50 songs for 50 years. It’s hard to imagine any band getting away with it, right?
It’s even harder to imagine it being exceptional, but that’s the best word I can use to describe what The Beach Boys (Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, Bruce Johnston, and their crack nine-piece backing band) did last night at Grand Canyon University.
Beach balls bounced in the air as The Boys took the stage to 1968’s “Do It Again.” It set the tone right away, as the early portion of the set was dominated by the band’s classic, melodic surf pop. Sure, there were edgier surf bands in the ’60s, but the Beach Boys’ harmonious approach set them apart, endearing them to pop fans, surfers, and non-surfers alike, and listening to the multi-layered vocals and jittery start/stop dynamics of “I Get Around,” it’s easy to see hints of the complex psychedelia and melodic abandon the group would later explore.
Those vocals make the prospect of a Beach Boys show a little scary. Can a bunch of 70-year-old guys possibly sing like that anymore? The answer is yes — though the army of backup singers certainly helped smooth out any roughness that may have been hiding below the waves of “oohs” and “ahhs.”
Everybody brought their own element: Love, whose vocals were most often lead, introduced songs and generally goofed with the audience. Often painted as the villain in Beach Boys stories (rock lore suggestions his reaction to Pet Sounds was “Brian, don’t fuck with the formula,” and let’s not get into “Kokomo”), Love was mostly endearing, funny, and absolutely on-point vocally. Jardine brought a dose of Northern California mysticism, rhapsodizing about street corner harmony and dancing. Johnston, the “new kid in the band who joined in ‘65,” delivered some great vocals and performed his classic “Disney Girls.” The “lost Beach Boy,” David Marks, was the rockstar of the evening, delivering distorted solos and looking a shade tougher than the rest of the band (he left in 1963, and began appearing as a part of various incarnations of the band again in 1997).