Considering they happen to be first cousins, Brian Wilson and Mike Love hold a rockier relationship than NIcki Minaj and Mariah Carey. Forget the past lawsuits and nasty comments between the two, Love was already booking his own Beach Boys with his touring band (minus Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks) in the middle of this past summer’s 50th reunion tour, which saw the Beach Boys reunite with the five surviving members with connections to their 60’s prime.
So to celebrate their 50th anniversary, Wilson and Love reconciled and joined up with founding members Jardine and Marks and longtime member Bruce Johnston to record a stellar new album That’s Why God Made The Radio and a 50 plus show reunion tour followed that saw the band tackling as many as 50 plus songs a night. So because it’s what bands do, they recorded their July 7th show at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, AZ for The Beach Boys 50 Live in Concert.
From appearance alone, The Beach Boys are no longer the hip musical innovators that made Pet Sounds a revolutionary soundtrack for vocally themed indie rockers (Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear), there are enough ugly button down shirts, baseball hats, seal claps by Johnston and unnerving finger gestures by the boldly embarrassing Love. And with all the joy of seeing Wilson return, the film doesn’t shy from his clear use of a teleprompter sitting atop his keyboard, having to remind him of the iconic lyrics he wrote.
The film only holds 21 of the 50 plus songs performed, the band was more than two months into the tour, so musically the version s were certainly polished and the backing band (made up of a configuration from both Wilson and Love’s ensembles) were veteran live ringers at the Beach Boys catalog. Enough can’t be credited to Jeff Foskett for his dead on falsettos and taking departed Carl Wilson’s vocals. But overall this DVD just has the look and feel of a bad infomercial.
Strong versions of new numbers “That’s Why God Made The Radio” and “Isn’t It Time” prove their newer compositions stand up as strong as classics “Good Vibrations” and “Sloop John B.” Mixed up between hot rod tunes (“Little Deuce Couple,” “409,” “Shut Down,” “I Get Around”) and beach odes, the song list gives an equal variety of 60s numbers along with a few rarities, most notably the yacht rocker “Sail On Sailor” sung lead by a self-assured Wilson, complete with triumphant hand gestures.
And although the crowd shots of the rhythmically challenged audience can be nauseating, as it seems many haven’t been to a show since the Carter administration, it is what it is. And although the DVD left out many poignant moments of the tour, most noticeably the tributes to Dennis and Carl Wilson songs, the tour itself was a huge success and if not for the economics of it all according to Love, a Beach Boys summer tour would have probably been a constant summer things for the next few years. Instead we’ll be getting Mike Love and Bruce Johnston’s The Beach Boys.