“Catch a Wave and you’re sittin’ on top of the world!’
OK, I’ll admit it yet again. Since I was a kid, I have always absolutely loved the music of the Beach Boys.
Brian Wilson has always been one of my true musical heroes ever since I heard I Get Around and Don’t Worry Baby on the radio constantly on the radio during the great summer of ’64.
Surprising to many, their music is extremely difficult to play and almost impossible to sing as most any able musician can attest. Learning to surf is probably easier.
The band performed at Chastain Park in Atlanta last weekend for their 50th Anniversary Tour with Brian back on board for the first time in 16 years.
The audience responded to hit after hit with all of the fervor of their legendary concerts from their heyday.
The two-set, two-and-a-half-hour-plus show was chock full of top-10 hits and choice album cuts that truly surprised me. Rarely performed hits like Wendy, When I Grow Up to be a Man, and Little Honda meshed well with the well-known hits Help Me Rhonda, Good Vibrations, and of course, California Girls.
The most touching part of the evening was when the band paid homage to Brian’s deceased brothers and former bandmates Carl and Dennis Wilson on their magnificent songs God Only Knows and Forever.
On those two numbers, the band played and sang along with vintage video footage featuring the pair, using only their isolated lead vocals just as Natalie Cole and Hank Williams Jr. did years ago with great effect. Brian never took his eyes off of his piano as the images of his much-missed brothers flashed brightly in the Atlanta moonlight. Can you imagine how difficult that was for them?
So how did they sound? There were 16 musicians onstage, all needed to replicate the difficult instrumental and vocal parts that the rest of the original band simply cannot do. But in all fairness, the band has utilized extra musicians live since 1968.
Original members Mike Love and Alan Jardine’s vocals were spotty all night, as were Brian’s. It was almost as if they hadn’t warmed up before the show as all sounded a bit better as the night progressed.
I didn’t expect such “rookie mistakes” from such seasoned professional musicians. However, Love is 71 and Wilson and the still-spry Jardine turn 70 later this year, so some vocal issues can be expected. But how does one explain that the 85-year-old Tony Bennett still has most of his immense vocal chops?
But to this life-long fan, the evening was as bittersweet as the time when as a kid I found some Hershey’s “bakers chocolate” in my mom’s pantry. It sure wasn’t anything like their “kisses,” and of course I never made that mistake again!
Yet, the audience went crazy as always for their nostalgic and timeless tunes. But all of us must know when it’s time to ride the last wave, to truly savor the lingering taste of salt in our mouths and the Fun Fun Fun of the beach experience just one more time.
After the Beach Boys tour ends in August, I hope they will realize that yes, while one can always go “back to the beach,” it’s still not home, a place where one never returns.
The Beach Boys legacy will always be preserved on their clever and catchy singles and groundbreaking albums such as Pet Sounds, Smile, and Sunflower. They have my heartfelt respect and gratitude for the endless summer of waves of musical joy that will exist as long as long as there are oceans, beaches, and California girls. Surf’s Up, indeed.