Monday, April 30, 2012

For Starters, At Least Their Lawyers Aren't On-Stage With Them

Well, the first reviews are in and it looks like that Beach Boys reunion tour isn't quite the pathetic spectacle I'd feared.

From the Arizona Republic:

Beach Boys tour with Brian Wilson: Strong Tucson launch

by Ed Masley - Apr. 25, 2012 03:31 AM
A 50th Anniversary tour could be seen as a fairly historic occasion. In the Beach Boys' case, the anniversary feels more like a footnote to the real news.
The great Brian Wilson is back on the road with his long-estranged bandmates for a full-scale tour that launched on Tuesday, April 24, in Tucson. This year's Grammys marked his first performance with the group since 1996. And he'd made very few appearances with them since 1989.
But there he was, Tuesday night, sharing the AVA Amphitheater stage at Casino Del Sol with Al Jardine, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and guitarist David Marks, whose original stint in the Beach Boys was less than two years but included the recording of the first four albums.
And it wasn't just historic. It was great, with 10 additional musicians fleshing out the Wall of Sound, some drawn from Brian Wilson's touring band, the others drawn from Mike Love's latest version of the Beach Boys, with John Cowsill -- of the Cowsills! -- pounding out the beat with the enthusiasm beats like that deserve.
Some would argue that those other guys were propping up the principals, especially Jeff Foskett, who handled almost all the key falsetto parts, including what would have been Wilson's entire lead vocal on "Don't Worry Baby."
But that would be missing the point.
This was a fully integrated ensemble performance of the Beach Boys' music that managed to capture the magic of those classic songs while allowing the principal members of the group to shine thanks to the musical direction of sax man Paul Von Mertens and guitarist Scott Totten. With all those extra people singing, they could duplicate the stacks of vocals and the individual components of that Wall of Sound, from flute and sax to jingle bells, harmonica and that weird little whistle on "Heroes and Villains."
After setting the tone with a recording of "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" by Wilson's heroes, the Four Freshmen, Cowsill kicked things off with the unmistakable intro of "Do It Again" as the other members of the Beach Boys took the stage. It was the perfect way to start the show: "Well, I've been thinkin' 'bout all the places we've surfed and danced and all the faces we've missed so let's get back together and do it again."
They played 43 songs in two sets with a brief intermission and a three-song encore. After following "Do It Again" with "Catch a Wave," they threw the first of many curve balls, "Don't Back Down." And then it was back to the crowd-pleasing staples with "Surfin' Safari," their breakthrough single, and "Surfer Girl," which featured Brian Wilson's first lead vocal of the night, with Foskett taking the falsetto parts.
There were plenty of hits (and songs that felt like hits because of their inclusion on that "Endless Summer" album ) in the first set, from "The Little Girl I Once Knew" and "Wendy" to "When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)" and a set-closing medley of car songs ("Little Deuce Coupe," "409," "Shut Down" and "I Get Around"). That left plenty of time for such lesser-known gems as Wilson's wistful "This Whole World," Johnston's bittersweet "Disney Girls," which gets better with age, and a breathtaking "Please Let Me Wonder" with a gorgeous wall of harmonies supporting Wilson's aching lead.
Jardine took his turn on lead vocals for "Then I Kissed Her" and "Cottonfields," the second of which earned a standing ovation.
Marks didn't sing any lead but his scrappy guitar work stole the show on more than one occasion, perfectly recapturing the post-Chuck Berry essence of those early Beach Boys solos.
Wilson seemed uncomfortable at times behind his white piano but he tended to rise to the challenge on his few turns in the vocal spotlight. "This Whole World" and "You're So Good To Me" weren't flawless but they were distinctly Brian Wilson.
As for Love, his lead vocals were just what they needed to be, relying more on personality to put a song across, which is exactly what those parts require. And he still works the crowd more than his bandmates. Introducing "Be True to Your School," he said the song they were about to do was "probably the most patriotic song ever written and recorded," going on to explain that "the song in question is about people in uniform and, in particular women in uniform."
Cheerleading uniforms, of course.
And then before the song began, he added, "We should have our heads examined trying to do some of these songs after 50 years."
If Brian seemed withdrawn at times in the first set, he came back from intermission looser, snapping his fingers while singing the opening verse of "Sloop John B" and then gesturing like he was shoveling food into his mouth when he got to the verse about the cook who got the fits and threw away all his grits.
Another nicely executed "Pet Sounds" classic, "Wouldn't It Be Nice," was followed by a touching tribute to the late great Dennis Wilson, Brian's brother, who died in 1983. They rolled video footage of Dennis singing one of his originals, "Forever," while the Beach Boys sang and played along. It struck just the right tone and may have been the emotional highlight of the show.
Before the second set was through, they did the same from Brian's other brother, Carl, who died in 1998, accompanying footage of him singing lead on yet another "Pet Sounds" song, "God Only Knows."
Other highlights of the second set included "Sail On Sailor," the "SMiLE" arrangement of "Heroes and Villains," a gorgeous "In My Room," which featured one of Brian's most effective vocals of the night, and the truly obscure "All This is That."
They gave fans a taste of an upcoming single called "That's Why God Made the Radio," hopefully singing about a new generation of radio listeners. And they finished big with a steady succession of crowd-pleasers, starting with "California Girls" and making their way through such obvious highlights as "Dance, Dance, Dance," "All Summer Long," "Help Me, Rhonda," "Barbara Ann" and "Surfin' U.S.A."
That still left three huge songs to fill the encore -- '80s comeback single "Kokomo," a rousing "Good Vibrations" and "Fun, Fun, Fun," which featured Cowsill and percussionist Nelson Bragg going nuts on the ending, effectively bringing the night to a celebratory finish.
After the show, Love said he thought it was a spectacular start to the 50th anniversary tour.
"It was special," he said of being back on stage with his old bandmates, "especially with Dennis and Carl being represented."
For Marks, who left the band in 1963, it was a very special night.
"When we get together, we revert back to the old days," he said after the show. "It's like the '60s again. We're all in disbelief. We're just so grateful that it came about and we're able to play like this after such a long period of time. I think the Beach Boys are truly blessed to be able to do this."
And although it can be hard to tell at times, that spirit seemed to carry over to their enigmatic leader. As Von Mertens said after the show, "I think vocally, Brian sounded really, really strong. And I think being with his childhood pals really kind of sparked him and inspired him to sing harder and really nail it. He was belting."

