A mix of young and old alike converged on Casino New Brunswick last night for the first of two shows by the legendary Beach Boys. Taking the stage to a pre-recorded version of their first single Surfin’, the Mike Love-led band then capably picked up the song on stage after the first verse had played out.
Say what you will about this incarnation of the band but sonically, the band was essentially spot on for their entire 90 minute set. With lead vocal duties shared by Love with various members of the band including long time Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, Love’s son Christian and musical director Scott Totten, there weren’t too many flubbed notes to be heard from anyone in the band.
Love’s vocals were sometimes overpowered by the band but tough to say if it is a sign of age (Love being a young 69 years old) or the sound mix itself. When Love could be heard though, he showed he could still be a great singer. Taking the opportunity to frequently joke and banter with the audience between songs, Love is still the consummate showman who obviously doesn’t take his job all that seriously, but never at the detriment of the material itself.
From the moment the band hit the stage, they had the audience literally dancing in their seats. A number of people tried on a number of occasions to get the crowd on their feet but the reserved audience remained seated for the bulk of the band’s show, rising to their feet for the odd song but would then reassume the sitting position once the song had played out. It wasn’t until the band trotted out California Girls that the audience rose and remained on their feet for the last five songs of the main set.
Given Mike Love’s outspoken disdain for the Beach Boys’ post Pet Sounds material, the majority of the group’s 31 song set focused on the group’s earliest days which includes some of their biggest hits, including staples such as Surfin’ Safari, I Get Around, Don’t Worry Baby and In My Room. Only four songs from the era of Pet Sounds and beyond would be played: Good Vibrations, Sloop John B, Wouldn’t It Be Nice and God Only Knows were performed with the same precision as the originals, although Johnston’s vocals on the latter were slightly on the weak side.
Not even John Stamos coming out on stage could have made the performance of Kokomo digestible. Seeing how that didn’t happen, and given the fact that I have sold a few million records less than the Beach Boys, I can still understand the logic in including the 1988 hit as one of their two encore numbers. Closing their show with Fun Fun Fun, the group sent many in the crowd dancing into the aisles before sending them home for the night.