DATE: Thursday 27th September 2012
VENUE: Royal Albert Hall, London
COST: £95 plus wildly extortionate booking fee of £9.50
OUR VERDICT: Phenomenal
|The Tour logo|
Excitement had been building all week in anticipation of seeing the surviving members of the Beach Boys reunited in the UK for the penultimate show of their 50th Anniversary World Tour. We figured we would be in for a great show, especially when we saw that they had brought the big screens with them to give us the total Beach Boys experience with videos being played to accompany the songs. When the house lights were turned down at about 7.45pm a great cheer erupted from the expectant audience who filled every seat (just about) in the Royal Albert Hall.
The front line is the five Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, David Marks, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston, along with Scott Totten, from the Mike and Bruce touring band and Jeff Foskett who toured as a Beach Boy during the 80’s, and is also Brian Wilson’s right hand man in his own touring band set up. The back line have a real musical pedigree, with members of Brian Wilson’s touring band, Darian Sahanaja, Mike D’Amico, Probyn Gregory, Nelson Bragg, Scott Bennett, Paul Von Mertens and the drummer from the Mike & Bruce set up, John Cowsill.
The Beach Boys are in their seventies now (except for the baby in the band, David Marks!), have been on a gruelling world tour since April and at times during the show Mike and Bruce’s vocals were a bit weak, and Brian missed a few words here and there, but overall the sound was just fantastic (that two and a half hour sound check paid off!!). Everyone on stage looked like they wanted to be there, putting to one side the reports of discord and disappointment following Mike Love’s ill-timed recent press statement (why he couldn’t have waited until after the tour had concluded to tell us what we already knew, we don’t know!).
The show kicked off with a strong drum beat from John Cowsill and dressed in black trousers and shirt with a gold shimmery jacket, front man Mike Love’s dulcet tones came through “It’s automatic, when we talk with old friends …….” with the aptly titled “Do It Again” starting the set which delivered a non-stop, high energy ride through the back catalogue with an amazing 61 songs being performed. Without pausing for breath, the surf medley followed and it was great to hear “Don’t Back Down” included.
|Nelson Bragg adds great percussion|
David Marks taking the lead on “Getcha Back” was brilliant to hear and the harmony from the rest of the band, just superb. Al Jardine got a great reaction from the crowd on “Then I Kissed Her” and was by far the one with the strongest vocal. Brian Wilson took the lead on many of the numbers, including “Please Let Me Wonder”, and “Marcella”. On the latter, backing band member Scott Bennett’s vocal was very audible and sounded incredible but the song was lacking the real guitar rock out we have seen in past Brian Wilson solo tours and we wondered how even more energetic the show would have been had the backing band been able to add more of their individual flair to the set!
A charity was being supported (Operation Smile) throughout the night and a rather moving video of a wee girl with a cleft lip being remedied played while the Beach Boys sang “Kiss Me Baby”. It appeared at the start of the song that the Boys were a bit unsure who was supposed to take the lead on this song!
Next up was a track from the recently released album, and we got the radio edit of “Isn’t It Time” which sounded great and got a good reaction from the audience, especially bearing in mind many of them may not have been familiar with this song.
Another surprise in the set was “Come Go With Me”, again with Al Jardine on lead and the audience were really appreciative of hearing that one. The band nailed the next song, another Doo Wop classic, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” with some fantastic harmony to close the song off.
A technical hitch seemed to befall Scott Bennett during “When I Grow Up To Be A Man” as he lost the sound on the keyboard, but this did not detract from the overall performance of the song and he was back up and running for the next tune!
A real highlight was seeing Darian Sahanaja in the glare of the supertouper as he took the lead on “Darlin’”. He sounded amazing and dressed in a really smart suit and tie for this gig, he looked marvellous too.
|Bruce sings Disney Girls|
“Disney Girls” is a gentle, soft song, and with minimal instrumentation (the only guitar being played was from backing band member, Probyn Gregory) and Bruce Johnston delivered a sweet vocal. The audience reaction at the end was brilliant.
“It’s OK” was a bit of a disappointment as Mike Love’s voice was quite ropey and someone with red pom-poms bounced about in the first row as “Be True To Your School” was sung, and snapshots of The Beach Boys at Hawthorne high flashed up on the big screen behind. When a picture of Carl Wilson (who passed away on 1999) flashed up the audience gave a big cheer.
Scott Totten shone through with his falsetto on “The Ballad Of Ole’ Betsy” and played some smouldering solo guitar on the 90’s song “Still Cruising”.
|The CEO of falsetto - Jeff Foskett|
By this point we had been treated to twenty nine songs and the first half was rounded off with a further five songs, a car medley beginning with the CEO of falsetto, Jeff Foskett, giving us a perfect rendition of “Don’t Worry Baby” and ending with a rapturous “I Get Around”.
