BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
There’s a familiar showbiz axiom that says something to the effect of “always leave your audience wanting more.” For all their years in the spotlight however, the Beach Boys don’t seem to take notice. Indeed, with all the hype and hoopla surrounding last year’s 50th anniversary tour, the band might have actually overstayed their welcome had Mike Love not abruptly pulled the plug. Nevertheless, the Beach Boys have always been mostly about memories and nostalgia, so it’s fitting that this concert DVD provides a good-natured souvenir of the band’s final fling.
It won’t be the last word on the subject — an ultimate anthology promising a wealth of unreleased material is due later this summer — but it may well be the only remaining opportunity to relive the reunion. Truth be told, it ‘s the supporting musicians — most of whom belong to the group called the Wondermints, the same outfit who support Brian Wilson’s solo ventures both onstage and in the studio — who did all the heavy lifting, filling in every note and nuance generated by the albums. Likewise, with the exception of David Marks, who provides some wonderful riffing, the original quintet’s instrumental contributions are mostly negligible. Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston offer only perfunctory performances on their instruments, and suspiciously, there’s next to no shots of Brian actually playing his piano. Yet, that’s more than made up for by the army of guitars, keyboards and percussion utilised by the backing musicians. Even those famous Beach Boys harmonies are so overly augmented, it’s hard to know how much the core members actually add to the mix.
That’s one reason why it sometimes seems they’re only going through the motions, and that all the onstage enthusiasm is being shared solely by the boys behind them. Love slithers and poses as he always tends to do, Johnston and Jardine do their best to egg the audience on, and even the close-ups of a typically catatonic looking Brian make it hard to distinguish a smile from a grimace. Happily, no one in the crowd seems to mind, and indeed, there are ample shots of the ageing audience dancing, grooving and generally soaking up every song. And no wonder; plenty of hits are included — from “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “I Get Around” and the aptly-titled “Do It Again,” through the progressive era of “Heroes and Villains” and “Good Vibrations,” and finally on to the later phase of “Kokomo” and “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” 21 tunes in all. In the end though, it’s the sum total of that sound that counts.
No bonus features, no behind the scenes glances — The Beach Boys 50: Live In Concert offers just over an hour and fifteen minutes documenting a moment in time, as it was but may never be again. For the truly devoted, that seems to be all that’s needed.