The Beach Boys Verizon Theatre Thursday, April 26
In the past few decades, various incarnations of the Beach Boys toured the oldies/county fair circuit, rehashing the popular hits over and over again, usually for a cheap ticket price (or even free). Alas, with Brian Wilson back in the fold, the result was an incredible evening of two-plus hours of music.This certainly wasn't the version of the band you saw on Full House. Rather, the production was more on the scale of Wilson's solo tours in the last ten years.
Starting the show at 7:30 p.m. and not leaving the stage until 10 p.m., the surviving members, including Al Jardine, Mike Love, David Marks, and Bruce Johnston, were joined by no fewer than ten (!) backing musicians. The most recognizable was keyboardist/percussionist Darian Sahanaja, who has worked with Wilson on a number of projects, including the re-recording of Smile. With this many people, it was much easier to recreate the Wrecking Crew house band sound from the original recordings.
Despite the guitar overload (six guitars was a little too much), the focal point of the house mix was the gorgeous vocal melodies the band has been known for since the beginning. While certain elder statesmen in the band don't have the same vocal strength as they used to, they still pulled off the classic Beach Boys sound. You know, the kinds of harmonies that hit your heart and make the hair on your neck point towards the ceiling?
The mostly-packed Verizon audience, where men wore Hawaiian shirts, sang along to the few dozen familiar hits. But the deeper cuts from the band's catalog stood out, and they didn't make people head for the bathroom or concession stands. From Johnston's "Disney Girls" to Wilson's "Sail On, Sailor," there was space for the ripe new song, "That's Why God Made the Radio."
Also of note were two songs in tribute to the deceased Wilson brothers, Dennis and Carl.They performed "Forever" with Dennis' recorded vocals and "God Only Knows" with Carl's, as video montages played in the center of the stage. Certainly heartfelt, and probably way more sincere than what TLC is planning to do on their upcoming tour.
With a 20-minute intermission in the middle the show, the band came out for three more songs at the very end, and seemed a little out of steam by then, but it didn't really matter. Mike Love sang less and less, talking more through his vocals. Wilson, at times, looked like he was sitting in with the band on his white piano, but when it was time for him to take the lead, he did. Major kudos to him for just being there, if you know a little about his long story.
For a band that plays to the inner-teenager of everyone, you're not going to find a better live version of this music anywhere else. This was the real deal Beach Boys, and this tour is certainly not something to be overlooked in the band's winding and tumultuous 50-year story.
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Personal bias: There was one summer growing up where my mother wouldn't stop playing a Beach Boys greatest hits compilation tape in the family minivan. I grew to hate many of the songs about surfing, cars and girls. By the time I worked for KLUV between 2002 and 2004, the hate had lightened up. Certainly helped that I fell in love with Pet Sounds by then.
By the way: Speaking of KLUV, Mike Love gave the station a shout-out before going into "California Girls."
Set list: "Do It Again" "Catch a Wave" "Don't Back Down" "Surfin' Safari" "Surfer Girl" "The Little Girl I Once Knew" "Wendy" "Then I Kissed Her" "You're So Good to Me" "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)" "Cottonfields" "Be True to Your School" "Disney Girls" "Please Let Me Wonder" "Don't Worry Baby" "Little Honda" "Little Deuce Coupe" "409" "Shut Down" "I Get Around" "Sloop John B" "Wouldn't It Be Nice" "California Dreamin'" "Forever" "Sail On, Sailor" "Heroes and Villains" "In My Room" "All This is That" "God Only Knows" "That's Why God Made the Radio" "California Girls" "Dance, Dance, Dance" "All Summer Long" "Help Me, Rhonda" "Rock and Roll Music" "Do You Wanna Dance" "Barbara Ann" "Surfin' USA"
Encore "Kokomo" "Good Vibrations" "Fun, Fun, Fun"