Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Beach Boys Live: The 50th Anniversary Tour (2013)

As everyone knows by now The Beach Boys staged a triumphant 50th anniversary tour in 2012. Fans and critics alike raved about their live show and the boys' new album, That's Why God Made the Radio.

I made a decision not to throw down my hard earned cash to see the ancient oldies revival act when it landed in my town because it had been over twenty-five years since the famous surf-rockers had been a viable franchise in the studio and, after the passing of Carl Wilson, their concerts deteriorated to the point where Mike Love continually embarrassed himself on stage. However, I downloaded the new album anyway and was very pleasantly surprised with the results. Brian Wilson showed the world that, when inspired, he still has the goods.

Now, as an epilogue to last summer's tour, the band has released a new, forty-one song, double CD package, The Beach Boys Live: The 50th Anniversary Tour. It's a good souvenir for those who saw them on stage together for what is probably the last time.

I was still quite skeptical about how the quintet of Wilson, Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, and David Marks would fare in a live setting because a singer's shortcomings are far more obvious on stage than they are in the studio, especially because today's technology allows a good producer to digitally sweeten all of the vocals to perfection. It is obvious that Wilson's voice is shot and that Love's age is starting to take its toll on his vocal chords too. That is probably why every member of their nine piece supporting band also doubled as a vocalist. The bottom line is the results were better than any of us had a right to expect even if the formerly great harmonizers needed help to recreate their glory days. In the end the ticket buying public didn't care if the aging Californians needed assistance or not. They went home happy.

Wilson and and his mates cranked out most of their big hits (noticeably missing were three of my favs: "Don't Worry Baby," Darlin," and "I Can Hear Music") but for me the highlights were the seldom heard deep tracks they sandwiched in between their classics. "Add Some Music to Your Day" and Dennis Wilson's "Forever," both from the magnificent Sunflower album, were taken out of mothballs. "Marcella" and "All This is That" saw the light of day after being lifted from the obscure Carl and The Passions, So Tough. We don't hear the 1965 single "The Little Girl I Once Knew" very often either but Wilson resurrected it for this tour. Johnston sang "Disney Girls" from Surf's Up and part three of Jardine's "California Saga" suite from Holland was a highlight. Jardine also took the lead vocal on "And Then I Kissed Her" from 1965's Summer Days and Summer Nights. He turned it into a male version of the earlier Ronettes' hit, "And Then He Kissed Me."

The liner notes are a bit skimpy. Nowhere do they inform us if these songs are from one complete concert or if they are from different venues on different nights. Neither are we told what each Beach Boy contributed to the final product.

The Beach Boys best live album remains the 1973 double LP, single CD, Live In Concert but 50th Anniversary Tour is still a pleasant experience. Give it three and a half stars out of five.

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