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.

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.

Classic Songs + TV Ads = Shite

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 2nd November 2010.

There’s nothing quite as crushing for a music fan than finding out that one of your favourite songs has been crudely converted into a jingle, hawking the latest triple double heart stopper burger or the like. What’s even more terrible is that a whole generation of children will only recognise the classics as “that song from the toilet paper ad.”

When I was growing up, I discovered and came to love the music of my parents’ generation by scouring through their record collection. When they were out I’d examine every detail on the gatefold sleeves before very carefully placing the needle on the vinyl, being especially careful not to scratch the record. This is how I discovered artists like Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones, sitting beside a tinny record player, following along with the lyrics over and over until I knew them by heart.

Dad also had two cassettes that he had on constant rotation in his green Carolla, Abba’s Arrival and a random Beatles compilation tape that I’ve never found in any official discography. I don’t care how much you remaster and clean up these albums, Dancing Queen and Hey Jude sound best to me through two mono car door speakers.

 That’s how great music should be discovered, not through a television ad.

One of the worst offenders this year certainly has to be the insurance ad that mutilates Moving Pictures’ What About Me. Prior to it being slightly tarnished by a Mr Noll, this was a timeless Aussie ballad with great lyrics and melody. How could one improve on this? Why not add horrible whiney lyrics sung in embarrassing ocker accents? I’d like to file a claim. Your ad sucks.

Brian Wilson is a musical genius who composed “teenage symphonies to God”. Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys is and will be my favourite album for all time. I’m sure Brian will be spinning in his grave or at least his sandpit if he heard the ad which features a bunch of overly excited salespeople prancing around to Good Vibrations. OK, so he’s not dead but you get my point. You know how the ads feature some customers who watch on with unimpressed looks on their faces. I’m pretty sure they aren’t actors. I’ll pay cash if you just stop.

 English ska band Madness produced some timeless pop classics in the eighties including Baggy Trousers and Our House. How pleased they must be to know that their perennial single It Must Be Love now features in an ad for nappies. A wonderfully romantic song that captures a beautiful moment in the human experience is now reduced to babies and bottoms. I’m sorry, but the nappies aren’t the only things being pooped on right now.

Writing of nappies, I’ve also noticed that MC Hammer’s You Can’t Stop This, which itself sampled Rick James’ Superfreak has now been converted to a jingle that features the line, “Stop, potty time.” OK, it’s far from a classic but even the man who composed the Addams Family rap deserves better treatment than this.

 Of course, I understand that there is big money in licensing these songs and songwriters and artists need to make a living. I just hate to see wonderful aural creations of art be trashed just to sell me some funeral plan insurance.