Can you believe it? The Beach Boys turned 50 years old this year! And although they are hardly boys anymore, they are still avidly celebrating youthful California pursuits like sun, surf, cars and girls, which delighted fans both young and old at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Memorial Day.
The band at The Bowl consisted of the founding Beach Boys Mike Love (local connection: formerly a resident of Mesa Lane), Al Jardine and musical genius Brian Wilson, plus early band member David Marks and longtime band member Bruce Johnston (local connection: lives in Montecito).
Wilson’s brothers and fellow founding members Dennis and Carl are sadly no longer with us, but recordings of their voices were used to great effect for the songs “Forever” and “God Only Knows,” respectively. The band was rounded out by a virtual army of other musicians, including UCSB alum Jeff Foskett on guitar and contributing to the band’s trademark harmonies.
What a treat to have these guys together for the first time in decades! It was especially great to have Wilson on board, for although he gave a wonderful solo performance at the Lobero Theatre a few years ago, and the Wilson-less Beach Boys (also without Jardine and Marks) were great at the Ventura County Fair last year, it just seems right that Wilson should be together with the band that so hugely benefited from his compositions and arrangements.
There were hits galore, including a full-speed tribute to cars at the end of the first set consisting of “Little Deuce Coupe,” “409,” “Shut Down” and “I Get Around,” and songs toward the end, including “California Girls,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Surfin’ USA,” “Barbara Ann” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.”
In the second set, the acclaimed 1966 album Pet Sounds was well-represented by “Sloop John B,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times,” “In My Room” and the aforementioned “God Only Knows.” The lost masterpiece “Smile,” which finally gained official release just last year, decades after being recorded, was sadly absent apart from “Heroes and Villains” and “Good Vibrations,” both of which saw the light of day way back when. But what great songs these are — arguably Wilson at his finest.
The band was in good spirits, with Love joking that The Bowl had been remodeled extensively since their last visit, including now having indoor plumbing. They also introduced “Be True to Your School” by calling it one of the most patriotic songs ever written. Indeed, they said it was written for women in uniform, specifically women in cheerleader uniforms. Plus, a nice touch during “California Girls” was the phrase change to “I wish they all could be Santa Barbara girls.”
The band also played two tracks off their soon-to-be-released new album That’s Why God Made the Radio, namely the title track, and “Isn’t It Time” in its first-ever live performance. These fit nicely into The Beach Boys canon, showing that they can still capture the magic 50 years in, both on record and in stellar live performance.
Do It Again
Catch a Wave
Don’t Back Down
Please Let Me Wonder
This Whole World
Then I Kissed Her (The Crystals cover)
Kiss Me, Baby
Isn’t It Time
Why Do Fools Fall in Love (Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers cover)
When I Grow Up (to Be a Man)
Cotton Fields (Lead Belly cover)
Be True to Your School
Ballad of Ole’ Betsy
Don’t Worry Baby
Little Deuce Coupe
I Get Around
Add Some Music to Your Day
California Dreamin’ (The Mamas & the Papas cover)
Sloop John B
Wouldn’t It Be Nice
I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times
Sail on, Sailor
Heroes and Villains
In My Room
All This Is That
That’s Why God Made the Radio
Forever (Dennis Wilson recorded vocals)
God Only Knows (Carl Wilson recorded vocals)
Dance, Dance, Dance
Help Me, Rhonda
Rock and Roll Music (Chuck Berry cover)
Do You Wanna Dance? (Bobby Freeman cover)
Barbara Ann (The Regents cover)
Fun, Fun, Fun
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.