Reunited Beach Boys in concert: The old men and the sea
BY DAVE HOEKSTRA Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org May 22, 2012 12:56AM
The Beach Boys (from left, Brian Wilson, David Marks, Mike Love, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston at a New York show May 8) played two dates in Chicago. | Jason DeCrow~ap
“Do It Again”
“Catch a Wave”
“Don’t Back Down”
“Please Let Me Wonder”
“Then I Kissed Her”
“Why Do Fools Fall in Love”
“When I Grow Up”
“Be True to Your School”
“Kiss Me, Baby”
“Don’t Worry Baby”
“Little Deuce Coupe”
“I Get Around”
“Add Some Music to Your Day”
“Sloop John B”
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice”
“I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times”
“Sail on Sailor”
“Heroes and Villains”
“In My Room”
“God Only Knows”
“That’s Why God Made the Radio”
“All This Is That”
“Help Me, Rhonda”
“Rock and Roll Music”
“Do You Wanna Dance?”
“Fun, Fun, Fun”
Updated: July 2, 2012 8:59AM
The NATO throwdown was winding down.
A handful of Chicago cops and protest scragglers milled around the Chicago Theatre.
Inside the theater, it was all surf’s up. Bright lights. Happy music.
The Beach Boys hit town Monday night as part of the band’s 50th anniversary tour, which began in late April in Tucson, Ariz.
Not much unless you were being frisked for Metamucil.
The subject of the Beach Boys’ aging is fair game, especially when lead singer Mike Love can make his own jokes about “When I Grow Up (to be a Man).”
At 71, he’s laughing all the way to the bank. The Beach Boys are so old, even my parents (91 and 90) think they are old.
In the first of two shows here, the Beach Boys surfed through their greatest hits, covering 42 songs in a little over two hours with an extended intermission to peddle souvenirs and allow for Flomax bathroom breaks. The line to the men’s washroom was the longest I have seen in all my years of going to the Chicago Theatre. You would have thought Andy Williams was back on tour.
It was easy to walk into the sold-out theater, digest the first set, which included “Surfer Girl,” “Be True to Your School” and “409,” and imagine that 50 years ago were the “good old days.” But 50 years ago, the Beach Boys provided escapism as an increasingly mobile America motored west. It’s not like 1962 was so hot with the Cuban Missile Crisis and Alabama Gov. George Wallace refusing to allow two black students to enroll at the University of Alabama.
Most everyone’s eyes were peeled on vocalist-pianist Brian Wilson, the band’s eccentric sonic genius, touring with them for the first time since the ’60s. He sort of checked out on the surf material during the first set. He wasn’t even singing on “Catch a Wave,” and throughout the night, guitarist Jeffrey Foskett took over all the high vocal parts.
One of the strongest crowd responses in the first set was to Al Jardine’s lead on the Crystals’ 1963 hit “Then He Kissed Me,” remade as “Then I Kissed Her.” The tradeoff was Jardine’s lame “folk” version of “Cotton Fields.”
The show picked up steam in the second half. Wilson was more engaged in belting out the Mamas and the Papas’ hit “California Dreamin’,” and the band/orchestra nailed “Sloop John B” (with former Poi Dog Pondering member Paul Von Mertens on flute) and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” A surprise was a cover of the late Beach Boy drummer Dennis Wilson’s 1970 ballad “Forever” (a sleeper on the “Sunflower” album) with footage of Wilson sailing on in the background.
Late lead guitarist Carl Wilson was also honored with his tender ballad “God Only Knows” where the surviving members of the band harmonized with archival footage of Wilson singing lead. No matter. “God Only Knows” still makes me tear up.
There was little time for banter, and Brian Wilson cracked up the audience when talking about Beach Boy anthems and introducing “California Girls.” “It’s not as good as ‘Good Vibrations’, but it’s up there,” he said with the innocence that also made his blue ballad “In My Room” one of the show’s most timeless moments.
Throughout the remaining original members — Wilson, Love, Jardine, Peoria-born keyboardist Bruce Johnston (who replaced Glen Campbell in 1965) and guitarist David Marks — were framed by a wall of sound that included up to six guitarists at one time and six backing vocalists to help prop up Love and Wilson.
Drummer Joey Cowsill (yes, of the Cowsills) has the mighty style that Phil Spector or Tommy Ramone would appreciate, and former Chicago pop-rocker Scott Bennett fueled the grooves on keyboards and vibes.
Encores closed out with Wilson picking up a customized “Smile” bass to play along with the Beach Boys’ hit cover of the Regents’ “Barbara Ann.” The last song of the night was “Fun, Fun, Fun.” Midway through the 1964 hit, Wilson motioned for a roadie to fetch the bass. He took a few steps back and simply began to clap along.
Brian Wilson turns 70 on June 20. His gift has been how he can always hear music, not just necessarily in the trappings of a 50-year reunion.