|Hello Everyone—Not really a review..but rather some comments and observations about the current tour.Along with my regular circle of Beach Boys Friends, we went to see the Beach Boys last Friday Night, June 1, 2012 at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California, just above the University of California Berkeley Campus. I had seen the Beach Boys at this same venue back in 1979!! Plus Brian and his band had performed here back in 2005 or 2006. The Sold Out crowd of 9000 filled the stands for the show, and what a show it was!!But let me say this first. Many of you on this board have read my posts and I have said many times over the last couple of years how I was against a reunion of the surviving members. But, I have no problem swallowing my pride and I’ll be the first to say that I need to eat my words. But to be fair, I will still lean toward this opinion on certain levels, as no matter what, a FULL reunion will never be done without Carl and Dennis Wilson. But who gives a crap. Isn’t it more about the music than most anything else? Do we always cares who’s on stage?And as another of my friends pointed out as well, after 1964, Brian wasn’t around for so many, many years, when it came to the touring Beach Boys. And at times during the 1980s..Dennis missed quite a few shows due to his abuses and his being fired from the band at least two, maybe three times. And of course, since Carl Wilson’s passing, it’s really been Mike and Bruce doing the shows. Not really “The Beach Boys” per se. Regardless, this current reunion tour is amazing and I will admit I’m glad they did get it together, as last Friday’s show was well worth the price of admission and I’m very glad I didn’t miss it!!Yet..this show had all the ups and downs of a Greek Tragedy last Friday night. There were definitely a lot of emotions spilling out from just about anyone who had been a fan for any period of time over the last 50 years of the bands existence. Near the front entrance, near the Will Call, the ticket agents had laid out on the ground, bags with the items you received when you bought the VIP Tickets. Each bag had a sticker on top with a name attached, and it made me think of all these different people, with different backgrounds, coming together for whatever reasons to celebrate the Beach Boys. Some are clearly just causal fans, some are hardcore fans, and some are somewhere in between. Whatever the case, they were all brought to this venue tonight to hear the music of the Beach Boys. Thinking of the friends I had come to the show with this night as well, I could obviously see the similarities. Many of us were also brought together by the music of the Beach Boys and some of us had now seen shows together for over 30 years!! In fact, as I said earlier, I saw the Beach Boys show here in 1979, and there were at least 5 others in this night’s group, who were at the show with me back then. And regardless of the Beach Boys, our friendships endure. I think many know what I’m talking about.The show in itself was exceptional to me. But this is because to some degree…I knew what to expect. I’d been reading the message boards, and had viewed many of the clips which are now posted on Youtube. So when Brian came out and sat down behind his piano, I expected him to be more like an observer and figurehead to the others. He was rarely animated during the show, but he did know his cues, and did sing his parts without a hitch. He rarely smiled and barely acknowledged the crowd, and I guess this may have reminded some, of Brian on stage during the early 1980s, where he was clearly going through a rough time (it was before Landy stepped in, the 2nd time). So I will say, as I’ve said before, I’m not sure Brian being on stage is really the best thing for him. But don’t get me wrong. I’m glad he was there, but I still feel if Brian wanted to stay home, and not do this tour, I and many would be “okay” with it.I enjoyed the songs he sang, except perhaps for “Marcella” which was done so straight and flat, that it just didn’t rock. For those who’ve seen Brian’s band over the last 10 years or so, know Brian’s band really rocks “Marcella”. For this tour, they’re holding it back…for whatever reasons? Who knows….and it’s still in the set, because I’m told Brian “loves to sing it”. Hopefully next time, he won’t do that little intro (Taylor Mills usually did it) before going into the song as his voice cracked very badly!! I could hear people saying some “not so nice” things about this as well!
I also feel David Marks was really not featured as much as I expected him to be. He did play some great lead guitar and also sang “Hawaii”…but I guess, on some songs he was more a “backup” band player, than one of the original founding Beach Boys celebrating their 50th. I suppose this is okay as he was only around for about 4-5 albums before he quit back in 1963…or 1964…
Bruce was also barely audible on stage. He needs to sing more leads! Sure, he sang “Disney Girls” which I thought was great, but other than sharing the lead on “Do You Wanna Dance” and his tag parts on “God Only Knows” and “California Girls”, he was barely audible throughout the show. Every time I looked over, he was clapping his hands at the audience instead of sitting behind his microphone to sing. Has he really been reduced to being more of a “cheerleader”, now that the others are on stage with him and Mike? I suppose, he would like to get back to things with Mike…as the Beach Boys, so he can be more involved. But scratch this. He doesn’t sing many lead even with the Mike Beach Boys’ Band. Go figure! And as usual, Mike teased him about writing “I Write The Songs” for Barry Manilow, to which Bruce said something like “Okay..enough already!!”. The interaction was quite funny.
Mr. Jardine, was again, back in his element. He seemed to be the one who’s enjoying the tour and the performance more than anyone. For the first time on this tour, he chose to perform “California” and it sounded quite good. Not perfect, but the band stepped up to closely imitate what you hear on the record. I enjoyed “Then I Kissed Her” and it was amazing to hear so many singing along to “Help Me. Rhonda” which completely rocked the house. But even though I love “Cotton Fields” on the studio “SINGLE” version, especially now that it’s available in Stereo (See HAWTHORNE, CA cd) the song really doesn’t have a place in the Beach Boys set list, as it wasn’t a hit in the USA. They should save this one for Europe and Australia and Asia…where it’s more known. I think the performance was good on it, nonetheless….
