The Beach Boys

Central Park Summerstage / New York City, NY

beach-boysHaving already caught Brian Wilson (plus other former Beach Boy Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin) play Pet Sounds in full earlier this summer, I expected to be disappointed by the “real” Beach Boys’ live show. Mike Love and Bruce Johnston are the only actual Beach Boys in this touring band, but their strong band can still bring it. This group was looser, with more of an early rock and roll feel (as opposed to Brian’s band hitting every single note but looking a little bored), this band captured the fun (x 3) of the early Beach Boys sound. The drummer, decked in a Pet Sounds shirt, was flopping around the kit like a young Ringo or Keith Moon. Like Brian’s band, some of the lead vocals were passed around the younger touring members to let the old legends rest their voices and they were handled superbly. Mike Love is probably the only person in the world who thinks the Beach Boys peaked in 1963, and much of the band’s set list catered to the early years – of the 30+ song setlist, maybe four came from after 1966. (Although they’re all flawed, I’m a big fan of post-Pet Sounds albums like Wild Honey, Sunflower, and Holland – especially when Dennis Wilson comes into his own as a songwriter.)

As it is the 50th anniversary of the classic album, we got five from Pet Sounds in a row, including the band sweetly backing up the sadly deceased Carl Wilson’s vocal track on “God Only Knows” and later they did the same for Dennis’ “Do You Wanna Dance?” vocal. I didn’t know this until I saw them, but there’s really no better way to close out the summer than a cool night, a couple of beers and a parade of Beach Boys hits.

—Layne Montgomery

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