We did spend much of the first half having fun, playing “spot the bass guitarist” as Mike D’Amico took turns behind the drum kit for some songs (we thought maybe to give John Cowsill a break and allow him to pace himself for the monumentous set!) and Probyn Gregory (very talented multi-instrumentalist) took on bass duties.
Other times, Mike was nowhere to be seen at all and Probyn had firm control of the bass guitar! There was no Nicky Wonder to play baritone guitar, so Probyn also stepped up and played way up the neck instead. That meant for a number or two we had TWO basses.
The start of the second half seemed to catch much of the audience off guard for some reason (even though the announcements told us the band would be back in five, then three minutes!) and they missed out on a hint of James Bond theme before delivering a brilliant “Pet Sounds”, with David Marks on the lead guitar. David’s guitar work was brilliant and it’s just a shame that not everyone made it back to their seats in time to hear this in its full glory. Mike D’Amico was on drums for this one and sounded great. The lights dimmed and when the lights went up again The Beach Boys were gathered around Brian Wilson’s grand piano and our ears were blessed with a beautiful version of Add Some Music. You couldn’t fault this and Brian looked very comfortable and extremely happy. Indeed all through the second half Brian just beamed with delight and really enjoyed his time on the stage.
“Our Prayer” just oozed harmony, and surprised us with being in the set, given Mike’s apparent reluctance to appreciate anything SMiLE related. The SMiLE theme continued with Heroes & Villains, even including the “you’re under arrest” shout out. The best reaction for Brian came at the end of “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” when the audience refused to let the show go on, until they had given a full standing ovation and extended cheers. His rendition of the song from his masterpiece album “Pet Sounds” justifiably deserved that accolade as he sang it beautifully.
Scott Totten took the lead on “Let Him Run Wild” and then Al Jardine stepped up to the mike for “California Dreaming” and “California Saga”.
Brian Wilson was very animated through “All This Is That”, a song from the Carl And The Passions, So Tough album, inspired by transcendental meditation and the harmony was really lush. This was one of the best versions we’ve heard.
|The grrreat BRIAN WILSON!|
Another song from their new album followed, this time the title track, “That’s Why God Made the Radio” and the band got it together tonight and nailed this one, without a doubt. There is so much harmony and sound in this song, your ears melt!
Then we got the experience many of the US fans got during the US leg of the tour – The Beach Boys taking a back seat and adding only backing harmony as the big screen above the stage played video of Dennis Wilson singing “Forever” and then the same for Carl Wilson singing “God Only Knows”. It was truly a moving experience and during “God Only Knows”, Brian played accompanying piano all the way through. There was certainly lumps in our throats and can only imagine how Brian must have felt watching his little brothers up there on the screen.
|Probyn thrills on Good Vibrations|
Then it was back to the high energy songs, and from this point on, no-one sat down. From “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” onwards, everyone was up and dancing in their seat. The Beeb did the obligatory “hum dee dums” along to “Good Vibrations” which made the people around us laugh (sadly no-one joined in) and the second half rounded off with high octane “Surfin’ USA”.
But the audience would not let go of this special band so easily and the encore was “Kokomo” followed by “Barbara Ann” where Brian moved out from the comfort of his grand piano, and plucked his bass guitar.
|Brian plucks his bass|
“Fun, Fun, Fun” rounded off that encore and people who were starting to leave were stopped in their tracks as, after a bit of on-stage discussion, the opening notes from the final song on their new album were heard. We were amazed to hear “Summer’s Gone”, with Brian providing the perfect vocal. This left us with such a warm glow, and was the best way to end the show.
|Take a bow|
|The audience loved it all|
1. Do It Again
2. Little Honda
3. Catch A Wave
5. Don’t Back Down
6. Surfin’ Safari
7. Surfer Girl
8. The Little Girl I Once Knew
9. This Whole World
11. Getcha Back
12. Then I Kissed Her
13. Please Let me Wonder
15. You’re So Good To Me
16. Kiss Me Baby
17. Isn’t It Time
18. Come Go With Me
19. Why Do Fools Fall In Love
20. When I Grow Up To Be A Man
21. Dance, Dance, Dance
23. Disney Girls
24. Good Timin’
25. It’s OK
27. Be True To Your School
28. Ballad Of Ole’ Betsy
29. Still Cruising
30. Don’t Worry Baby
31. Little Deuce Coupe
33. Shut Down
34. I Get Around
35. Pet Sounds
36. Add Some Music
37. Sail On Sailor
38. Our Prayer
39. Heroes & Villains
40. I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times
41. Let Him Run Wild
42. California Dreaming
43. California Saga
44. In My Room
45. All This Is That
46. That’s Why God Made The Radio
48. God Only Knows
49. Sloop John B
50. Wouldn’t It Be Nice
51. Good Vibrations
52. California Girls
53. All Summer Long
54. Help Me Rhonda
55. Rock & Roll Music
56. Do You Wanna Dance
57. Surfin’ USA
59. Barbara Ann
60. Fun, Fun, Fun
61. Summer’s Gone