SAN ANTONIO – The touring edition of The Beach Boys, led by Mike Love and Bruce Johnston, performed for the first time at Majestic Theatre on Monday. Ageless actor-musician John Stamos was with the legendary California band, which featured singing drummer John Cowsill of the Cowsills.
Frontman Mike Love is often portrayed as the bad guy in the Beach Boys story. But there is no debate that he was the energetic nasal voice of the band’s greatest hits, which was illustrated time and again on Monday, beginning with “Do It Again” and “Little Honda” to “Fun, Fun, Fun” and Surfin’ USA.”
If the audience was creaky (the average age of the sold-out crowd looked to be about 70, if not older), the surf band was not. There were even some surprises amid the 40-song set list.
What made the night really memorable were some lesser-known songs from deep in the Beach Boys’ catalog. Stamos, who played drums much of the night and even electric guitar, sang lead on the Dennis Wilson classic “Forever.”
“The Beach Boys were my idols,” said Stamos, who later donned a “Wilson” T-shirt. “We’re lucky to have the Beach Boys’ music when the world is so topsy turvy. This is America’s band. Nothing represents America more than these guys.”
Likewise, Cowsill was impressive singing from behind the drums on late-period Beach Boys tracks “Darlin’” and “Wild Honey,” the latter particularly punky and rowdy and revealing where U2 stole a guitar lick or two in its career. Johnston got his spot in the spotlight with the “Surf’s Up” era song, “Disney Girls.”
“The Ballad of Ole Betsy,” a singular love song to a junker, and the touching acapella version of the Four Freshmen’s “Their Hearts Were Full of Spring” (a song that cofounder Brian Wilson obsessed over, according to Love) was note-perfect and brilliant. Especially noteworthy were renditions of “When I Grow Up to Be a Man,” “Sloop John B,” “California Girls” and the rarity “Wendy,” which also reveal Love’s impressive bass vocal role in the group during the soaring choruses.
Carl Wilson, the delicate voiced singer of “God Only Knows” who died in Feb. 1998, made a video cameo on his signature song with the band playing along. The evening was filled with video and photo montages with the vast majority excluding songwriter Brian Wilson.
It’s the kind of little thing that keeps the great Mike Love debate going.
– Hector Saldana, senior staff writer