Concert Reviews
The hottest gigs straight from the venue to your couch

Live Review: The Beach Boys at The Chicago Theatre (5/21,22)

on May 23, 2012, 3:55am

cos beach boys 1 Live Review: The Beach Boys at The Chicago Theatre (5/21,22)

While Chicago cleaned up its streets after hosting the questionably turbulent NATO conference, thousands of residents escaped to the sunny confines of California at the city’s downtown Chicago Theatre. Over two nights, The Beach Boys treated two sold-out crowds to a dizzying spectacle of greatest hits, fan favorites, and oft forgotten gems. Fans arrived in island fashion – in other words, wearing their Tommy Bahama best – and raced for the pricey mixed drinks, treating each night like some minute vacay from everyday Midwestern life. This, admittedly, wasn’t a hard thing to do: Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, and Bruce Johnston were fabulous tour guides.

Unlike their recent stop at New Orleans Jazz Festival, actor/percussionist/sexiest-human-in-existence John Stamos did not introduce the band for either Chicago date. This would be a Stamo-less excursion, which actually worked out for the best. This left the band to its true legacy, which has always been about a group of kids getting together to create the best music in American rock ‘n’ roll history. This reunion tour makes that very clear through a series of vintage clips that fluctuate behind the performing all-stars; whether it’s recording tracks for Pet Sounds or flipping through yearbook photos, the veterans’ youthful ties were not dismissed.

cos beach boys 9 Live Review: The Beach Boys at The Chicago Theatre (5/21,22)

Night one of any two-night residency is always going to be special, if only because it has the advantage of being altogether surprising. Hearing Brian Wilson sing “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” live drilled straight into the heart, seeing a video projection of Dennis and Carl Wilson respectively singing “Forever” and “God Only Knows” whilst the surviving members performed alongside each drained the tear ducts, and feeling the living and breathing harmonies of “In My Room” or even the band’s latest single “That’s Why God Made the Radio” sent genuine shivers up and down many a spine. (It helped that the venue’s trademark acoustics nurtured each and every melody and harmony.) These were all moments of the band’s first night in Chicago that left lasting impressions on any casual or diehard fan.

But there was something special about Tuesday night’s performance. Not only did they drag out a rare cut like “This Whole World”, but the Boys appeared more jovial – especially Brian. Although he wasn’t as slumped and dismissive as he was during Jazz Fest, he wasn’t exactly peachy during his first night in The Windy City, either. Prior to Monday night’s intermission, and before the music had even subsided during “I Get Around”, he walked off stage almost instantly. On Tuesday, however, he was smiling, acting witty (“Let’s hear it for The Beach Boys,” he exclaimed.), and didn’t whisk himself away prior to the intermission. Instead, he sat behind his grand white piano and waved to his adoring fans, who gave him standing ovations after each song he sang lead vocals on.

cos beach boys 8 Live Review: The Beach Boys at The Chicago Theatre (5/21,22)

There was also a more personable audience, and that’s an integral facet to a Beach Boys show, and here’s why: So much of their music means different things to different people. After an early cut like “Surfer Girl”, which Love explained was “the first song Brian wrote riding in a car,” a lone fan stood up and applauded following the performance, as if that particular track meant something personal to her. When Johnston nailed his Surf’s Up lost gem, “Disney Girls”, one vibrant group towards the front applauded in admiration, as if they had just heard “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”. This trend occurred throughout the second night and really added a novel charm to the set and, actually, the band itself.

It’s illogical to keep bringing up Stamos, but he said something important at Jazz Fest. He called The Beach Boys “America’s band,” and that couldn’t be a truer statement. It’s arguable (but hardly) that any American act has carved out a stronger, more integral album than Pet Sounds, and one might throw in SMiLE for good measure, too. They’re quintessential albums with tracks that sound plucked from some proverbial heaven. Even during The Beatles’ heyday, Paul McCartney expressed how moved he was by a song like “God Only Knows”, and critics worldwide spun their heads for weeks on end when they first heard “Good Vibrations”. C’mon, these are pieces of music that could rival the very best of classical composers even.

cos beach boys 10 Live Review: The Beach Boys at The Chicago Theatre (5/21,22)

