Wednesday, February 19, 2014

CONCERT REVIEW: The Beach Boys (2.16.14)

Photos: Christopher Long
The Beach Boys
King Center / Melbourne, FL

My first live rock
concert experience
was The Beach Boys
back in 1977 — I was
just 14 years old.
37 years later, I
checked in for
another dose of 
"Good Vibrations."

I've always said that there are only two kinds of people in the world — "Beach Boys" people and "Beatles" people. For the record, I am 100% unequivocally, a "Beach Boys" person. I certainly mean no disrespect to the Fab Four — bless their hearts, they did the best that they could.

The story of The Beach Boys is an epic tale. Initially the vision of singer / songwriter and producer, Brian Wilson, the five-piece combo from sunny southern California first rose to international pop prominence in 1962 — just prior to the "British Invasion."

Beach Boys co-founding
frontman, Mike Love.
50+ years and countless gold records later, they've endured more than probably any other pop group — hits and misses, deaths, divorces and addictions, intra band conflicts and splintered line-ups. So, given all the hoo-ha, two questions seem logical: 1) Is the group performing tonight really The Beach Boys? 2) Is there any "fun, fun, fun" factor in only one original member and one nearly-original member celebrating the group's much-loved music? Hmm, let's see.

The King Center was packed to the rafters as the Mike Love-fronted, 2014 incarnation of The Beach Boys took center stage — kicking off the show with the 1968 Top 20 single, "Do it Again." And in short order, a marathon, cavalcade of classics ensued.

Bruce Johnston
Like visiting old friends, Love and longtime vocalist / keyboardist / bassist, Bruce Johnston, both were personable and engaging. "After that we'll be taking an intermission, followed by a nap," Love joked at the conclusion of their 1962 hit, "Surfin' Safari" — a mere 12 minutes into the show.

Despite the noticeable absence of surviving original members, Brian Wilson and Al Jardine  — drummer John Cowsill, guitarist Scott Totten, keyboardist Tim Bonhomme, guitarist Christian Love, and bassist Randell Kirsch, successfully rekindled the Beach Boys magic.

John Cowsill
The first set brought back many great memories and  included such iconic staples as "Catch a Wave," "Surf City," "Be True to Your School," "Little  Deuce Coup," "Shut Down" and "I Get Around." One particularly noteworthy moment occurred during the 1963 chart-buster, "Surfer Girl," when Love prompted the legions of Baby Boomers to break out their cell phones — instantly, the venue became a sea of blue light and blue hair — take that, Bieber!

Following an intermission, the band revved up for Set Two with a rousing remake of the Mamas & the Papas' "California Dreamin'."  Packed with equal pop power as the first half, the second also featured such must-play biggies as "Kokomo," "California Girls," "Good Vibrations," "Barbara Ann" and the audience sing-along, "Help Me Rhonda." 

The highlight of the evening was the triple-shot tribute to Brian Wilson's 1966 production masterpiece, Pet Sounds,  that included "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "Sloop John B." and "God Only Knows" — the latter was a chilling duet between the live band and the late Carl Wilson via archived footage projected across the huge onstage video screen. And it was the classic clips and stills shown throughout the night that truly enhanced the overall fun factor and added extra zing to the band's story and music. Plus, giant images of the late Dennis Wilson always should grace any Beach Boys stage. Just sayin'.

Two and half hours, and nearly 40 songs later, the band wrapped up the show by bringing the crowd to its feet with the signature Beach Boys anthem, "Surfin' USA" — only to return to the stage in short order for the high-octane encore of "Wild Honey" and "Fun, Fun, Fun."

Okay, so was this really The Beach Boys? Well, that question continues to fuel considerable debate among fans. However, two things are for sure — the current configuration is a tremendous band that delivers an incredible show — one that complements The Beach Boys' legacy.

-Christopher Long
(February 2014)

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