as guitarist Gary Pihl who has been the band for many years. Curly Smith is still playing drums but who really shined tonight was newcomer vocalist/guitarist David Victor who really was able to hit the high notes with ease. Tommy DeCarlo also helped along on vocals and did a fine job. He also looks a hell of a lot like Brad Delp. Not sure if that’s a coincidence or not but is sure was something a little spooky. Former Stryper bassist Tracy Ferrie helped round out the group as they played classics “Smokin”,” More Than A Feelin”,” Rock N Roll Band” and really worked the crowd well! “Tonight we are all Boston” declared Decarlo as he wacked the giant gong with the Boston logo with the word ‘Strong’ printed underneath – So cool.
Comedian Lenny Clarke was up next. I have always enjoyed his comedy because the vast majority of it is very topical, has some sort of New England based connection and he screams a lot! Folks were crying with laughter in my section, all except one lone female sexagenarian who decided it was her down time and the perfect opportunity to “light up” and of course right in front of me! Hello…this is not 1975 at the old Garden! Needless to say that event didn’t last long. Although she did attempt an encore later on. Clarke did a great impression of the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev outlining that the moment the “shelter in place” ban was lifted in Watertown he was found 5 minutes later after a man noticed some blood on his boat after waiting 16 hours to have a cigarette!
Extreme was next and performed their monster hit “More Than Words” with Mark Cherone filling in on guitar for Nuno Bettencourt still out on tour with Rihanna. Sounded good and the crowd got into it singing along with Gary Cherone during the chorus. They then went into “Hole Hearted” and the place got a lot livelier. Original drummer Paul Geary joined current drummer Kevin Figueiredo (kFigg) on kick drum and percussion and bassist Pat Badger did his best to add harmonies although his mic was off for most of it. Clearly they should have played longer. Based on the lengthy set times of some later guests this was one of the nights bigger mistakes but still fun to have them out there for sure.
Next up was comedian Steve Sweeney who was awesome! He injected a ton of regional humor and poked fun at Bostonians nature of being general daily skeptics, anger over long cold winters and dumb questions asked from tourists. I loved it. He really connected with the audience and it could be heard throughout the Garden.
The J. Geils Band was up next and there were so many musicians on stage I couldn’t keep up. As always, Peter Wolf was moving, grooving, shaking, dancing, and running around like a guy who is 27 not 67. Highlights included “Aint’ Nothing But A House Party,” “Love Stinks” and “Freeze Frame”. They had the crowd on their feet and clapping their hands the whole time.
Comedian Steven Wright was next. Steve is a pretty funny guy, however his set was short and after coming off of a high energy performance of The J Geils Band his dry monotone sense of delivery did not work at all, produced very few laughs and mercifully ended before it became an issue. It was not his time or his crowd for sure. Thanks for trying!
Jason Aldean was the lone country act of the evening (thank God) and I have to say did a pretty good job of keeping the Boston audience somewhat entertained. This was a rock crowd for sure and his band (to their credit) are young and very energetic. It’s very much country rock with some very fluid guitar riffs from Kurt Allison that were impressive. I think the great thing about a night like this is that you do get exposed to musical acts that may not normally see. I enjoyed Jason’s set.
Donnie Wahlberg came out next and talked a little bit about what this night meant to him and delivered the best line of the night. “I think we have shown the world over the past two months that Boston is not only one of the greatest cities on Earth, we are one of the greatest families on the planet”. I must say that out of all the acts, NKOTB truly interacted with the fans and the victims with their families in the front two rows more than anyone else..by a long shot! Donnie then introduced the Dropkick Murphys, another band I had never seen live. They played a very rousing set of tunes off a new EP that is available on ITunes, proceeds of which are being donated to Boston Strong One Foundation. A DM show would not be compete without “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” which had the crowd dancing, jumping and fist pumping like crazy.
