Beach Boys share 50 years of good vibrations
Fifty years ago, three brothers, their cousin and a good friend discovered a sweet brand of vocal harmony that within a few short years changed the face of American pop music forever.
A half century later, the Beach Boys brought their California surf and sun to the Marcus Amphitheater Sunday night. It's been a long and sometimes painful journey, with the loss of Dennis and Carl Wilson and Brian Wilson's personal problems. But for the baby boomers at Summerfest Sunday night, the 2012 iteration of this iconic band left nothing to be desired.
To put their contribution to rock music in context, consider: 36 top 40 hits (no American rock band has more), four No. 1 singles, two No. 1 albums and over 100 million recordings sold. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and the highest American rock band ranking (No. 12) in Rolling Stone Magazine's 2004 list of the Greatest Artists of All Time. 'Nuff said.
For all intents and purposes, Brian Wilson stopped touring with the band in the mid-1960s, but this anniversary reunion of Wilson with Mike Love, Al Jardine, Dave Marks and Bruce Johnston made for a triumphant tour de force of the best of 50 years of makes-you-feel-good music.
While much of the evening was dedicated to the oldies that the oldies came to hear, we were treated to a taste of their latest release, "That's Why God Made the Radio."
The Beach Boys trace their musical roots, in part, to folk and blues, the former evident in "Sloop John B" and the latter in a cover of Leadbelly's "Cotton Fields." In each case where they covered, they made the song their own in their distinctive Beach Boys voice.
Backed by eight talented sidemen, the evening's repertoire included 45 songs that spanned their venerable career. From the opening "Do It Again" to the third song of their encore, "Fun, Fun, Fun," they rocked us with the exquisite harmonies that made them the most popular American band of their generation.
From the plaintive "When I Grow Up to be a Man" to the foot-stomping, gotta-get-up-and-dance "Rock and Roll Music" and "Barbara Ann," the Boys demonstrated that time has neither diminished their talents nor inhibited the joy the find in sharing their music.
While the crowd – mostly folks who qualify for senior discounts, but with a nice spattering of younger fans – stayed in their seats for most of the first set, the tributes to the automobile ("Little Deuce Coupe," "409," "Shut Down" and "I Get Around" brought them to their feet. And they stayed there for most of the second set.
Two selections from their June CD, "Isn't It Time" and the title track demonstrated that the Beach Boys are not just a feel-good nostalgia band, but have the goods to compete for the attention of a new generation of fans. (And Billboard seems to agree, as the CD is No. 3 on its chart.)
In touching tributes to Dennis and Carl, videos of them performing were shown as Jardine sang "Forever" for Dennis and "God Only Knows" for Carl.
The second set opened with the instrumental, "Pet Sounds," followed by the group gathered around Brian Wilson at the piano for "Add Some Music to Your Day." One could imagine the same scene 50 years ago as the band began to explore their music in the seclusion of Brian's room.
The 50th anniversary tour continues and we expect that this is not the last we have heard from the Beach Boys. And that's a good thing.
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