There’s Still Much to Love about the Beach Boys


There’s Still Much to Love about the Beach Boys: Attending a Beach Boys show in 2022 can feel a little rough. There are so many things to consider, starting very firmly with “how much Beach Boys is this Beach Boys?” The answer, to be fair, is 1/3 Beach Boys. Mike Love is clearly the leader of the pack, and he’s joined by keyboardist/vocalist Bruce Johnston who, while not an original member, has been with them since ’65. It’s notable that, if you were to have seen Brian Wilson on his most recent tour, he had Al Jardine with him, so you saw as many Beach Boys as you do with The Beach Boys. More original members. Buy anyway…

Then there’s the politics, which are undeniably wretched. Love’s Beach Boys performed at a fundraiser for former dictator-in-chief and general traitorous fascist Donald Trump, and that understandably upset Brian Wilson and Jardine who released a statement to make sure that the world new it had nothing to do with them.

And yet, as somebody who adores the music of the Beach Boys and has never seen any version of the band here in California, this writer couldn’t resist the temptation to check them out at the Greek Theatre on Sunday night..

Fears re-rose early when we spotted a Trump cap in the crowd. Vomit sat in the back of the throat for a minute. Then we took our seats and the lady sat next to us was sporting a coat hanger necklace, a symbol of anger following the Supreme Court’s recent reversal of Roe Vs. Wade. When we commented on its power, she gave us a couple (she actually made them) and asked us to make a donation to Planned Parenthood. Done deal, and we felt more comfortable knowing that we were in the company of likeminded souls.

So putting the politics to one side, there’s the simple question of the music and honestly, there’s a lot to enjoy. The vast majority, in fact. Love’s distinctive nasal tenor (for the most part) is cracking now — the man is 81 for christ’s sake. But he still sounds very much like Mike Love, and that’ll more than do.

The band he’s assembled sound note-perfect, both in terms of instrumentation and vocals. There will always be the “glorified tribute band” accusations thrown at them, as is the case with any band that loses key members (Queen, the Doors, Thin Lizzy, etc), but that feels disrespectful to Love and Johnston.

John Stamos’ inclusion in the band feels surreal. Uncle Jesse? It’s just weird. And yet he’s one of the more visually interesting pieces of this odd puzzle, and he can hold his own on the drums. Weirder still are the sporadic guest appearances from Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath, bouncing across the stage like a frat clown.

So anyway. All of The Beach Boys classic that you hope to hear, you likely hear. Highlights include “Sloop John B,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “When I Grow Up to Be a Man,” and a stellar cover of the Ramones’ “Rockaway Beach.” This writer has long maintained that Ramones songs are stripped down Beach Boys songs (that’s a compliment), so it was great to hear what one sounds like when fleshed out.

Rock & roll gems such as “409” and “Little Honda” buzz by, and that’s when this version of the band is at its best. The amazing material from Pet Sounds and Smile (“God Only Knows” with Johnston on lead, “Good Vibrations”) is a little tougher but passable. Those songs really needs Brian Wilson’s presence.

The show takes a few awful dips — not least when then perform Love’s own “Pisces Brothers” immediately after “God Only Knows.” A perfect song is followed by a very ordinary one, even if it is a tribute to George Harrison. And allowing Mark McGrath to perform Sugar Ray’s abysmal (if chart-successful) “Fly” was a horrible mistake.

But still, the highs outweighed the lows. “I Get Around,” Barbara Ann” and “Fun Fun Fun” were majestic. Country duo Locash’s appearance for the odd tribute-of-sorts “Beach Boys” (sample lyric: “let’s take the country to the beach, boys”) was not.

Ignoring few bad songs is easy when the rest of the material being performed is some of this country’s best. How much Beach Boys is this Beach Boys? That’s up to each individual to decide. But there are far worse ways to spend an evening under the California sun.

There’s Still Much to Love about the Beach Boys

 

There’s Still Much to Love about the Beach Boys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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