The Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Tour Review

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 11th September 2012.

Last month I finally fulfilled a lifetime dream. I sang live with The Beach Boys. Well, to be fair, I sang along with The Beach Boys. Close enough.

To celebrate their 50th anniversary, the surviving original members of the legendary Californian supergroup regrouped for a brand new studio album and world tour, which hit Australian shores in August. Their Sydney gig at Allphones Arena was almost sold out and I was lucky enough to acquire seats within metres of the stage.

The crowd was mostly baby boomers but I certainly wasn’t the youngest person there, although it’s possible that I was the youngest person there without my parents, or grandparents. A cashed up crowd, there was already lines twenty deep at the merchandise stand by the time I arrived at the arena. With t-shirts at $50 each, I’m sure there were plenty of punters spending their kids’ inheritance money to beef up The Beach Boys’ retirement fund.

Prior to the show, I had looked up some live clips of the band from the last time that they were all playing together – the late eighties. To my dismay, I stumbled across a concert when they were joined onstage by the Tanner Family. That’s right, The Beach Boys guest starred on an episode of the atrocious sitcom Full House in 1988 that culminated in a live concert vocal massacre of Kokomo and Barbara Ann. I sure hoped the band had gotten rid of their daggy eighties stage clothes and more importantly, left Danny, Joey and Uncle Jesse behind.

To my relief, The Beach Boys have updated their wardrobes to tasteful Hawaiian shirts (is that possible?) and are certainly up to date with technology. From my seat I was able to observe lead singer Mike Love check his mobile phone for messages before climbing the stairs to the stage at the start the show.

Joined by an ultra tight backing group featuring members from Brian Wilson’s solo touring band, the boys were in fine voice. Their trademark harmonies were glorious as they ploughed through a whopping 52 song set over two sets. Hit after hit, the band covered five decades of music from their early tunes about surfing, girls and cars right through to their sophisticated wall of sound masterpieces from the Pet Sounds and Smile albums.

Audience interaction was kept to a minimum with only a small amount of banter every couple of songs. Mike Love’s self-deprecating jokes about the band’s advanced age were predictable but funny. Most noticeable was the lack of any obvious camaraderie between the original band members. I guess after fifty years together on the tour bus, there isn’t much left to say.

Three hours with The Beach Boys went by in a flash and before I knew it, I was thrust back into the sterile foyer area to find that almost all of the merchandise was sold out. Not so fun fun fun.

If The Beach Boys make it to their 60th anniversary, you can be sure that I’ll be there to sing along with them, dance badly to their hits and buy my merchandise much earlier.

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Published in: on October 9, 2012 at 01:07  Leave a Comment  
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The Beach Boys are Back

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 5th June 2012.

Stop the presses! One of my favourite bands of all time is coming to our shores. To celebrate their 50th anniversary, The Beach Boys will play Sydney on August 30.

Sure, the band has toured Australia several times in recent years but with a stripped down line-up of original lead vocalist Mike Love and long time member Bruce Johnston (he joined four years after the inception of the band in 1965), along with a backing band.

For this year’s reunion tour, the three other surviving members of the group, Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks are returning to the fold and the results should be fun, fun, fun.

It’s been twenty years since musical genius Brian Wilson has worked with the band. Responsible for The Beach Boys sound and its multi layered instrumental arrangements and harmonies, Wilson has been recording and touring as a solo act since becoming estranged from the group in the eighties due to mental illness and drug abuse. I’ve seen Brian Wilson in concert twice now. Along with an exceptionally tight backing band he puts on an unforgettable show.

50th anniversary reunions mustn’t come cheap. Either that, or the boys’ superannuation accounts need a big top up. The Ultimate Meet and Greet Package for the Sydney gig will set you back just over $1200 per person. You’ll get a ticket in the first five rows, exclusive souvenirs, food, unlimited booze and a programme. But that’s not all, you’ll also get to meet members of The Beach Boys and have a personal photo with them. Good value? Who cares? This is a unique opportunity and I’d love the VIP experience, but the mortgage says no. Please send cheques care of the Central Western Daily.

