Published Jun 20, 2012No, John Stamos was not there. But the Beach Boys didn't need Uncle Jesse. Celebrating their 50th anniversary and with some of them in their 70s, original Boys Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks and Bruce Johnston surrounded themselves with a team of nine younger, extremely talented musicians. That doesn't mean they tried to hide their age, though. The Boys were pretty self-aware they weren't the same kids who became the "American Band" in the early '60s.
After opening with a selection of favourites that included "Do It Again," "Catch a Wave," "Surfin' Safari" and a half-dozen beach balls bouncing around, Love announced that the "used rock'n'roll band" needed an intermission, then a nap to keep going. Wisely, they rotated the vocals, using as many original singers as they could. So when the time called for trickier harmonies, they gave their supporting players an opportunity to shine: keyboardist Darian Sahanaja nailed "Darlin'" and guitarist Jeffrey Foskett seemed to pick up the slack for any song that needed falsetto, like "California Girls" and "Good Vibrations."
But Love impressed on the cheerleading "Be True to Your School" (after Jardine and Marks jokingly helped him up from his knee), Johnston was smooth on "Disney Girls" (which Love mocked as one of Abe Lincoln's favourites), and Jardine proved he was the best of them all on "Then I Kissed Her" and "California Saga: California."
Wilson, who, let's face it, was the reason why they were playing the 16,000-capacity Molson Amphitheatre and not a casino outside of the city, was quiet and often inanimate at the piano for most of the first set. However, after the intermission, it was Wilson's time to shine, as SMiLE and Pet Sounds took centre stage.
He sang "Heroes & Villains," "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times," "Sail On, Sailor" and "In My Room" with competence, but definitely put his back-up singers to good use. For the encore, they teased "Kokomo" with self-effacing humour, but it was hard to find a mouth in the crowd that wasn't singing their way from Aruba to Montego.
Ending their 48-song, two-and-a-half-hour set with "Fun, Fun, Fun," there was never a sense that you were watching the Beach Boys in their prime. They were never trying to convince us of that. What they did convince us of, though, was that they're the best live band out there celebrating 50 years right now.
To see Exclaim!'s Beach Boys photo gallery, courtesy of Fil ZuZarte, head here.