The Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Tour
Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
For all of Mike Love's one-liners and facetious hard-selling of the Beach Boys' new material, it was easy to take him seriously when he mentioned the need to take a breather in he middle of their 50th Anniversary tour in Irvine at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.
"Since it is our 50th anniversary, we'd like to take an intermission, maybe a nap, get a sandwich, come back out and finish this thing," the spry, 71-year-old said. He was only half-kidding, but really, could you blame him?
Re-uniting for the first time in 20 years, the original surviving members of the Beach Boys took the stage in OC to resume their role as America's Band, unleashing wave after wave of Top 40 hits, harmonic nostalgia and a half-a-century's-worth of songwriting. The groups world tour, which began in Arizona in April, is scheduled to sail all the way into into September. Riding high on the excitement over this year's Grammy performance, the fruition of this tour satisfies an epic wait for those who watched surf rock icon Brian Wilson, Love and guitarist Al Jardine perform a host of solo shows over the years. Even with a slight chill in the air, a summer's-worth of surf boards, beach bunnies and acid trip harmonies washed over a multi-generational legion of fans in Hawaiian shirts.
They opened the show ever-so-appropriately with "Do It Again," a hit from the summer of '68 which Love commanded as he gripped the mic with a fist full of gold rings and sly, lip-curled charisma (and one of the freshest, yellow members-only jackets we've ever seen).
Barreling through the classic chapter of their set, Brian Wilson's presence behind a large white piano was stoic and limited on classics like "Catch A Wave," and
"Faster, Faster" "Little Honda" as he sang along dutifully with Jardine, Bruce Johnston and guitarist David Marks. Of course his love-lorn rendition of "Surfer Girl" inspired some cheers that made Wilson--who took a drug-addled departure from the group in 1965--crack a smile.
As decent as they sounded for a group of aged rock stars, the three-hour hit marathon would've been impossible without the aid of their 10-piece backing band that loomed behind them or (in the case of ace guitar/vocalist Jeffrey Foskett) strategically between them to keep all of their signature, layered harmonies and high-cresting falsettos of "Don't Worry, Baby" intact.
Before the end of the set (that went out with a rapid fire assault of iconic car songs "Little Deuce Coupe," and "I Get Around") Wilson and company scored big with "Isn't It Time," a cut from their new album That's Why God Made the Radio (due out on Tuesday), which owed much to warm ukele hand-clapping and fresh, baroque pop sensibilities. We'd appreciate it even more after hearing the album's title track, which sounded pretty bland in comparison.
Throughout the show, the audience's demeanor morphed according to the band's movement through the catalog. During the rollicking surf rock stuff, people emptied their seats and proceeded to jive. When Wilson unleashed his rough, plaintive voice on "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" and other theremin-laced Pet Sounds material, joints were sparked. During the band's sincere, brotherly tribute to long-deceased members Carl and Dennis Wilson (including "Forever" and "God Only Knows") you could probably hear the collective "Awww" from outside the amphitheater.
Though some of the elderly seemed to split a little early, the band was kind to those who stayed, leaving the stage only momentarily before popping back out for an encore--though Love's breathy version of "Kokomo" showed signs he and the band were fading fast. They got a big last minute gust of audience participation on "Barbara Ann" and "Fun, Fun," proving that even in old age, the band's summery harmonies can still inspire us to ride a wave (or in this case, a concert) right down to the very end.
Critical bias: Other than Pet Sounds and Smile, everything I knew of the Beach Boys' music came from old surfing videos and listening to 99.9 FM Kola.
The crowd: Old white dudes still hanging on to their ponytails, sandal-wearing Jeff Spicloi look-alikes, mother and daughter duos fawning over images of Dennis Wilson projected on the big screen, and enough Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirts to fill up an entire Trader Joe's.
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Overheard: "Even after all these years, you'd think they could tailor a white suit for Al Jardine that would actually fit."
Random Notebook Dump: Is it just us or did the drummer for the band look eerily like Dennis Wilson in the late '60s? Maybe it was just the hair.