Review: Beach Boys superb at Blaisdell
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
Mike Love, founder and current leader of the Beach Boys, promised last week the group was going to do the songs their fans wanted to hear. Nothing new, nothing too esoteric. The Beach Boys would do their hits in the arrangements we all remember.
Love, the Beach Boys and special guest John Stamos fulfilled that promise on Sunday, Jan. 12, for more than two hours at Blaisdell Arena. From the concert opener, “Do It Again,” through a rousing encore performance of “Fun, Fun, Fun,” the set list included almost all the Beach Boys’ major hits from the 1960s and early ’70s, and several of their most popular album cuts — “Hawaii,” a cut from the 1963 “Surfer Girl” album, among them. Thanks, Mike, for including that one!
Love, a very youthful 72, presided with the voice and stage presence that has made him an iconic figure in contemporary music for a half-century. Several members of the touring band — his son, Christian Love (guitar), Scott Totten (lead guitar), Randall Kirsch (bass) and John Cowsill (drums) — joined veteran Beach Boy Bruce Johnston in filling in the vocal parts originally sung by Love’s cousins, Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, and by founding member Al Jardine and early member David Marks.
The surf songs, the car songs, the love songs, the party songs. The group went deep in the repertoire. Stamos, a friend and part-time member of the line up since the mid-1980s, sang and played guitar on several songs and played drums or congas on others.
The Blaisdell could not have opened its 50th anniversary year with a better show.
Even when the set list digressed a bit and moved away from chart hits, the choices were still good ones. Take Johnston’s showcase number, “Disney Girls (1957),” which he wrote for group’s 1971 album, “Surf’s Up.” Johnston isn’t generally known as one of the group’s lead voices, but he certainly could be.
Or, consider “Their Hearts Were Full of Spring,” sung a capella by Love, Johnston, Totten and Kirsch, which Love introduced as an example of what he and his cousins, the Wilson brothers, were doing as teens in the ’50s before they formed the Pendletones (the group that became the Beach Boys).
Other remakes also fit. “Surf City,” a #1 Billboard Hot 100 single for Jan & Dean, could have been a Beach Boys hit (Brian Wilson co-wrote it with Dean Torrance; Wilson’s father, Maury Wilson, the Beach Boys’ manager at the time, thought the Beach Boys should have recorded it). “California Dreamin’,” the Mamas & Papas hit, is one of the many songs the Beach Boys have remade over the decades.
Love announced, truthfully, they were adding a song to the set list, “The Warmth of the Sun,” which he and Brian Wilson had written hours before President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. He explained that the song describes the loss of a loved one and the group hopes to someday sing it at Punchbowl in honor of those buried there.
The ‘teens are a decade of 50th anniversaries for the Beach Boys and the list of anniversaries continues to roll. Johnston told the crowd that it was thanks to “Uncle Tom” Moffatt, promoter of the concert, that he is a member of the group. He said Moffatt introduced him to the Beach Boys in 1963 when the group was here for concerts at the Civic Auditorium and he was in Hawaii promoting his own recordings with an appearance on Moffatt’s television show.
“Thank you, ‘Uncle Tom!,’” he concluded.
The current touring version of the Beach Boys did an excellent job throughout the evening.
The other members of the original Beach Boys of the ’60s were seen in still photos and video clips projected on overhead screens. Shots of Beach Boys performances, vintage cars, girls on the beach and an assortment of scenic shots added another visual element to the show.
The best use of audio-visual technology came when Love, Johnston and their musicians accompanied a Carl Wilson vocal track and video clips of Carl singing “God Only Knows.” It was poignant and tasteful tribute (Carl Wilson died of lung cancer in 1998).
Stamos was once again a dynamic and charismatic guest (he performed with the Beach Boys when they played the arena in 2010). Hawaii often gets less than the mainland in terms of concert entertainment — for example, if three groups are doing a national tour, only two come; if two superstars are performing as a double-bill nationally, only one comes here.
This time, Hawaii got more. Stamos performed up front, playing guitar and singing. He played drums — sometimes working side-by-side with Cowsill, sometimes doing the drumming solo while Cowsill took a break. He played congas on “Kokomo,” as he did in the original music video of the song. He also engaged in some good-natured banter with Love.
One of the best examples of “more” was Stamos being available to play drums and Cowsill coming to the front of the stage to interact with the crowd while singing “Help Me, Rhonda,” instead of singing from behind the drums.
Stamos shared some nostalgia of his own when he took the lead on “Rock-A-Hula Baby” and “Forever,” while the video screens showed vintage footage of him doing both songs way back when (Stamos fans know he did “Rock-A-Hula Baby” very early in his career and the Beach Boys performed as his backing vocalists when he sang “Forever” on an episode of his ABC sitcom, “Full House”).
The Beach Boys closed the show by noting yet another 50th anniversary event — they recorded “Fun, Fun, Fun,” one of the greatest ’60s car songs, in Jan. 1964 and released it in February.
Here’s hoping that Love, Johnston, the Beach Boys and Stamos will be back to celebrate more 50th anniversaries!
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.