As soon as Dropkick Murphys ended up came the New Kids On The Block dressed all in Boston Bruins jerseys! Nice touch and they went into a few hits like “Hangin Tough” “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” before Joey McIntyre told his experience from Marathon Monday and how he had just finished the race not 10 minutes before the blasts. It felt very much from the heart and they then went into “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)” which really got the crowd waving their arms in the air and cell phones lit. Then they delivered the first surprise of the night with Boston’s own Bell Biv Devoe coming out to perform their 90’s hit “Poison.” I’m not a hip hop guy nor do I pretend to be but you had to be impressed with the energy these guys brought with them – boundless. Then the crowd was hit with the 2nd surprise of the night with Boyz II Men joining the stage donning Boston Celtics attire to perform ‘One Sweet Day”. It turned out to be another show stopper which added to the electricity this hip hob triple threat had just created. I have to say this may have been the highlight of the show. This is out of my comfort zone by miles but I enjoyed it. The history of these acts combined with the heartfelt passion they showed on stage made it special.
ESPN’s Chris “Boomer” Berman came out along with New England Patriots legend Tedy Bruschi, current Patriot Julian Edelman and Boston legend Doug Flutie. Each had a very unique take on this experience and what the night meant to them. Best line from Flutie was when he reiterated the now famous David Ortiz line..”This is our F*$%*ing city! Don’t mess with us!” I kind of wish there had been a few more Boston sports legends on hand but then again the show was already at this point a whopping 90 minutes behind schedule. What was a blessing was the omission of local politicians who did not feel the need to make appearances for photo ops on a night like this..although would have been very easy to do so.
Now for my harshest critique of the evening. Let me set the record straight and say right up front that this is not a condemnation on Carole King, James Taylor or Jimmy Buffett as artists by any means. They are all legends in their own right and given a different slot on this bill, say much earlier in the evening, they would came off as palpable. Instead having put them on towards the end of the evening that was roughly two hours behind or so was a huge mistake. They just don’t have the energy any longer and the material does not lend itself to a crowd relishing in the moment of this awe inspiring sort of over the top type atmosphere. Sure they are rock n roll hall of famers but it was simply too late in the show to have them literally sucking the life right out of the room. That’s just what they did. I needed no doze pills to sit through this. Too long..too many songs..too slow a pace. Buffett did get the folks up and running on “Margaritaville”, even me. But that was the last song in this long line of stellar elevator /dentist office type tracks such as “ Goodbye Sweet Baby James”, “Shower The People”, “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You), ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, ‘You’ve Got A Friend”. Sorry but it felt like I was getting a tooth pulled..complete with music!
Boston’s favorite comic Dane Cook was up next and did not at all connect with his audience..mostly an older crowd. He was joking up texting back and forth with his girlfriend and most of the folks around me were too old to know what the hell he was talking about. No regional humor at all and he failed to resonate any laughter whatsoever. I’ve never seen him live before so I can only guess what a longer set of his material could bring. The one good thing he did was to introduce the mighty Aerosmith!!
Finally we get a benchmark portion of the program! Tyler, Perry, Hamilton, Whitford and Kramer ready for action. Opening with “Train Kept A Rollin” I think that was the intent for this set. Keep it moving as we were getting c lose to midnight at this point. Joe’s guitar sound on “Sweet Emotion” was spot on but after seemed way too low for this big packed house. Tyler then asked for a piano and had the best line of the night..”They think they can keep us down..they can Dream On”. Add in “Living on the Edge” and “Walk This Way” and you get an energized set full of flavor and fun.
For an encore Tyler invited everybody back up for The Beatles classic “Come Together” which Aerosmith also covered back in the film version of “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band” from 1978. Spot on with everybody having fun and singing along together to end the night. I think that song really sums up just about everybody’s feelings for this event on a whole. Different musical genres each bringing something to the table for a great cause and a great city. They ended with “Dirty Water” and Boston fans headed back to their cars just having witnessed a truly remarkable event brought on initially by truly remarkable heart ache. Looking on the faces of the many victims that were there with their families as they left I think the show did bring a measure of warmth and good will that will hopefully last a lot longer than the injuries sustained on April 15. For their sake, let’s hope so anyway.
Didn’t make it to the show? Watch a replay here.