Now..Mr. Mike Love. He carries the show..with his sometimes silly commentary in between songs. But he also seems to step back out of the way, on the songs he probably doesn’t want in the set list (things like “IJWMFTT” and “Marcella” and even “Please Let Me Wonder” ) which is sad…cause his bass vocal adds so much at times. Of course..his voice isn’t as strong as it was before and his microphone was cutting out time and time again during this night. Still, his voice sounded fairly strong throughout the night. I was disappointed when they performed “It’s Okay”. Even though I’m glad it’s in the set, the arrangement drags it down. This is still a great “undiscovered” classic Beach Boys’ songs. (Should have been a hit) It just needed a bit more punch, even though it was Brian who sang Dennis’ part on the end, “Find a ride…”.
Do I sound negative so far? Naaa..just looking at it with a little perspective. A lot of songs were amazing!! “Rock and Roll Music” just rocked…as did the one I really hate, “Barbara Ann”…which just tore up the place. I can do without “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”…why they do it? Cause Mike loves the song. And “All This Is That” was very nice and dreamy!! There were also very pleasing versions of “Please Let Me Wonder” and “Kiss Me, Baby”.
The set list had a little bit for everyone. The “Add Some Music To Your Day” to open the 2nd set was wonderful. The crowd cheered when they started to go into it. It was definitely cool to see them all around the piano, with Brian doing some of the directing. And I’m also surprised how much “Heroes and Villains” got the crowd moving and singing along!! And on the back screen, an old SMiLE era Black and White film played during the song’s performance, showing Hal Blaine and all the Beach Boys, but notably Dennis who was smiling and winking at the camera. Coolness.
Brian’s “Sail On Sailor” was a lesson in struggling to “get through the lyrics”..but it’s a hard song to sing, but at least Mike Love’s daughter didn’t do it, as she’s done at many other shows. I’m not saying this to criticize her, but I’d rather hear one of the Beach Boys’ sing it..
I almost forgot to mention, the two new songs from the new album. In the first set, they played “Isn’t It Time” which is slated to be the next single from the album. Great song. Nice catchy hook and the audience responded to it was a nice applause. Later, in the 2nd set, they did feature “That’s Why God Made The Radio”, which also sound like an old favorite. Both songs are a clear indication of the strong material written for the new album, which is out on Tues, June 5th here in the states.
Finally,the tributes to Dennis and Carl. It’s sad to know many at the show didn’t know the song “Forever”. It’s such a great song and to do it on this tour is such a heartfelt tribute to Dennis. Many who knew the song were definitely getting tears. And on “God Only Knows”, using Carl’s voice track from the June 21, 1980 Knebworth show, made the song come alive. The band accompanied Carl’s vocal with a stunning performance. Once more there were many tears in the audience. This part of the show worked quite well. Both Dennis and Carl were part of the show, and the crowd loved it!!
Anyway…I do put the show in my TOP TEN best Beach Boys shows. There was a great song selection…there was a great backing band, which did it’s best to cover all the little details…you’ll be amazed how much Paul Von Mertens (did I get the name right?) flute came through on some songs…and even Darian Sahanaja’s vibes came through as well. Nicky Wonder’s guitar playing was masterful, as he trades leads with the other guitar plays on stage.
John Cowsill is a “thrashing drummer” like Dennis..which I think adds to the backbeat…and make the drums sound monsterous! It was cool to see Jeff Foskett playing Mandolin on the Intro to “Disney Girls” but I personally dislike his falsetto. Sure, he hits the notes and carries the backing vocals, but sometimes he sounds too mechanical. I just hear the notes but he seems to squeeze a lot of the emotion out of his performance. Filling Carl’s shoes is not the easiest thing to do, but I think Carl sang with a lot of passion, and didn’t worry if he hit the notes perfectly all the time. I think it’s also a good idea to possibly bring in Matt Jardine to help with the backing vocals.
The other musician also played their part. I could hear Probyn Gregory quite well with his French Horn on “God”…and he played a mean bass on a couple of songs as well. He and Mike D’Amico switched instruments from time to time. And of course, Nelson Bragg…was like a madman on the percussion. He was moving the whole time!! Scott Bennett was also doing a great job on the keyboards (along with Darian), but he was almost unnoticeable on the stage. And although I recognize his ability as a great guitarist, I didn’t care much for Scott Toten singing “Ballad Of Ole Betsy”. To me it’s a “throw away” song on this tour. It’s also funny to me how Mike Love goes on and on about the lyrics. He has commented a lot about the lyrics by Roger Christian, calling them so “deep and moving”. (Check the recent MOJO article, where he comments about it) This seems funny in a sense, as he somewhat tends to dismiss some of the Van Dyke Park lyrics on some of the SMiLE tracks? Go figure!! Anyway..so many other songs the band could do instead. Something from FRIENDS and WILD HONEY would be welcomed.
There are many shows still left on this tour, so other songs will definitely be done.
Overall the show was worth every penny. To see all everyone singing together and appearing to have a great time, made it worthwhile.
And although they haven’t added too many UK shows yet (hopefully there will more to come)…please try to get out to see the show. I did run into quite a few UK Fans (who I knew from the STOMP conventions over the years) who had flown over to see the show. They were telling me after the show how much it was worth it to make the trip.
Yes..definitely worth it.
I won’t post a track list…it’s probably on the SMILEY SMILE board somewhere if you really need to see it….
pictures kindly provided by Kimberley Smith