There are now nine Beach Boys – four more than the original lineup.
Only Mike Love is from the first five; Bruce Johnston represents the later contingent.
But the nine showed Thursday night they’ve still got what it takes to roll through nearly 40 songs.
Indeed, the Beach Boys Nine didn’t take a break until they had ticked off six songs including several of those surfin’ hits.
The MVP of the night: drummer John Cowsill (remember The Cowsills?) who managed to keep the energy high and the beat infectious. He blazed a trail through those toe tappers and didn’t look like he wanted to stop. (The Boys really should let him sing one of his old family songs.)
To recall the past, old videos played behind the band, showing the Wilson brothers in their prime and letting them have a moment even though two have died and Brian is an on-again, off-again member of the group.
Carl Wilson’s vocals on “God Only Knows” were nicely handled by Christian Love (Mike’s son) while Mike Love and Johnston took many of the other leads. Others made sure the falsetto notes were as crisp as they could be.
For the most part, the Orpheum Theatre concert was a good stroll down memory lane. Although moments seemed rush (particularly when the nine wanted to get in as many car songs as they could), they were just what longtime fans probably wanted.
Thankfully, Love joked frequently about the years that had passed. “I think I was at the grand opening of this place,” he said of the decades-old theater. “We’re going to take an intermission, followed by a nap.”
With 30-some songs on the setlist, it was important to keep the momentum going.
Interestingly, many of the hits reflected a simpler, more naïve time. (Sure “Pet Sounds” went in another direction but “Be True To Your School,” “Dance, Dance, Dance” and “Surfin’ Safari” hardly had hidden meaning.)
Videos reinforced the idea and Love played right into the faithfuls’ hands. He pitched a cellphone song, too, (telling the older audience members to get help if they didn’t know how to turn on the flashlight) and reminisced a little bit about some of those days when the Beach Boys rivaled the Beatles.
Because the group has strong musicians to help recreate the old vibe, there isn’t the fear this is just a cover band. Those musicians are true to the originals and aren’t afraid to duplicate what came before them.
Music director Scott Totten runs a tight ship (and does great guitar work), paying homage to this band and others – like the Mamas and the Papas and Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. Cowsill got lead vocals on “California Dreamin’” and, again, he should be given more to do. He’s still that good.
Meanwhile, the Beach Boys songs were a great reminder of the soundtrack of so many impressionable lives.