I’ll admit, there were times early in this concert when I thought I was watching the skit parody version of the Beach Boys.
For one thing, these bikini bimbos (The Beach Boys Cheerleaders) kept prancing around the stage. They looked for all the world as if they had just finished a photo shoot for an auto parts calendar.
Then there was the band itself. Could they really call themselves the Beach Boys? There were 10 people in the band, only four of whom were Beach Boys (Al Jardine, Carl Wilson, Mike Love and Bruce Johnston).
Love, in his baseball hat, looked more like Bob Hope than a Beach Boy. I was surprised he wasn’t carrying a golf club. In fact, the group churned through early songs like “Catch A Wave” with the grim show-must-go-on determination of a Bob Hope USO Show somewhere near the DMZ.
The low point was a plodding version of Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music.” A great guitar song turned into a synthesizer dirge? Say it ain’t so.
And then there were the voices. Mike Love at his best sounded like Mike Love on helium; at his worst, like Marlon Brando on helium. And I couldn’t help but notice that all of the high harmonies were handled by the young conga player. The Beach Boys have to hire someone to sing high harmonies? I thought I was going to cry.
But the turning point in my attitude came when I realized that the conga player was Matt Jardine, Al’s son. Now that’s different. Al was keeping those high harmonies in the family, and besides, Matt can really sing.
Also, Love began to work the crowd, proving that even if he looks a bit like Bob Hope, he is also just as charming, informal and lovable. Plus, the Beach Boys Cheerleaders took a hike and disappeared for a while.
Then the Beach Boys began to demonstrate the gift for melody and harmony that made them stand out from the pack in the first place. “In My Room” proved that the four Boys can still put together an achingly pretty four-part harmony.
And then they launched into a high energy, feel-good string of their “car” songs. Somewhere between “Little Deuce Coupe” and “I Get Around,” I began to enjoy myself immensely. It’s hard to be a crab when you’re shouting “Round, round, get around” at the top of your lungs.
Then they worked into some of their more sophisticated “Pet Sounds” songs, such as “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Sloop John B.” In these songs, the triple synthesizers were appreciated because it allowed the band to recreate the complex studio sound.
They were even able to do their masterpiece, “Good Vibrations,” although it lost some of its nuances when played as a big wall-of-sound number.
Both this song and “God Only Knows,” the concert’s high point, sung beautifully by Carl, made me remember exactly why this group is so important in the history of American pop.
Brian Wilson’s melodies rival anything written by the best songwriters of the century. His harmonies and arrangements are still capable of sending chills up the spine. Brian Wilson was not in attendance, but he was there in spirit.
And finally, what group can string together three of the best feel-good songs ever (“Help Me Rhonda,” “Barbara Ann” and “Fun, Fun, Fun”) and still have plenty left over for as many encores as they care to give?
The Beach Boys head to The Gorge for another concert tonight at 7 p.m. Call (509) 735-0500 for ticket information.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: THE BEACH BOYS Thursday, Festival at Sandpoint