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Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck Kickoff Tour at Hard Rock Live, Hollywood

Jeff Beck and Brian Wilson with Al Jardine and David Marks

Hard Rock Live, Hollywood

September 27, 2013

Better than: The so-called Beach Boys that Mike Love is trumpeting as the real deal. No love for Love from this guy!

Anyone who thought that teaming of Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck was somewhat incongruous, likely wasn't dissuaded when the pairing was put into practice on the first night of the duo's forthcoming tour at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Florida.

While Beck's fluid version of "Surf's Up," one of the Beach Boys' landmark accomplishments, seemed an ample nod in the direction of Wilson and special guests Al Jardine and David Marks, who all three cooed along nicely, there was little other common ground between the artists. True, they tried the same tack when Beck offered a soaring take on Pet Sounds' "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on my Shoulder)" -- though there were doubtless many in the crowd who didn't catch the connection -- it didn't all entirely make sense, a final jam session of sorts on "Surfin' USA" and "Fun Fun Fun" notwithstanding.

See also: Slideshow of Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck at Hard Rock Live

Still, this doesn't imply disaster. Just the opposite in fact. While fans of the Beach Boys -- oops, make that Wilson and company, thanks Mikey Love -- might not seem to have all that much aligned with Beck fans, both entities -- Beck and his extraordinary five piece, Wilson, Jardine, and Marks with the sprawling backing band that always accompanies Wilson on tour -- seemed to garner equally enthusiastic receptions.

It was, in fact, two distinct concerts spliced into one. First there was the rundown of classic Beach Boys classics (dammit, Wilson still represents the legacy far better than Love ever could) including "Surfer Girl," "California Girls," "Help Me Rhonda," "God Only Knows," "Sloop John B," and what amounted to a quick K-tel packaging of the band's best known hits. There were a handful of obscurities -- a stirring, choir-like version of "Our Prayer" that had diehards all aflutter, the rarely repeated medley of "Old Man River" and "Cottonfields." Marks' surprisingly effective read of "Summertime Blues" also offered further evidence that this incarnation of the group was the most deserving of their birthright. The much-ballyhooed appearance of onetime Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin -- his signature "Sail On Sailor" -- proved all too momentary, and though he appeared for the finale, we had to wonder why he wasn't given more opportunity to fully participate.

That's not to say that these one time psuedo surfer boys needed much help. Jardine sings with as much zest as ever, and clearly, Marks has practiced his guitar licks mightily in the nearly 50 years since his dissatisfaction with band manager Murray Wilson forced his early departure. Meanwhile, singer/guitarist Jeffrey Foskett has become clearly esential to the band, not only by proving himself an able master of ceremonies and singing those superb high harmonies, but also by taking the lead on signature song "Wouldn't It Be Nice." Sadly though, even as Brian managed his own lead vocals when needed, his singing often seemed tenuous, and it was hard to tell if he was actually contributing on keyboards or merely miming. Even when he was called to the fore, he seemed somewhat tentative, eschewing a whole lot of connection with the audience and generally shuffling off stage as quickly as he could once his portion of the proceedings was over.

For his part, Beck put on a superb show, his fusion-esque instrumentals clearly engaging the crowd. Every member of his five piece combo -- guitarist Nicolas Meier, vocalist/violinist Lizzie Ball, drummer Jonathan Joseph, and bassist Rhonda Smith -- is a virtuoso in his or her own right, and each received thunderous applause after individual solos. As for Beck himself, he still looks and sounds terrific, a guitarist's guitarist in every sense of the word. Only true aficionados would have recognized every song in his set, but it mattered little. Varying the tone and dynamic throughout, he managed to make room for both relentless riffing and more meditative musings, giving the audience plenty to ponder in the process.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Two complete concerts in one. Who could ask for more?

The Crowd: Rapt with attention and appreciation, their enthusiasm reigned.

By the way: With his full head of hair and ready smile, Beck looks like the Beck of old. Still, he might want to consider foregoing the sleeveless look at this point. And where was that stunning white scarf he wore at the preview reception? Here's a tip, never shed your scarf during your set and leave it by the front of the stage. You never know which writer standing by the stage might swoop it up.

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