The Beach Boys bring the fun, fun, fun
Bank of America Pavilion, Boston, June 26, 2012
Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
That American mainstay of fun in the sun, aka The Beach Boys, are on a role. They are touring in honor of their 50th anniversary as a band, and fortunately they even have new material to play for their fans for the first time in 16 years with "That's Why God Made the Radio."
These guys obviously are no spring chickens. Brian Wilson turned 70 just last week and said he was feeling like a man of 45.
Not sure that's exactly true based on this concert because, frankly, The Beach Boys put on one fine show after quickly shifting into gear not long into the first of two sets.
After seemingly racing through the songs at the outset too quickly, The Beach Boys settled into a groove for the duration of the 2 ½-hour concert.
This was a show that mixed the hits, of course, with songs that were never even released as singles (the Maharishi inspired This Is That and Disney Girls, the latter sung by keyboardist Bruce Johnston).
Mike Love took the lion's share of the lead vocals. Even at 71, Love does the songs justice, except on the Kokomo, the first song of the three-song encore, where the vocals could not be heard and didn't measure up.
Al Jardine added a spark when he sang with a good chunk of energy and commitment. Lead guitarist David Marks added lots of very meaty guitar licks throughout and a lead vocal or two. Marks' guitar playing beefed up the sound and was a welcome addition.
Brian Wilson was a bit of an enigmatic figure. His personal issues as well as those with the other Boys have been well documented. Wilson also is the guiding genius behind The Beach Boys. On the new disc, he helped write 11 of the 12 songs.
One sure hoped he felt the joy that the music brought because he often didn't put it on display. During the great Good Vibrations, he told the crowd "clap. clap," and they responded in one of the most enjoyable songs of the evening. But during both sets, Wilson left the stage first before the song had quite concluded. Quite simply, Wilson doesn't show the outward joy of his band mates.
What the concert also proved is just how innovative Wilson was. Songs by The Beach Boys, of course, emphasize fun times at the beach, surfing or riding a car, but some of these songs are incredibly complex with musical shifts, twists and turns. Wilson is simply a true musical genius.
The Beach Boys played only two songs from the new disc - the title track and Isn't It Time. Both worked with the title song having input from all of The Beach Boys, making it a group effort. The Boys, of course, face the same problem that similar acts face - the fans want to hear the hits, making it difficult to play any new material. Of course, how many times can you expect fans to keep coming out for the same old songs being trotted out? (In the case of The Beach Boys, that may be a lot in reality).
Except for the closing song of the night, Fun, Fun, Fun, Wilson was perched behind his white piano. He took a bunch of lead songs, and his voice has not changed much in recent years.
None of the Beach Boys can hit the high hits, which makes Jeff Foskett extremely indispensable. Time and again, Foskett reached the upper registers, making the songs work. The other key contributor was drummer John Cowsill (he was a member of the family band The Cowsills), who kept an extremely steady pace throughout the show.
In fact, the entire backing ensemble was stellar. Yes, this was a show filled with golden oldies and covers (excellent ones including Leadbelly's Cottonfields to And He Kissed Me to Do You Wanna Dance, but you would not have known it based on the performance. Along with the mainstays, the hired helped performed admirably.
This was never a case of The Beach Boys going through the motions. Far from it. Who knows? Maybe it was the golden anniversary. Maybe it was the chance to sing new songs finally from an album that was the third best selling CD in the U.S. when it came out three weeks ago.
Whatever the reason, The Beach Boys proved themselves to be a band of depth, diversity and lots of "fun, fun, fun."