About an hour into their set at New York’s Beacon Theatre last night (May 10), the Beach Boys hit their stride, like a surfer catching that big, juicy wave. Though the band’s members – who reunited for a new album and 50th anniversary tour this spring – are certainly not mounting surf boards anymore, they proved last night that when it comes to surf-rock, they’re still the kings.
It wasn’t that the three-hour show – the band’s second at the Beacon this week – didn’t start on a high note. Following a generous introduction and Full House jokes from Beach Boys superfan, actor John Stamos, the band launched into early hits like “Catch a Wave” and “Surfer Girl.” But as the Beach Boys inched toward their 20-minute intermission, the hits kept on coming and the crowd returned to its feet – energy that continued through the show’s second half.
At times it felt like the band was rushing through the hits, but with as many hits as the Beach Boys had, it’s hard not to do. They combined “Little Deuce Couple,” “409” and “Shut Down” into a Hot Rod medley, and rolled right into “I Get Around.” Stamos returned to play drums on “Be True To Your School,” embracing the spotlight in a way fans wished Brian Wilson would. Vocalist Mike Love deemed the song “the most patriotic song ever written,” which echoed with what Stamos said at the show’s start: “The Beach Boys represented America when everyone wanted to be America.” Watching “America’s band” back together, it was hard not to bask just a little in the glow of simpler times.
The hits may have been presented via tight, well-rehearsed medleys, but last night was a feast of harmonies – and make no mistake, that is the real reason to see the Beach Boys’ reunion tour. Those who caught one of Wilson’s intimate solo shows behind his 2010 Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin album were treated to a handful of Beach Boys hits, but the renditions didn’t have the vocal power of the group’s famous harmonies. Even those who think of Wilson as the mad genius behind the Beach Boys have to acknowledge that in a live setting, he needs them as much and they need him.
Though the crowd cheered each time Wilson started to sing, all members were on equal display at the front of the stage, with their army of a backing band carrying the rear. As fans saw at this year’s Grammy Awards, Love still loves the spotlight, and more specifically, saucily pointing out into the crowd. He praised Wilson’s talent for harmonies at every turn, much as he did earlier this week during the pair’s interview with Late Night host Jimmy Fallon, and discussed his fondness for doo-wop before covering Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers’ “Why Do Fools Fall In Love.” It wasn’t the only cover, either, with the Boys fittingly tackling the Mamas & the Papas’ “California Dreamin’.”
“Sloop John B” slid right into “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” the first of several Pet Sounds songs played last night. Later in the show, the band performed “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” and “God Only Knows,” the latter of which served as an ode to deceased Beach Boy Carl Wilson. There were no holograms of Wilson, but rather a vintage video clip of him performing the track, which the band accompanied live, at times playing louder than the recorded vocals. The band also performed heartfelt ballad “Forever” in honor of Dennis Wilson, and dedicated new single, “That’s Why God Made The Radio,” to recently deceased FM radio pioneer Peter Fornatale.
During the encore, Wilson traded his grand piano for an electric guitar, and the gaggle of guitarists presented only positive sentiments as the show’s send-off – “Good Vibrations” followed by “Fun Fun Fun.” The crowd was feeling both as they filed out of the Beacon.
–Jillian Mapes, CBS Local