Friday Night: The Beach Boys at The Woodlands
The Beach Boys taught a generation of American kids how to be teenagers. With songs about the perils of love, the magic of cars, school ties, faceless authority, and depression and isolation, they wrote the book on high-octane hormonal rock. Almost 50 years removed, the songs remain vital Rosetta Stones for most every (well-built) pop record.
Pop culture has made sure they stay ever-present in our ears, even as films and commercials plunder the Boys' music for their own means. This makes the Beach Boys at once corny and vital. This new 50th anniversary tour didn't come without jokes about Depends, dementia and money-grabbing.
The Beach Boys and the Beatles represent two halves of the classic rock and roll experience, though one group had the chance continue to record and play into their late '60s and '70s, while the other splintered into a myth curated by four men and their wives and children.
I mention the Beatles because time has been kinder to them than the Beach Boys, but the Beach Boys deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with them, even though the Beatles legend is sexier and comes with more manufactured luster.
The Beach Boys grew up with their audience and got to evolve and deviate from their sound, with alternately lauded and laughable results along the way. They had the luck to be able to screw up their legacy, which is why a lot of detractors have seen this reunion run with less than reverent eyes. But then again, for the past two decades most music journalists have either only seen Brian Wilson solo or a half-ass touring version of the Beach Boys .
Thank God for this tour to fix that.
Friday night's set at The Woodlands was separated into two parts. The first half was very much for the band and for super-fans looking for chestnuts and B-sides; the second half reaffirmed their legacy with some of the biggest and most cherished compositions of their career rocketing into the crowd. You shouldn't have been bored on Friday night.
"Please Let Me Wonder" was on the flip side of "Do You Wanna Dance?." The album track "Don't Back Down" came from 1963's album All Summer Long, and Bruce Johnston's showcase "Disney Girls (1957)" was from 1971's Surf's Up. This wasn't entirely a cheap and easy hits night.
Most welcoming to the Beach nerds in the crowd were the cuts from 1972's Carl and the Passions LP, which saw the addition of Blondie Chaplin -- best known now as one of the Rolling Stones' longtime touring sidemen -- to the band. "Marcella" and "All This Is That" were both nestled into the set. Al Jardine introduced the latter by crediting Transcendental Meditation with keeping the band floating in darker times. Check out "TM Song" from their 1976 studio effort 15 Big Ones too.
It's that period with Chaplin as a full-fledged member of the Boys that gets overlooked, even though the material is worth taking in, especially "Sail On, Sailor" which came in the second set of the evening. You may know it from the soundtrack to The Departed. "It's O.K." even came out to play, sitting nicely next to "Cotton Fields."
De facto front man Mike Love made a few groan-worthy hard sells for the band's new album That's Why God Made the Radio most of the night. The disc was on sale for $5 at the merch stands and a few came signed by the full band. By the end of Friday's show Love said they had pushed out a few thousand copies, making the guilt-tripping worth it.
At that low price, it was a worthy and cheaper concert souvenir alternative than a $40 shirt or a $65 hoodie that Houstonians won't need to use until three weeks in November.
Late this weekend word would come that the album would become their highest-charting album since their hits set Endless Summer topped the charts back in October 1974. We'll find out for sure on Wednesday morning.
"We're battling it out with Adele, so buy American," said Love at one point during just one of his numerous pitches. It's true, a recent airing of an Adele special on network television has her hovering back at the top of the charts, and Alan Jackson's newest could also cause trouble for Radio too.
Love has never been anyone's "favorite" band member, as he is always seen as the corporate face of the group, the one that is more interested in selling shit and making money with the name, no matter how awkward it looked.
Even though he has been up front singing most of their songs these past 50 years, he's still seen as secondary to Brian. Love mentioned his beloved Bentley while introducing "Ballad of Ole' Betsy," which is either cute or douchey depending on how you look at it.
The four-pack of "Little Deuce Coupe," "409," "Shut Down" and "I Get Around" closed out the first set before intermission, waking up the audience and re-energizing the band for the next half.