They are America’s band. Sure, it’s easy to get caught up in the competing line-ups and the (overblown) drama, but the fact remains The Beach Boys are an iconic part of this country’s musical landscape. In 2012 the group released their first new studio album in twenty years, That’s Why God Made the Radio and embarked on a 73 date 50th Anniversary Tour. For the first time in decades, all of the surviving original members were on stage together.
For many years, lead singer Mike Love along with keyboardist Bruce Johnson, who joined the group in 1965, have toured as the Beach Boys, while co-founder Brian Wilson toured separately. Another co-founding member, Al Jardine also toured on his own, but more recently has been touring with Brian. David Marks, who was briefly in the band while Jardine was absent, has toured with both, but is currently in Brian’s band.
Mike’s crew has toured relentlessly and was on the road right up until the 50th Anniversary Tour, while Brain toured steadily, but didn’t do nearly as many dates. Supporting musicians from both bands played on the 50th Anniversary Tour, which was an astonishing show. The group was so alive and full of energy it was hard to believe it was the 50th year they’d been together.
Right before that tour, Mike Love was having back issues, causing him to be less mobile on stage. He’d joke about it, and even take a break for a song or too, but surgery seemed to do the trick and he was closer to his old self in 2012. It’s unclear if he had any more medical attention, but for the 2015 tour he was able to glide across the stage like it was 1965. Of course the hardcore fans still long for the full line-up, but the two camps can’t seem to agree on how to do that while satisfying everyone’s creative, artistic, and performing needs.
The good news is Mike and Bruce have assembled an amazing supporting cast that can do all of the things that make a Beach Boys’ song great. Most have been with this incarnation of the band for several years, including the group’s guitarist and musical director Scott Totten. John Foskett, also on guitar, handles most of the vocals that would be done by Brian. He toured for a time with Brian, so there’s obviously not that much friction between the two factions. New edition Brian Eichenberger, on bass, has ably risen to the challenge and nightly provides a wonderful rendition of “I Can Hear Music,” the Ronettes cover that was sung by the late Carl Wilson. Drummer John Cowsill lately takes vocal duties on “Help Me Rhonda,” sounding a bit huskier than Al Jardine (who sang it in the original band), but solid nonetheless. Canadian Tim Bonhomme serves as keyboardist, filling in with additional sounds from his synths such as saxophone and steel drums.
The band played most of the hits, but also threw in a few deep cuts such as “Farmer’s Daughter” from the band’s second album 1963’s Surfin’ USA, as well as “Keep an Eye on Summer” and “Goin’ to the Beach.” Of course with such a vast catalogs some faves will get left out. For example some audiences got to hear the very fine “It’s O.K.,” from 1976’s 15 Big Ones Album, but Cincinnati did not. Also, “All Summer Long,” “Do You Wanna Dance?” and “Getcha Back” were left, but that just means fans will have to go see them again next summer.
8 Surfboards out of 10
PF Wilson has been writing about music, TV, radio, and movies for over 20 years. He has also written about sports, business, and politics with his work appearing in Cincinnati CityBeat, The Houston Press, Cleveland Scene, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine, Atomic Ranch, and many more. Check out his podcast PF’s Tape Recorder available from Podbean or in iTunes.