A new studio album and single also accompanies the tour. Both are entitled, “That’s Why God Made the Radio”. Released yesterday worldwide, the new single features the classic harmonies that made the band famous.

If you’ve still got some spare cash lying around after you’ve bought your VIP concert package, a mere $500 will get you the new CD, a t-shirt, poster and a very limited edition uncut proof sheet of the album artwork signed by all five members of The Beach Boys.

If you prefer the old stuff, the legendary Smile album boxset, complete with a full size surfboard signed by Brian Wilson will set you back $6000. Don’t delay, according to The Beach Boys website, there are only five sets remaining.

My favourite album of all time is Pet Sounds. My favourite song is God Only Knows. What is a Beach Boys fan with a cash flow problem to do? Rhonda wasn’t able to help, but Visa certainly did.

I’m not in the first five rows for the gig, but I managed to get great seats. I won’t be meeting the band either but that’s OK. I’ve always felt that there was something a little grubby about paying for someone’s autograph. The CD and t-shirt are on their way from the US but my uncut artwork proof is sans signatures.

With any luck, the 50th anniversary Beach Boys album and Australian tour will be a once in a lifetime event. Considering the extortionate prices of tickets and merchandise, it better be.

The Beach Boys play Allphones Arena on August 30.

Les Miserables: 25 years of revolution

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 19th October 2010.

One of the world’s most successful musicals celebrates its twenty fifth anniversary this year and plans are already underway to mark the occasion.

Les Misérables is based on the classic 1862 novel by Victor Hugo. It was originally written as a French language production in 1980 by composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and lyricist Alain Boublil. Produced by theatre impresario Cameron Mackintosh, the English adaption opened in October 1985 at the Barbican Centre in London. Initially receiving largely negative reviews, the production was warmly embraced by theatre goers and the show was a major box office success.

Twenty six years later, that original London production is still running at the Queen’s Theatre, where it celebrated its ten thousandth performance on January 5 this year. Hundreds of musicians and performers have passed through the London production. Only one musician, the drummer from the original London cast album, Peter Boita, remains with the production.

Of course, the show soon spread worldwide. On Broadway it ran for 6680 performances over sixteen years. In Australia, the original production, which starred Normie Rowe, Debra Byrne, Anthony Warlow and Philip Quast, ran between 1987 and 1989. In the early nineties, the production was made available to amateur companies and Orange Theatre Company was one of the first to produce the show in 1994, and again in 2002.

On October 3 this year, Les Misérables set another record, with an amazing three productions being performed at different venues in London. Besides the standard West End production, a UK touring 25th Anniversary Tour production was also playing at the original home of the London show, the Barbican Centre. At the immense O2 Arena (formally the Millennium Dome), which seats 23000 people, a 25th Anniversary Concert was also being staged.

The concert was certainly an all-star affair with a cast that included Filipino singing sensation Lea Salonga as Fantine, Nick Jonas of Jonas Brothers fame as Marius, current Phantom in Love Never Dies Ramin Karimloo as Enjolras and Little Britain’s Matt Lucas as Thénardier. With a cast of over three hundred performers and musicians, the concert also featured appearances from the original 1985 cast, the 25th Anniversary Tour cast and the current West End production cast.

Australian Les Misérables fans will also be able to participate in the celebrations with the 25th Anniversary Concert being shown on the big screen in cinemas this Thursday, October 21. Shot in high definition, the concert version should be spectacular, in particular the second encore which features four Jean Valjeans leading the ensemble in One Day More. If sitting in the cinema for three hours is not appealing, the concert is also scheduled for release on DVD and blu-ray disc in the UK in November with a subsequent Australian release also very likely.

Whilst Les Misérables may not be my favourite show, it was recently voted the UK’s favourite musical, receiving forty percent of the vote. There certainly is something embedded in the show which is very powerful thematically and musically. It has a strange way of rousing the human spirit in an audience. The longest running musical in history shows no sign of ending.

Published in: on October 19, 2010 at 11:03  Leave a Comment  
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