Set List:

"Do It Again" "Catch a Wave" "Don't Back Down" "Surfin' Safari" "Surfer Girl" "The Little Girl I Once Knew" "Wendy" "Then I Kissed Her" "This Whole World" "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)" "You're So Good To Me" "Cottonfields" "Be True To Your School" "Disney Girls" "Please Let Me Wonder" "Don't Worry Baby" "Little Honda" "Little Deuce Coupe" "409" "Shut Down" "I Get Around" Intermission "Sloop John B" "Wouldn't It Be Nice" "Forever" "Sail On Sailor" "Heroes and Villains" "In My Room" "All This Is That" "God Only Knows" "That's Why God Made the Radio" "California Dreamin'" "California Girls" "Dance, Dance, Dance" "All Summer Long" "Help Me, Rhonda" "Rock and Roll Music" "Do You Wanna Dance?" "Barbara Ann" "Surfin' U.S.A." Encore "Kokomo" "Good Vibrations" "Fun, Fun, Fun"

Well. Let me stipulate that set list is giving me chills just looking at it. And I'll bet there isn't a dry eye in the house when those Carl and Dennis videos play, and justifiably.

On the other hand, I'm not completely sorry I ultimately decided against getting a ticket for the upcoming show in New York City. After all, Mike Love remains a dick.

[h/t Gummo, who provided that "Surfin' Safari clip, from a show in Texas a few days after Tuscon]


Sal Nunziato said...

From what I've heard, half of that brilliant setlist was played as medleys, which I find even more annoying than Mike Love.

steve simels said...

If so....grrr.

Although, I can forgive quite a lot for a chance to hear Bruce Johnston doing "Disney Girls."

edward said...

Sorry read the headline as "Strong Tuscan Lunch" after that I was just hungry.


Shriner said...

What? No "Warmth of the Sun"?

