Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Beach Boys in Newcastle

Last night I went down to Newcastle to see the Beach Boys at the City Hall and they were brilliant - actually they were better than that. This of course was the Mike Love/Bruce Johnston 'touring' band and while I know there are some out there who are all too quick to compare them unfavourably with Brian Wilsn's band this incarnation of the Beach Boys was a revelation. I've been to Beach Boys shows now for five decades (the first time was Brighton in 1969) and I have to say that vocally this was as good as anything I've seen - anytime, anywhere. The set list was just amazing, the pacing of the show was perfection and it was so enjoyable too.

I've seen all but one of Brian's tours of the UK in the last 7 or 8 years and the band last night was better vocally than Brian's band. Scott Totten is the musical director of the BB's and he is a master craftsman - he's also a pretty nifty lead guitar player. The vocal parts were absolutely perfect on every song - as an example 'Their Hearts Were Full of Spring' was just awesome. John Cowsill is a brilliant lead vocalist on some of the songs, and just a fabulous drummer as well. He drives them when he needs to and adds some incredibly subtle parts as well. Randell Kirsch did much of the high harmony's and leads very well and with his bass playing made a steller rhythm section with John. Christian Love, Mike's son, did many of Carl's leads and was vocally spot on. All of them are vocally brilliant in their harmonies throughout the show. Tim Bonhomme on keyboards made brilliant contributions in all sorts of places. There were all sorts of layers that just emulated the originals superbly. David Marks besides his two lead vocals on 'Forever' and 'Do You Wanna Dance' gave that authentic surf guitar sound. Which just leaves Bruce and Mike. Bruce has always been the 'sweet voice' of the Beach Boys. His vocal tones add so much to so many of their songs (Remember it's just Carl, Brian and Bruce on the original of 'God Only knows'). On the 'unplugged' section of the show, from 'Hearts' to 'Disney Girls' - has there ever been a more evocative song about lost Californian youth? - Bruce came into his own.

Which leaves Mike. There is no one who does those lead vocals on so many of the big hits better than Mike. Shut your eyes and he sounds like he's in his early twenties. In fact I listened a lot with my eyes closed and it was perfection from Mike and everyone else. Add to that Mike's bass harmony singing and you have one of the key ingredients as to what makes that 'sound'. I took my friend Dave with me who is not a Beach Boy's fan, he just knows the hits. He came away totally amazed.

Just back to Brian's band. I loved some, most, of what they do on their shows but they use an awful lot more people to get that 'sound'. There's one other very important thing about the ML/BJ BBs; their show is closer to the whole ethos of what the Beach Boys have always been about. A brilliant mix of fun, summer, creativity, subtlety and above all else brilliant vocals. If you have a chance go see them in the UK. They are back in Scotland in mid May for a one off show in Edinburgh and then playing a festival in Denmark. It would be great if they retained more of the 'non hit' material in their US shows, think it would go over a lot better than they probably think.

The set list

Do It Again
Don't Back Down
Catch A Wave
Surf City
Surfin' Safari
Surfin' USA
Surfer Girl
You're So Good To Me
Good To My Baby
Good Timin'
Forever (David Marks did the lead vocal)
Warmth Of The Sun
Kiss Me Baby
Let Him Run Wild
The Little Girl I Once Knew
Then I Kissed Her
I Can Hear Music
Ballad Of Old Betsy (brilliant!)
Don't Worry Baby
Little Deuce Coupe
Shut Down
I Get Around
California Girls
When I Grow Up
Why Do Fools Fall In Love
California Dreamin'
Sloop John B
Sail On Sailor
You Still Believe In Me
Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring (amazing vocals)
'Til I Die
In My Room
Everyone's In Love With You
All This Is That
Cool Head, Warm Heart
Disney Girls
God Only Knows
Still Cruisin
Help Me Rhonda
Do You Wanna Dance
Barbara Ann
Wouldn't It Be Nice
Good Vibrations
Fun Fun Fun


Richard Evans said...

What a brilliant set list, Richard. I'm afraid I'm one of those Brian Wilson supporters who has in the past poo-pooed the idea of Mike having a BB band but after reading your review I will definitely give them a whirl. There are some fabulous rarities in that set list.

Richard Havers said...

Rich, you should, you really should. It's a brilliant show. I think Brian was a genius and nothing will ever shake me from that view but the story is oh so much more complex.

All This is That was a GREAT groove. Ballad of Old Betsy was just a great choice. David doing Forever was so in Dennis's pocket....

Anonymous said...

You missed "Still Cruisin'" off your set list

Richard Havers said...

You're right! Was it after Kokomo?