Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Beach Boys display dual image

Mike Love, left, and Bruce Johnston engage the
crowd during the Beach Boys show at the Chip In Island
Resort & Casino.


The Beach Boys show at the Chip- In Island Resort and Casino on July 11 neatly reflected both their iconic status as a pop music insitution and the dysfunctional nature of the group.

Formed in Hawthorne, Cal. in 1961 by brothers Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, cousin Mike Love and school chum Al Jardine, no other band can lay greater claim to being America's favorite rock 'n' roll combo.

They've racked up 60 hit singles, including the No. 1 hits "I Get Around," "Help Me, Rhonda," "Good Vibrations," and "Kokomo." Despite that success, the Beach Boys have been notorious for suing each other, as well.

Today, 67-year-old lead vocalist and frontman Mike Love is the only original member performing under the Beach Boys moniker. But, the current touring line-up also features long-time member Bruce Johnston, who joined in 1965 after Brian Wilson quit playing live shows to concentrate on songwriting and production.

Their six- member backing band included "honorary" Beach Boy John Stamos, who may be better known to younger fans for his television roles on "General Hospital," "Full House" and "E.R."

Brian Wilson, considered by many to be the genius behind the group, is undertaking his own solo concert series this summer. Jardine is busy recording a solo album and earlier this year settled a suit brought by Love for touring under the name "Beach Boys Family & Friends."

Sadly, Dennis Wilson drowned in 1983 and brother Carl succumbed to lung cancer in 1998.

Those tragedies and legal wrangling laid just under the surface for many fans as Love led his "official" Beach Boys Band through such summertime staples as "Barbara Ann," "Surfin' U. S. A.," and the concert opening "California Girls."

Instantly recognized by the crowd at the 1300-seat theater in Harris, Stamos introduced the Beach Boys while standing next to his drum kit. The versatile musician also lent his guitar playing to the proceedings as well as some contagious enthusiasm.

At various times during the evening, Stamos drummed along side John Cowsill, veteran member of 1960s group The Cowsills, famous for "The Rain, the Park & Other Things" and "Hair."

Stamos added some wild stick work to "Be True to Your School," a classic tune issued in 1963, the same year he was born. "The song came out and I came out," Stamos joked to the crowd.

The thespian turned to his guitar to perform "Forever," a track he recorded with the Beach Boys in 1992, dedicating it to Dennis Wilson.

Keyboardist Johnston took a rare lead vocal on "God Only Knows," a gem from the "Pet Sounds" album. He offered the song in the memory of Carl Wilson, who originally sang the tune.

Cowsill, meanwhile, fired up the crowd with "Help Me, Rhonda," originally sung by Al Jardine. He paced along the front of the stage, encouraging the audience to sing along.

Beach Boys, from left, Bruce Johnston,
Mike Love and John Stamos, appeared at the Chip
In Island Resort & Casino on July 11.

The majority of lead vocals were taken by Love who seemed most animated on "Kokomo," a surprise hit from 1988. Love wrote the song, which appeared in the movie "Cocktail," with music mainstays John Phillips, Terry Melcher and Scott McKenzie.

With every band member singing, Friday's show offered plenty of intricate vocal harmonies blending with Love's lead vocals.

They played "Surf City," which Brian Wilson had given to Jan & Dean, who enjoyed a No. 1 hit with the song. Murry Wilson, Brian's father and manager of the group, was chagrined the tune wasn't recorded by the Beach Boys, who had yet to have a chart-topper at that time.

The band did a number of songs closely associated with Brian Wilson. "Surfer Girl," "Don't Worry Baby," and the introspective "In My Room," varied from the original recordings without Wilson's passioned lead vocals.

Of course, the group had to play "Good Vibrations," Brian Wilson's 1966 masterpiece. But, without Brian's elaborate studio production and Carl's immaculate lead vocals, the song may be impossible to recreate in concert.

While the band played plenty of hits, they also pulled out a few surprises, performing little known numbers such as "Don't Back Down" and "Ballad of Old Betsy," a love song about an automobile.

In all, the setlist evoked the surfing, cars and girls ethos of their 1963-1966 heyday when the Beach Boys came to represent the best American music had to offer.

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