Saturday, April 5, 2014

Concert Review: The Beach Boys at Mystic Lake Casino

The Beach Boys, 1960's. Left to right: Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love, Dennis Wilson, Carl Wilson.

The Beach Boys touring band, 2014. Bruce Johnston and Mike Love in front.
Last night I saw one of my favorite bands, The Beach Boys, live at Mystic Lake Casino. I’ve been a fan of The Beach Boys since childhood, and from the time I was 5 until 12 they were constantly on the tape player in my parents’ car. Even though this was the late 1980’s and early 90’s, my favorite music was The Beach Boys and Harry Belafonte. Yes, I was an odd kid. One of the earliest concerts I went to was The Beach Boys at the Minnesota State Fair. Looking through a list I found of Minnesota State Fair performers, The Beach Boys performed at the Minnesota State Fair in 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1994. So that doesn’t really help me pinpoint exactly when it was. No matter, I was just thrilled to hear all those songs about cars and surfing live. Years later I saw Brian Wilson open for Paul Simon in 2000, but when Brian and Mike Love reunited to tour together as The Beach Boys in 2012, they didn’t come to the Twin Cities. 

Last night’s show featured Mike Love and Bruce Johnston, along with very talented supporting musicians who superbly recreated the sound and feel of the original records. In the 1960’s, The Beach Boys took Chuck Berry guitar riffs, Four Freshman-style close harmony singing, and combined those elements with songs about cars, girls, and surfing to create a beautiful and original sound. Their records are just plain fun to listen to, and their best songs have become rock classics. 

I was pleasantly surprised that Mike Love’s voice still sounds great. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine that I was time-traveling back to 1965 as he sang such hits as “Hawaii,” “Little Honda,” “Catch a Wave,” and “I Get Around.” Love is well-known for having a big ego, but he came off as very nice in concert. After the opening group of songs, which were all from the band’s early and mid-60’s heyday, he dead-panned to the crowd, “I’m happy you liked those songs, even though they were some of the newer ones.” Love was content to let others share the spotlight, as he didn’t sing the leads on songs he wasn’t the original lead singer on, leaving “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Surfer Girl” to the bassist, who handles the falsetto vocals originally sung by Brian Wilson on the records. One of the highlights of the show was the beautiful new song Love wrote as a tribute to George Harrison, “Pisces Brothers.” Love went to India with The Beatles in 1968 to study meditation, and he and Harrison both had their birthdays while in India. It’s obvious Love felt a close connection to Harrison, as he wiped away a tear as he finished the song. 

The concert was full of just about every big Beach Boys hit, from “Surfin’ USA” and “Surfin’ Safari” to “Help Me, Rhonda” and “Good Vibrations” to “Kokomo.” The excellent band really captured the sound of the classic Beach Boys songs, and the concert was a very enjoyable nostalgia trip. Even though I was listening to these songs when they were 20 years old, they were a big part of my childhood, and I was very happy to hear these songs played and sung so well.The music of The Beach Boys just fills me with joy, and I think everybody at the concert felt the same way.


Uncle E said...

Bruce Johnston, probably the most underrated Beach Boy ever. Great talent. I love the BB's, yet another one we have in common, and own everything up to Holland. For some reason the album Friends has been played most often recently, although rarely does a week pass without something by the BB's coming on the ipod.
Maybe you can help me, though, because even though I think Love was integral with the early hits, and his voice was certainly important to the overall sound of the BB's, well...the guy just seems to be a straight up dick. There's no other way I can say it. I've heard he's been misquoted on the whole "What is this shit" Pet Sounds comment, and his "Firing" of Brian Wilson was exaggerated, etc etc, and this may be true...but every single press interview, and every time I hear him speak he just sounds like a pompous jack-ass who thinks Wilson owes him everything. Yes, he did keep the name alive when Wilson was foaming at the mouth and playing in his sandbox, right up until present day. So, yes, I appreciate his contributions here, but perhaps you have some insight that would make me feel a little better whenever Student Demonstration Time comes on, because each time it does I want to stick an ice pick in my ear.

Fantastic post, as always, and thanks for the opportunity to vent a bit.

Mark said...

I had no idea until I looked up Bruce Johnston that he wrote "I Write the Songs." I need to fill out my Beach Boys collection, I just have compilations and "Pet Sounds." Any suggestions with where to start?

Yeah, I've pretty much only heard bad things about Mike Love too. Like his challenging Mick Jagger to a sing-off when the Beach Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Spoiler alert: Mike would lose that contest. I just tried to forget about all of that during the concert and just focus on "This is the guy who sings California Girls and Little Honda! And he wrote a song about George Harrison!" Love was not prickly at all at the concert I saw, so I just focused on that in my review. But I'm not sure I'd want to interview him.

I just read a great Mike Love quote on the Wikipedia page about "Pet Sounds." "I wasn't interesting in taking acid or getting rid of my ego." That doesn't surprise me.

Uncle E said...

Hey Mark, here's what I consider to be the top Beach Boys albums. I, too, only owned Pet Sounds and Endless Summer, but once the following albums got under my skin I was hooked! Here goes my recommendations:

Pet Sounds
Surf's Up
Wild Honey

I don't go past '71's Surf's Up, though, to me this is where they finally jumped the shark into shmaltz territory. But those 8 albums are more killer than filler (although there are a few real duds in the mix), and some of the most surprising gems were written by Carl, Dennis and Bruce Johnston! Brian's Stuff, especially on Surf's Up, are pretty much all fantastic as well. Check out the under appreciated 'Till I Die for proof! If you can, try and track down the remastered "Two-Fer's"...most contain bonus tracks, have great liner notes and are cheap as dirt (example: Sunflower/Surf's Up, Friends/20-20, etc).

Back to Mike Love (or, if you say it real fast, My Glove), I've also heard that he said he taught Donovan to play guitar ad took credit for writing most of Back In The USSR. Turd. Still, as you say, California Girls wouldn't be half as awesome without him!

Dave said...

Thanks for posting the review, Mark!
Was debating whether to go see them this Saturday, in Sylvania, OH, and you convinced me to plunk down a few shekels and go.
Also bought tix for my sister and her husband, who have been together since the 70's.
Weather is supposed to be in the 70's and dry, and looking forward to some "California Dreamin" this Saturday night!!

Tom May said...

Hey thanks for the review! I saw the Boys last night in San Antonio at the awesome Majestic Theater. They were very good and provided two hours of their best stuff. Only issue: the crowd sings too much!

I like the fact that the singing and not the show takes first priority. The supporting cast was first-rate and the drummer was dead-on perfect. Surfin' Safari sounded better than it ever did in my '69 Mustang!

BTW: who is the older guy in the back?

Mark said...

Tom, I'm glad you enjoyed the show and my review! They still put on a great show. I don't know who the older guy in the back is. The Beach Boys' website wasn't any help in identifying him.