“Don’t Look Back” is a song title, not a suggestion for nostalgic rock ’n’ roll fans.
A pair of iconic classic rock groups, Boston and the Doobie Brothers, American bands from opposite shores, joined forces Sunday night, Aug. 3 at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys. The show was a sellout, the sound excellent and concertgoers were enthused to hear the well-known songs, most written in the 1970s.
Every band, a rock star once said, eventually turns into “Spinal Tap,” the “turn-the-amp-up-to-11” film parody. The movie came to mind when Boston appeared onstage with drummer Curly Smith inside a translucent sound barrier. He looked like Spinal Tap’s bass player trapped in a pod.
However, Smith contentedly remained in the pocket, masterfully engineering the rhythm from what looked like a spacecraft’s control station, complete with video that hurtled concertgoers through the galaxy and back in time.
“Do you think bands like us should release a new album?” founding member Tom Scholz teased the crowd after opening the show with Boston standards “Rock & Roll Band” and “Smokin.”
He’s 67 but, with gym shorts, a sleeveless shirt and a knee brace, looked fit enough to jump into a pickup basketball game. His musicianship on guitar and keyboards was solid, and he’s still creative with a new studio album, “Life, Love & Hope.”
The 100-minute performance included several of the new tunes, intricate rock ensemble pieces featuring vocal and guitar harmonies with that, er, classic Boston sound. But the fans instinctively stood only for the well-known hits, with the exception of a surprise appearance from Siobhan Magnus, the niece of bass player Tracy Ferrie and an “American Idol” finalist.
Boston’s new singer, Tommy DeCarlo, sounds just like original vocalist Brad Delp who died in 2007, his live tracks as superb as the original recordings, if that’s possible.
Boston’s self-titled 1976 debut sold 17 million records. Its follow up sold about half of that, and the band never again had major commercial success. But its songs have remained on classic rock radio, and that’s what the Tahoe crowd wanted to hear again live.
We joked about Smith (an acclaimed producer) inside the plexiglass barrier but the fat sound he created provided the foundation for an outstanding celebration of Boston’s music.
Besides, the two drummers for the Doobie Brothers used barriers too.
Formed in Santa Cruz and given a flippant name that stuck, the Doobie Brothers alternated tunes written by remaining founding guitarists Patrick Simmons and Tom Johnston. With the exception of one startling second of unexpected silence caused by an electrical issue, it was the greatest I’ve heard from the group. Yes, it is still smoking. (Cronic rock?) A 70-minute set felt more like a half-hour.
The band played many of its famous hits, but the highlights were Simmons’ “redneck-hippie” song “Neal’s Fandango” from the 1975 album “Stampede,” and Johnston’s blues cover of Sonny Boy (2) Williamson’s “Don’t Start Me Talkin.’ ”
The Doobies also have a contemporary album, “World Gone Crazy,” and the band played its title song. Longtime member John McFee remains, and he, Johnston and Simmons took turns with guitar solos. McFee has the best rock histrionics, Johnston the most enthusiasm, and Simmons has regality – he wrote “Black Water,” for Chrissakes. Saxophonist Marc Russo added funkiness, and bassist John Cowan sang the one Michael McDonald tune the band played.
After gaining commercial success, Simmons moved to Hawaii. His son, Patrick Simmons Jr., concluded an opening solo acoustic set with a duet with his dad. Pat Jr. played ukulele on that tune.
The younger Simmons joined the Doobie Brothers for the second encore song, “Listen to the Music.”
That music will be enjoyed for generations to come. Just imagine an old-timer saying, “Back when the Doobie Brothers wrote these songs, did you know weed was illegal to smoke?”
Doobie Brothers’s Lake Tahoe set
1 “Jesus is Just Alright”
2 “Rockin’ Down the Highway”
3 “Depending on You”
4 “World Gone Crazy”
5 “Neal’s Fandago”
6 “South City Midnight Lady”
7 “Eyes of Silver”
8 “Takin’ It to the Streets”
9 “Don’t Start Me Talkin’ ”
10 “Black Water”
11 “Without Love”
Encore: “China Grove” and “Listen to the Music”