Derek Gentile: Beach Boys still sizzle in year No. 52
PITTSFIELD -- Monday was a busy news day. Which means I didn't get to the Beach Boys concert at Tanglewood until it was about an hour in.
I don't think it's fair to review a show if I've only seen a portion of it. That said, I was impressed enough to decide to offer a few thoughts about one of the best shows I've seen this year.
The band, now in it's 52nd year, offered up a massive, 42-song, three-plus hour set Monday night.
That's a heck of a show just for that factor, although the Beach Boys' usual set is about 35 songs. This was the longest set of their North American tour.
Why is something we probably won't know. But I was interested to learn from original Beach Boy Mike Love that the band enjoyed playing Tanglewood because of its acoustics and beauty of the setting. So, maybe that was it.
Anyway, one of the reasons I enjoyed what I saw and heard Monday was, contrary to what everyone says (everyone that I suspect doesn't go to many shows), the band sounds pretty good.
I didn't expect the soaring harmonies that Love and the Wilson brothers (Brian, Carl and Dennis) offered when they were starting out in 1962. That power quartet was almost otherworldly. There are songs recorded in that era that still raise the hairs on the back of my neck.
But Love has assembled a number of vocalists that can get there on most numbers. A discerning ear might detect some flaws, but one would have to be quite familiar with their catalog to make those decisions.
This next point is purely personal. I enjoy most of the band's catalog. (How can you not? A total of 38 top 40 hits in the U.S. alone!) But I really enjoy when a band pulls deeper cuts from it's archives.
In the case of the Beach Boys, there were several gems. "Ballad of Ol' Betsy," which we heard Monday is a chestnut off 1963's "Little Deuce Coupe" that I doubt anyone in the audience has ever heard live. Ditto "Please Let Me Wonder," which was a "B" side in 1965 to "Do You Wanna Dance?"
Also greatly appreciated are covers that, again, one might not hear at a Beach Boys show. For me, it was "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" by Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers and a really fine version of "California Dreamin'" by the Mamas and the Papas. That was cool.
And, of course, virtually all the hits for which you could wish, including "Don't Worry Baby," "Sloop John B" and a lovely version of "God Only Knows."
Those are just my faves.
I understand that folks are disappointed that the band tours without Brian Wilson, the architect of a vast amount of their hits. I'd like to see him perform, as well. But the 1960s were a tough era for a lot of rock stars, and it's gratifying that he's the sole Wilson brother who is still around.
I'd also like to acknowledge a great show I saw up at Mass MoCA last week. Jason Isbell, formerly of the Drive By Truckers, was superb.
I understand that a number of people who attended the show expected a more country-flavored show. The Drive By Truckers, after all are known as a country and western band.
Isbell is not of that genre. Or at least not fully of that genre. What he is, is one of the finest lyricists of his generation, and an absolutely scintillating guitar player.
I posted a video of his superb "Danko/Manuel" on my Facebook page. That's a song he wrote with the Truckers about Rick Danko and Richard Manuel, two members of The Band who are deceased. That alone should be required listening for country and western fans.
To reach Derek Gentile:
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On Twitter: @DerekGentile
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