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Review: Beach Boys reunite for one last surfiní safari
May 5, 2012
The Palm Beach Post
Palm Beach, Florida

by Larry Aydlette

It was the concert most Beach Boys fans thought would never happen.

After all the lawsuits and acrimony among the surviving members of this dysfunctional family band, nobody expected to see Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston on stage together again. But about a year ago, Wilson began hinting in interviews that financial considerations might bring him back in the mix to celebrate the groupís 50th anniversary.

The promoters must have ponied up because the Boys have been everywhere lately ó an appearance on the Grammys, singing the National Anthem at Dodger Stadium, a new album out in June and this 66-date world tour, which stopped at the Seminole Hard Rock Live on Friday night.

The money was on display here, too ó in the visual bling of a large drive-in-like screen and surfboard-ringed set, and a riser curved like a wave where a pack of high-octane musicians, mostly from Wilsonís solo band, backed up the original members.

Is the investment paying off? Well, the show was sold out, and plenty of merch seemed to be moving in the lobby. As for the music, the audience certainly got good value: 43 songs in about two-and-a-half hours. Not bad for a group with its principal members close to or over 70.

The show featured the musical strength of Wilsonís recent solo tours, with a deeper sense of celebrating the bandís legacy. Each member got his moment in the spotlight ó the seemingly ageless Jardine sang gritty versions of Cotton Fields and Then I Kissed Her. Johnston turned in a surprisingly tender reading of Disney Girls, his ode to nostalgia that he finally seems the right age to sing. And it was wonderful to see David Marks (who departed as a teenager in the early í60s) with the full lineup and ripping off guitar solos in tribute to Carl Wilson.

Speaking of, the group acknowledged late members Carl and Dennis Wilson by singing backup to their voices on two songs, God Only Knows and Forever. This kind of raising the dead karaoke could be considered mawkish or cheesy, but instead it was incredibly moving as pictures of the brothers flashed on screen and the mind turned to the long and sometimes tragic dimensions of the bandís history. At one point, you could see Brian staring at pictures of Carl and you had to wonder what he was thinking.

Of course, ďWhat is Brian thinking?Ē is a favorite parlor game among fans. Unlike his solo tours, where he is located at center stage and interacts more, he was placed to the side behind a white grand piano. He spoke one or two sentences, tops, all night long. But when called upon, he turned in strong, rough vocals on Youíre So Good To Me, Please Let Me Wonder and Sail On Sailor.

Age has slowed down Mike Loveís funky stage moves and his nasally voice is a bit pitchy, as the Idol judges say. But Love, in all his yacht rockiní glory, is still the centerpiece of the group onstage, bantering good-naturedly with Jardine and ad-libbing ďThat sounds like a Beatles songĒ when a blast of feedback screeched through the speakers. And itís impossible to overlook how many of the bandís greatest songs sport his lead vocals, especially on a burning-rubber run of Little Honda, Little Deuce Coupe, 409, Shut Down and I Get Around, which ended the first set.

The second half of the show never quite matched that high, but the band also explored some of its lesser-known songs for the hardcore fan. I was shocked to hear the beautiful, harmony-drenched, Mahirishi-era All This Is That and nearly as surprised when Brian launched into a forceful version of This Whole World. The band also took a mini-tour of Brianís melancholy moods, from the early In My Room to the Pet Sounds masterpiece I Just Wasnít Made For These Times. Most of the audience was happier with the fun, fun, fun stuff, but the band should get credit for displaying its artistic range.

Even thought they were never introduced individually, the 10 backing musicians were the eveningís secret weapons, providing much of the musicís thunderous punch as well as the depth and richness of the harmonies. Especially strong were the two-man percussion duo of John Cowsill and Nelson Bragg, and guitarist-singer and longtime Wilson compatriot Jeffrey Foskett, who handled the falsetto parts that nobody else can hit anymore.

All in all, the show felt like what the best Beach Boys shows have always felt like, a messy family publicly putting its differences aside to serenade us with glorious music and, on this tour, to take one last lap around the bases. What happens next? God only knows. Most people expect Wilson to return to his more adventurous solo work, but thereís enough magic here that I hope they do it again.

1. Do It Again
2. Catch A Wave
3. Donít Back Down
4. Surfiní Safari
5. Surfer Girl
6. Youíre So Good To Me
7. Wendy
8. Then I Kissed Her
9. The Little Girl I Once Knew
10. Why Do Fools Fall In Love
11. When I Grow Up To Be A Man
12. Cotton Fields
13. Be True To Your School
14. Disney Girls
15. Please Let Me Wonder
16. Donít Worry Baby
17. Little Honda
18. Little Deuce Coupe
19. 409
20. Shut Down
21. I Get Around
22. California Dreaming
23. Sloop John B
24. Wouldnít It Be Nice
25. This Whole World
26. Forever
27. Sail On Sailor
28. Heroes and Villains
29. In My Room
30. All This Is That
31. I Just Wasnít Made For These Times
32. God Only Knows
33. Thatís Why God Made The Radio (the bandís sweet new single)
34. California Girls
35. All Summer Long
36. Help Me Rhonda
37. Rock and Roll Music
38. Do You Wanna Dance
39. Barbara Ann
40. Surfing U.S.A.
41. Kokomo
42. Good Vibrations
43. Fun, Fun, Fun

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