The Beach Boys’ golden anniversary concert tour has attracted a lot of attention not only obviously because of the milestone but it also marks the first time in 16 years that original members Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine have appeared on stage together. Numerous lawsuits ranging from songwriting credit to the use of the Beach Boys name have caused such hard feelings that all of the aforementioned trio have had their own bands on the road at the same time over the years.
Perhaps, it’s nostalgia, or the fact that they have all celebrated their 70th birthdays, or that the paycheck that comes with playing together is too good to pass up, or a little of each, but Wilson, Love and Jardine have set aside their differences for this gigantic summer tour. They've even brought along longtime Beach Boys keyboardist Bruce Johnston, and guitarist David Marks, who played with them in 1962 and has done so on occasion since, for the gigs, including one at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan on May 9.
The night started out on the right note with the 1968 hit, “Do It Again,” a song that at the time lamented the loss of the simpler world of a mere five years earlier. Things got momentarily bumpy right after that. Love appeared to both lose his voice on, and forget the lyrics to, “Hawaii,” as David Marks quickly took over the lead vocals. Wilson, who has battled both vocal and mental problems nearly all of his life, appeared disengaged singing off-key versions of “Surfer Girl,” and “You’re So Good To Me,” a mediocre tune loosely based on the Phil Spector-Ronettes’ classic, “Be My Baby.”
Happily, like a great pitcher who gives up a few early runs and then nicely settles down, so did the Beach Boys. Love regained his mojo on the car hits medley of “Little Honda/Little Deuce Coupe/Shut Down/I Get Around.” His leads on “California Girls,” “Rock & Roll Music,” and “Good Vibrations” were as good as I remember.
Wilson saved his best for after the intermission. His bandmates gathered around him to sing as he played piano on “Add Some Music To Your Day,” just as they had probably done countless times for him in the 1960s. He brought the house down with solid renditions of “Sail On, Sailor” and “Sloop John B.”
Jardine has always been the least-heralded of the group, but time has been incredibly kind to his voice. He sounded just like he did when he sang the lead vocals on the recordings of “Help Me, Rhonda” and “Cotton Fields.” Al was called on to handle the lead vocals on “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Do You Wanna Dance,” and their terrific cover of the Mamas & Papas’ “California Dreaming.”
During the show Love broke the audience up when he said, “Brian, it’s good to have you here because I get to do songs that I normally don’t get to do.” Beach Boys fans who have long wanted more than hearing just the greatest hits in concert got their wish as the guys dug deep for album cuts as diverse as “Please Let Me Wonder,” “This Whole World,” “This And That,” “Marcella” and “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times.”
There were the obligatory film tribute clips to the two deceased Beach Boys, Brian’s brothers Carl and Dennis Wilson. It also helped get the overly solemn“God Only Knows” and the dreadful “Forever” out of way.
The Beach Boys showed that they can still cut a catchy new tune as “That’s Why God Made The Radio” captured their trademark four-part harmonies as they paid tribute to the golden era of Top 40 AM radio. It was kind of fitting since the week marked the 30th anniversary of 770 WABC switching from music to talk.
All in all, it was a night of good vibrations and fun, fun, fun.