There was a buzz of energy in the room, because even with the absence of Brian Wilson, a performance by any of the Beach Boys reliving their catalog is a bucket-list level of concert to watch. If that wasn’t enough, at least one person in attendance was sold on the idea John Stamos might be there, and members of the crowd could be heard debating whether tonight would yield an appearance from Uncle Jesse.
When a Mike Love-led Beach Boys came out on stage to cheers, it was noticeable that to replace a band of originally five members, there were 10 musicians on stage. That’s a lot of people for any group — a college ska band would have probably said to drop a few people. Sometimes a number that high can result in a too-many-cooks situation and muddle the sound with the overactivity of the various instruments on stage, but every song sounded like it was perfect remaster of the original track.
Around 20 minutes in, Love addressed the hard-hearing elephant in the room when he announced they would be “taking an intermission, followed by a nap.”
The crowd laughed (while silently warming to the idea), and anytime Love spoke, the theater was clinging to every word. He paid tribute to the members of the band who had died and refrained from any ill words directed toward Brian Wilson (they have a longstanding feud). Love’s singing voice held up as well as could be expected, even if his voice would occasionally be lost under the swell of the music.
The crowd took a little time to truly come alive, and as the band started singing the Beach Boys’ most famous hits, movement broke out along the rows. One man in particular stood long before everyone else and danced while taking selfies. He should be in jail right now. Standing guy, if you’re reading this — because you know who are: You’re not a party guy. You’re in your late 40s, hip-swiveling to "Surfin’ USA" and blocking people’s views. There’s a social contract in place that we all sit or we all stand, and if you go rogue, then there’s chaos. That’s probably what started all the fighting at Altamont.
The Beach Boys have some of the greatest songs ever written, and to hear them live was a lifetime memory to have.
The Beach Boys have some of the greatest songs ever written, and to hear them live was a lifetime memory to have. And yes, it’s easy to make a bunch of old-people jokes because it’s fun, and they’re not reading this anyway, because they got distracted by a pop-up ad while reading the first paragraph. But any snark or skepticism about the power of their music was crushed when the lights lowered and they played "Surfer Girl" to a swaying crowd. It was so pure and perfect a moment, and it created a silencing wave of chills that made the hairs on the back of the neck stand up.
Traces of the Beach Boys exist in almost every pop act that exists to this day. Bands like Weezer wouldn’t even be here without the structure the Beach Boys created, and it’s astonishing how a band formed in the '60s is still watching over a torch so heavy, that decades later, no group has been able to properly manage the weight and carry it forward.
The Beach Boys’ songs are a testament to the transformative power of music. When "God Only Knows" started playing, no one in the crowd was who they were when they walked in. Gray hairs were going to be long in their future, and adulthood was a mysterious term filled with undiscovered secrets. As those familiar notes played, they were 16, lowering the needle for the first time on a song that would be the soundtrack of their first romance.
And as people left that night, you could see they would be teenagers again for days afterward.