What one takes away after hearing 44 live cuts from The Beach Boys – because, yes, these musicians (pushing 70, mind you) manage to knock out 44 tracks each night – is that not only were they able to craft some of the best music ever recorded, but they managed to surround these diamond tracks with anthem after anthem that defined the spirit of America. Some might say songs like “Surfin’ Safari”, “Little Deuce Coupe”, or “Be True to Your School” are dated, but are they? When Love sings, “Be true to your school, just like you would to your girl,” that might seem lost on a generation that’s plugged into mobile phones all day and night, but really, it’s a timeless ideology when you get right down to it – at least, let’s hope it is.

So, yeah, some 50 years later, they’re still saying the right things.

A breakdown of sorts:

-Drink of choice amongst most fans: frozen margaritas

-Hey, the Wondermints are a killer backing band, but there’s someone else who really deserves some credit: Guitarist Scott Totten, whose job is more or less the band’s ultra-savvy conductor.

-But, wait a second, how many guitarists do they have?: I counted seven, not including bassists.

-Number of times I reminded myself to watch Teen Wolf on Netfix: 3

-Most energetic original member: Tied. Al Jardine and David Marks aren’t kidding around.

-Did we really need to hear that one?: “All This Is That”, and no, not really.

-Wait, who’s singing like Carl Wilson up there?: Jeff Foskett – he’s really, really convincing, too.

-Number of fans giving each other high-fives: Countless

-Number of fans giving high-fives on their way down the aisle as they danced to “Heroes and Villains”: 1

-Let’s hear some more new stuff, like: “Shelter”, “Isn’t It Time”

-That moment where I sort of, kind of – okay, actually really – wanted to watch Cocktail: All throughout “Kokomo”, especially when the stage screen plastered a neon sign for Cocktails and Dreams, Tom Cruise’s fictional chain of cheesy mall-established bars.

-Let’s hear some more old stuff, like: “Surf’s Up”, “Cabin Essence”, and “Feel Flows”

-“Dance, Dance, Dance”: Not in these sets, but boy golly, did we ever.

Photography by Heather Kaplan.

Setlist – May 21st:
Do It Again
Catch A Wave
Hawaii
Don’t Back Down
Surfin’ Safari
Surfer Girl
Please Let Me Wonder
Marcella
Wendy
Then I Kissed Her (The Crystals cover)
Why Do Fools Fall in Love (Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers cover)
When I Grow Up
Cottonfields
It’s OK
Little Honda
Be True to Your School
Disney Girls
Kiss Me, Baby
Don’t Worry Baby
Little Deuce Coupe
409
Shut Down
I Get Around
Set II
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
Forever
Sail On Sailor
Heroes And Villains
In My Room
God Only Knows
That’s Why God Made the Radio
All This Is That
Good Vibrations
California Girls
Help Me Rhonda
Rock and Roll Music (Chuck Berry cover)
Do You Wanna Dance? (Bobby Freeman cover)
Surfin’ USA
Encore:
Kokomo
Barbara Ann (The Regents cover)
Fun Fun Fun

Setlist – May 22nd:
Do It Again
Little Honda
Catch A Wave
Hawaii
Don’t Back Down
Surfin’ Safari
Surfer Girl
Please Let Me Wonder
Marcella
Then I Kissed Her (The Crystals cover)
This Whole World
Why Do Fools Fall in Love (Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers cover)
When I Grow Up
Cottonfields
It’s OK
Be True to Your School
Disney Girls
Kiss Me, Baby
Don’t Worry Baby
Little Deuce Coupe
409
Shut Down
I Get Around
Set II
Add Some Music to Your Day
Sloop John B
Wouldn’t It Be Nice
I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times
Sail On Sailor
All This Is That
Heroes And Villains
That’s Why God Made the Radio
In My Room
Forever
God Only Knows
Good Vibrations
California Girls
Help Me Rhonda
Rock and Roll Music (Chuck Berry cover)
Do You Wanna Dance? (Bobby Freeman cover)
Surfin’ USA
Encore:
Kokomo
Barbara Ann (The Regents cover)
Fun Fun Fun

[nggallery id=363]