David Marks, the Pete Best of the band, was pulled out of retirement and a career-long separation from the rest of the group. He left after playing on the first four albums and well before they became a national sensation. He also acquitted himself well, both in his backing vocals and in snappy lead guitar licks that found him as adept as ever. Carl and Dennis weren't there of course, but the concert provided a touching tribute to both men via film clips of Dennis singing his signature song "Forever" and Carl, in what was easily the most emotional moment of the evening, intoning that lovely lead vocal for "God Only Knows." Love momentarily turned his back to the audience and watched the video of his fallen comrade, no doubt as moved as the other observers. Theirs were tragic losses indeed.
Then there was brother Brian. As anyone who's seen him on his solo tours over the past dozen years can attest, the man still seems shell-shocked. This is the result of personal issues, past drug use, therapy, remedies, and his own insecurities. For most of the concert, he appeared expression-less, attempting to do his due diligence, but otherwise indifferent to the point of looking catatonic. He had to be helped to his place at the piano (the man is 70 years old, after all) and much of the time while there, it was questionable how much he played. During his solo shows, his keyboards were little more than a prop. On the final songs, he switched to bass, but at best he looked awkward and displaced among his band mates, and once the set was over, he seemed all to eager to exit the stage.
That said, he sang well, especially on "Please Let Me Wonder," "Surfer Girl," Wendy," and "She's Not the Little Girl I Once Knew," hitting the high notes with admirable aplomb. It was curious then that he relinquished the lead vocal on "Don't Worry Baby" to one of the two back-up players in the front line without tackling it on his own.
Speaking of that backing band - known under their own auspices as the Wondermints - they enhanced the material by fleshing out every nuance and bringing Brian's original arrangements from the studio to the stage. Situated on a riser behind the front five and the two stringers who played guitar and sang harmonies, they added the musical might needed to bring those old 45s back to life.
While older members of the audience might have memories of seeing the original Beach Boys on their own and unadorned back in the '60s and '70s, it's also worth remembering that studio session players were the real architects when it came to crafting the material and realizing Brian's ambitions. Bandleader Darian Sahanaja deserves special kudos for keeping these often-unwieldy arrangements in sync and ensuring that everyone behind the scenes stayed faithful to the sound.
As a result, any age-related inconsistencies aside, the show was terrific, all memories and memorable music, performed by one of America's definitive and iconic cultural institutions.
Clearly, no one in the sold-old Hard Rock was unmoved as hit after hit -- a phenomenal 42 in all -- was rolled out for the audience's ears. Everyone was up dancing from the get-go, both reliving a cherished youth and basking in the moment. When they played "Be True to Your School," several women shook pom-poms (and body parts as well) and during the second set, beach balls were flying fast and furious and tossed from crowd to band and back again.
The encore - consisting of the final official Beach Boys chart topper "Kokomo," the still-dazzling "Good Vibrations," and the keynote anthem and song that summarizes everything, "Fun Fun Fun" - seemed all too abbreviated. When they took that final brief bow and left the stage, it was clear there were other songs that could have been played to keep them on stage not only all night long, but all summer long as well.
Personal bias: I can't complain about the song selection - I loved the one new song incidentally, "That's Why God Made the Radio" - but I also would have loved to hear "Caroline No," "Surf's Up," and "I can Hear Music," among others.
Random detail: It really was an all-ages show. Two girls sitting behind us were all of nine years-old and for one of them, this was their second Beach Boys show. The two guys next to me were likely in their 30s. One summed it up by saying," Timeless music, man."
By the way: Did I mention those $35 baseball caps!?
Do It Again
Catch a Wave
Don't Back Down
You're So Good to Me
Then I Kissed Her
The Little Girl I Once Knew
Why Do Fools Fall in Love (Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers cover)
When I Grow Up To Be a Man
Cotton Fields (Leadbelly cover)
Be True to Your School
Disney Girls Please
Let Me Wonder
Don't Worry Baby
Little Deuce Coupe
409 Shut Down
I Get Around
California Dreamin' (The Mamas and Papas cover)
Sloop John B
Wouldn't It Be Nice
This Whole World
All This Is That
Sail On Sailor
Heroes and Villains
In My Room
I Just Wasn't Made for These Times
That's Why God Made the Radio
All Summer Long
Help Me Rhonda
Rock 'n' Roll Music (Chuck Berry cover)
Do You Wanna Dance (Bobby Freeman cover)
Fun Fun Fun