Concert Review: The Beach Boys, August 18, CNE Bandshell

beach boys

The history of the Beach Boys is a long and complicated one, one which involves some conflicts, membership changes, and a splintering of the group on more than one occasion. For some time, Mike Love has been touring his version of the band while Al Jardine toured a group referred to as Beach Boys Family and Friends. It’s a more common story in music than you might think, with bands like Black Flag and Queensryche going through similar identity crises at the moment. However, The Beach Boys put all of that behind them last year as all of the surviving members reunited for a 50th anniversary tour and the release of a new album, That’s Why God Made The Radio. Or at least it seemed that way. Once that tour was finished, Love went back to business as usual, touring his version of the band with Bruce Johnston while turfing Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks. Love comes out looking like the bad guy in this scenario, despite claiming that he can’t fire Brian Wilson and making vague accusations of mysterious forces ruining the Beach Boys reunion. It seems to me, though, that no one ruined the Beach Boys but Mike Love.

This is not to say that Love’s version of the Beach Boys put on a bad show per se – the band sounded fairly tight, and they’ve got a pretty solid catalogue of songs to work with, but while it sounded okay, it really seemed like a rote performance, essentially tantamount to seeing a  cover band that also happens to feature an original member. So yes, it was kind of a fun show and people certainly seemed to be enjoying the trip down memory lane, but unlike last year’s reunion tour (which I admittedly missed, but have seen the setlists for), there wasn’t much delving into the more ambitious side of the band. This was strictly a nostalgia kick. Rather than please some of the diehard fans with, say, “Trancendental Mediatation,” or “Disney Girls,” Love and crew stuck to the most obvious Beach Boys tunes. Those songs are, of course, classics, yet there is something fairly absurd and amusing about a couple of guys in their 70s singing about cruising to the hamburger stand in your daddy’s car, being true to your school and what it will be like “When I Grow Up.” Still, the band did acknowledge this a bit with Love joking early on in the set that they were going to take an intermission and then a nap.

I was also somewhat puzzled at the inclusion of a few cover songs from the same era that were added to to the setlist.  Sure, “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” is a great song, but why bother doing that when the Beach Boys had so many great songs of their own? Especially when it’s sung by one of the hired guns that are a part of Love’s band. If I wanted to hear some random guy sing a Frankie Lymon song, I could probably find a karaoke bar somewhere.

A few more observations on the show:

  • With his goatee and loud, colourful shirt, Mike Love resembles Don Cherry.  Take that as you will.
  • A bizarre moment where the band led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” for John Stamos was strangely, the second Stamos-related musical moment I have been witness to recently, the first being when Stamos sat in with Willie Nelson at last weekend’s Outside Lands fest in San Francisco.  I’m not sure Willie was ever actually aware of Stamos’ presence onstage.
  • Bruce Johnston really should be given more to do on stage. Like maybe sing “Disney Girls.”
  • Also, Mike Love made a joke about Johnston being the only one in the group to win a Grammy, but that it was unfortunately for writing “I Write The Songs.” Shut up, Mike Love. Don’t try to pretend you’re cooler than Barry Manilow. The Beach Boys are, but you’re not.
  • The tribute to Carl Wilson where the band played along with his vocal track for “God Only Knows” was a nice moment.
  • There was some seriously overpriced stuff at the merch table. I’ve come to accept the fact that bands sell t-shirts for $35, but $5 for a rubber bracelet or a beer coozie is a bit much.
  • “Kokomo” is actually a pretty good song.

So ultimately, I got what I expected out of this. It was a bit cheesy, but at least I get to say I’ve seen The Beach Boys in some shape or form. As a nostalgia trip of sorts, it was fun enough, though a little disappointing. Maybe not quite fun fun fun, but it was alright.

Posted on by Paul in Concerts