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.

There’s only One Direction and that’s towards obscurity

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 1st May 2012.

Am I the only one who doesn’t have a clue about One Direction? It seems that they simply appeared from nowhere. For about a week they dominated the media, including high brow broadsheet newspapers and every breakfast TV show on the air.

As a good columnist, I’ve done my research. One Direction is the latest boyband from somewhere overseas and every member is named Liam (pronounced “Lame”). They are also definitive proof that human cloning is underway.

I’ve had a listen to their debut album and as far as pop songs go, it’s completely inoffensive. The tunes are well written and catchy enough, although that’s more of a credit to the songwriters and auto-tune than the performers. The voices are nothing special but they blend together nicely.

The album cover and title puzzle me though. The picture on the sleeve shows the Liams all fresh faced and smiling, but the name of the record is Up All Night. I wish I looked like them when I’ve been up all night. I think a more appropriate album title for the cover art would be It’s Almost Recess.

On a recent trip to Sydney, I was shocked to come across the One Direction Official Merchandise Store in Pitt Street. Teenage girls were lining out the door to purchase t-shirts, shopping bags and badges adorned with the mugs of the Liams. You could even buy the complete doll set of the group for $200. I’m sure the store is a nice little earner for someone, probably One Direction’s manager. As far as I’m concerned, it would have been much more efficient to simply erect a big sign in front of the shop saying, “Attention teenyboppers, please drop your parents’ hard earned cash here.”

Apparently tickets for One Direction’s upcoming Australian arena tour have been selling like there’s no tomorrow. Most of the concerts are sold out and tickets have been appearing on ebay with huge mark-ups. If you are lucky enough to have acquired tickets, my advice is to sell, sell, sell. You see, the concert tour is scheduled for September 2013. That’s right, sixteen months from now.

Having survived the musical fads that were New Kids on the Block, Hanson, Backstreet Boys, Girlfriend, Bros, Milli Vanilli, Spice Girls, B*Witched and Daryl Somers, I’m pretty sure that the average peak popularity of these groups is less than a year. I did manage to avoid Bieber fever because I got vaccinated.

Whoever is pulling the strings on One Direction’s marketing is a genius. Make a fortune selling tickets now for concerts so far ahead in the future that it’s most likely that fans would have moved on to the next big thing by then. Trust me girls, list your precious tickets on ebay now because you’ll probably be giving them away next year. Use your profits to buy shares in a boyband marketing company.

It won’t be so bad for the Liams when One Direction inevitably fade into obscurity. They’ll still be young enough to go back and finish school. Primary school, that is.

Jucy: Alternate means of distributing and promoting independent films

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 8th November 2011.

Fans and supporters of Australian cinema were given a treat on Friday night as Orange hosted a gala screening of the new film, Jucy. Although promotional tours are common in the film industry, Orange is rarely on the itinerary.  Brisbane based director Louise Alston, writer Stephen Vagg and stars Francesca Gasteen and Cindy Nelson are on a road trip to promote their low budget independent feature. With successful screenings in Canberra and Wagga Wagga under their belts so far, they were keen to interact with audience members during a Q & A session following the screening.

I was particularly intrigued by this grassroots approach to film distribution and promotion that is so far removed from the marketing of your typical robots fighting robots mainstream blockbuster, and had the pleasure of chatting to the filmmakers and actors before the screening.

Director Louise Alston says she was buoyed by the success of Bob Connolly’s independent film, Mrs Carey’s Concert, which utilised a similar marketing plan, and as a filmmaker, these screenings really brought her in touch with her potential audience. “We have more love (for Jucy) than somebody selling a whole lot of films. This is our baby so we put a lot of effort in.”

Writer Stephen Vagg explained that this was the second stage in the film’s promotional life and that Jucy had already been well received on the international film festival circuit, with successful screenings at festivals in Toronto, Seattle, London, Seoul and Tel Aviv. “For non-Hollywood films, festivals are very important and they have been for us, but now we’re doing a domestic release and we really want to push it as much as we can by doing personal appearances. We don’t want it (Jucy) to sit on the shelf. We want as many people to see it as possible.”

Vagg also revealed that Wagga Wagga was chosen for a screening because it is director Alston’s home town, and that some of her aunts and uncles hail from Orange.

Described as a “womantic” comedy (think “womance” instead of “bromance”), Jucy is loosely based on the lives of stars Gasteen and Nelson, best friends in real life and both stalwarts of the Brisbane theatre scene. Jackie (Nelson) and Lucy (Gasteen) are best friends, collectively known as Jucy, who do everything together, including amateur theatre. As outsiders, their attempts to fit into the cool crowd by becoming more mainstream create unforeseen pressures which may tear their friendship apart.

The cinematic success of Red Dog this year proves that there is a market for Australian fare that doesn’t involve horror, crime or depressing drug stories. It was great to see posters for a low budget home grown flick like Jucy sitting alongside promotional standees for box office behemoths such as Real Steel and The Smurfs.

The nature of cinema in general does not really allow for a personal connection between the filmmakers and the audience. I am sure that the audience on Friday enjoyed meeting the stars and creative team behind Jucy. Let’s hope this marketing approach is successful and more independent films (and filmmakers) can come to Orange.