Life’s a beach in Beaver Creek
If you’re going to see a nostalgia act, it might as well be American music legends the Beach Boys or some incarnation thereof.
To be fair, Saturday evening’s show at the Vilar Center in snowy Beaver Creek was not really the Beach Boys, featuring only one original member ” lead singer Mike Love ” from the original SoCal quintet and keyboardist/vocalist Bruce Johnston, who joined the group in the mid-1960s.
Founding members Carl and Dennis Wilson both died in the 1980s and Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys’ mad genius, is still trying to make the perfect pop album. Al Jardine fronts a similar touring tribute act.
Saturday’s Vilar Center show was more of a tribute to the feel-good sounds and vibes of what many critics consider America’s answer to the Beatles, with whom the Beach Boys sparred on the charts throughout the 1960s. It’s likely that Saturday’s Beach Boys lineup is the closest we may ever get to the real thing again, and therefore, we should enjoy it as such.
Love and company cruised through a catalog of instantly recognizable hits about the beach, surfing, girls and cars, all of which seem somewhat out of place at the foot of a ski resort, until you realize that surf and snow culture are intrinsically linked. Sure, the topographies are entirely different, but the attitudes and ways of life are relatively the same.
The band seemed acutely aware of this and effortlessly provided two nonstop hours of good times and singalongs, all with the distinct sound verve that has made the Beach Boys an institution of American music that has inspired countless outfits.
The Beach Boys’ hallmark was and still is their vocal harmonies and melodies, which are so insanely catchy that they border on criminal. Few groups blended voices as seamlessly and melodically with such perfect pitch as the Beach Boys.
Those golden voices were on full display as the group opened with “California Girls,” with beach balls following soon after, bouncing around the Vilar Center throughout the first half of the show.
The Beach Boys spread out their hits from there on, intermingling rarities such as “Cherry Cherry Coupe” and a cover of the Mamas and Papas’ “California Dreamin'” in with standards “Wouldn’t it be Nice” and “Surfin’ Safari.”
The show culminated with a five-song barrage of “God Only Knows,” “Good Vibrations,” the schmaltzy “Kokomo” (alas, no Uncle Jesse on percussion), a spirited “Help Me, Rhonda” and “Surfin’ USA.”
Much credit goes to Love and Johnston for sharing the vocal load. Whether it’s age or energy, it’s no secret that the actual Beach Boys can’t hit the notes as consistently as they used to. During a rendition of “Be True to Your School” Love remarked that “those notes were a hell of a lot easier to hit in 1963.”
Wisely, the Beach Boys surrounded themselves with some quite capable singers that fit the band’s profile as Love and Johnston serve in backup and stage banter (subjects: age, altitude) capacities.
This is not to say that Love and Johnston still can’t climb the scales and hold a vowel. They may not have the gloss vocals to carry them through an entire show, but when they unleash those voices, you certainly take notice, as with their a cappella rendition of “Their Hearts Were Full of Spring” and “Surfer Girl.”
Regardless of who is singing or what’s in a band name, the Beach Boys’ charm and chops make for an irresistible, inviting trip down memory lane to get lost in surfer girl ” or ski bunny ” fantasies while a grin stretches across your face as those four- and five-part harmonies reach their crescendos. And who’s going to say no to that?
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