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Concert Reviews:
Beach Boys 50th anniversary is "Fun, Fun, Fun" at DTE
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- The Beach Boys come armed and loaded with song titles to describe their show, most obviously "Fun, Fun, Fun" and "Good Vibrations."

But this time out, they fit.

Mike Love and Bruce Johnston have done a dependable, yeomanlike job of keeping the Beach Boys' surf up year-in and year-out, but this year's 50th Anniversary Reunion Tour, which stopped Saturday night, June 30, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, is a bona fide Event. Having the five surviving founding or key members of the Beach Boys on stage feels more like the Real Thing than it has in years, with Al Jardine bringing his still-potent lead vocals and original guitarist Dave Marks showing chops that haven't diminished in the 49 years since he left the band.

And then there was Brian Wilson who, although a modest participant in the two-hour, 45-minute (plus intermission) show conveyed a genuine authority to the performance. Sitting at his white baby grand piano and taking the occasional lead vocal, he was the composer/producer/mastermind presenting his work with the group that he created it for.

It was a generous night, with 47 songs spanning the Beach Boys' venerable career -- from "Surfin' Safari" to this year's "That's Why God Made the Radio" -- and bolstered by a nimble nine-piece band that added up to 10 vocalists, five guitarists and four keyboardist to play each tune with all the nuances and sonic depth of the recordings. And that's saying something when the music comprises some of the most ambitious and sophisticated creations of the rock 'n' roll era.

They key hits were all covered, of course, but the depth of the repertoire was what truly made the night special. You can hear "Surfin' Safari," "Surfin' USA," "Little Deuce Coupe" and "Help Me, Rhonda" at any other Beach Boys show, but the anniversary aggregation dug deep for lesser-known material such as "Hawaii," "Ballad of Ol' Betsy," "Cotton Fields," "Still Cruisin' " and the trippy "All This is That." The Beach Boys also flashed on its vocal group roots with covers of the Del Vikings' "Come Go With Me," Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" and, of course, the Regents' "Barbara Ann," and they paid tribute to early rock heroes such as Chuck Berry ("Rock and Roll Music") and Bobby Freeman "Do You Wanna Dance?"

The group's greatest artistic heroics, meanwhile, were saved for the second half of the show, which opened with marks leading the band through the instrumental title track of the landmark "Pet Sounds," which began a run of songs from that album and its aborted follow-up, "SMiLE," including "Heroes and Villains," "Sloop John B," "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "Good Vibrations" and "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times." The five Beach Boys gathered around Wilson's piano for "Add Some Music To Your Day," and the troupe delivered sublime versions of "Sail On, Sailor" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice."

And while renditions of "Forever" and "God Only Knows" -- which, respectively, featured late Beach Boys Dennis and Carl Wilson on virtual lead vocals -- were a little gimmicky, they were also well-received by a DTE (or, as Love insisted on calling it, Pine Knob) crowd reveling in nostalgia -- at least when they weren't smacking around the beach balls that, appropriately, sailed through the pavilion and across the lawn all night.

No one knows yet if this will be a lasting reunion or a one-off. But it was a moving celebration of a distinct and defining American rock band and its body of work -- and, of course, a great way to have "Fun, Fun, Fun" and enjoy some "Good Vibrations" on a sultry summer night.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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