The last Monkees tour was probably about 40 songs/2 hours -- but they apparently shortened a couple of songs by leaving out a verse. Which, admittedly, I did not catch at all.

I'm now regretting not getting a ticket for this show...

TMink said...

I am just happy that Brian made it with them.


Gummo said...

I must admit, steve, I'm shocked you decided to pass on this tour. I thought curiosity alone would compel you.

FD13NYC said...

Ahh The Beach Boys, one of my favorite bands of all time. I'm glad they're giving it a last hurrah. Of course with much help and embellishment from side players, they can somewhat re-create the old sound. Carl and Dennis are missed, but time and tragedy took care of that. I wouldn't spend the time or money to see this myself. They even dug up David Marks who left in 1963. Oh well, I'll just watch some early videos and reminisce. I say good luck to them.

Gummo said...

On further thought, maybe I do understand it --

I have not gone to see any iteration of Furthur/The Dead since 2003, when I was at a show and realized I was constantly looking at my watch, impatient for the pointless noodles that passed for Dead-style jams to end.

It was as if Lesh and Weir had joined a Grateful Dead cover band. It was depressing.

So yeah, on second thought, maybe I do understand your reluctance to tarnish your memories with reality...

steve simels said...

Gummo -- saw Brian with a lot of the musicians in tow on this jaunt late last year, in a small club, and it was glorious.

I'm happy they're doing this, and I await the live album and video with some anticipation, but the sound at the Beacon -- which is where the Beach Boys are playing -- sucks pretty much everywhere you sit, plus I dislike Mike so much it would spoil my fun even if the sound was great.

Cangrejero said...

I went to the Raleigh, NC show last night, and they played almost exactly the same set list. Observations:

Yes, there were two strings of hits done as medleys: Little Honda-Little Deuce Coupe-409-Shut Down-I Get around to go into the intermission and Help Me, Rhonda-Rock and Roll Music-Do You Wanna Dance-Barbara Ann-Surfin' USA to close out before the encore. They did probably 75% of each song, though.

Mike Love is still a dick.

At one point, Mike was rambling about a football game he and Brian attended in the 1958 when Brian completely cut him off and said "We're going to do a great rock song now!" It was a little awkward but funny.

Brian came out from behind the piano and played the bass for a few songs at the end and it was great, although he needed help getting up and down.

There were indeed lots of tears for "Forever," even the over-the-top self-aware pitchfork attendees spilled a few (only semi-ironic) tears into their pbrs.

I don't know how you guys feel about Jeff Foskett (youtube commenters seem to hate him) but I thought he was awesome.

Honestly, I feel the show was a very pleasant surprise and definitely had the feel of a great rock show more than it did a sad nostalgia act. I'm glad I got to see it.

steve simels said...

I should add that the first big-time rock concert I attended was the Beach Boys at the Asbury Park Convention Center in June of 1965. Glen Campbell pretending to be Brian.

It was the week before "California Girls" got released, and they did it with the intro "This is our new single, hope you like it."

Total teen scream show -- there were girls weeping and trying to rush the stage and the cops dragged them out.

It was awesome on every level.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I'm just glad it isn't a total embarrassment. In five or ten years I'll listen to "SMiLE" again, "Johnny Carson", and a couple Dennis tunes. That's all the Beach Boys I need.
The chorus of "That's Why God Made The Radio" is gorgeous, too bad it isn't part of a real song.

Anonymous said...

John Cowsill IS awesome. Saw him in Jan and Dean's band in the mid 80's and he DROVE that band (like all good drummers should). Also sang lead on a terrific "Darlin'."

dave™© said...

I've seen Brian several times in solo shows over the past 12 years or so. These shows have all been with the Jeff Foskett/Wondermints backup band.

Brian is In. Charge. The Wondermints playing live easily match the recorded Wrecking Crew, and since it's "live," it's even more amazing.

This current tour sounds like it's Brian and band with special guest appearances by a couple of former bandmates he likes and one guy who he feels sorry for because he needs the money. The fact that "Little Girl I Once Knew" is showing up in the repertoire (the song Brian opened his first solo show in SF back in '99) tells me he's the one calling the shots - as always.