Mike, Bruce, and the gang have blown through Houston for Fourth of July shows in 2000 and 2001 (and are scheduled to do it again in 2002), but on the much-cooler evening of October 16, 2001, they returned for a private performance at the Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, a suburban community north of Houston. (The outdoor show was given for employees of the vast Texas Medical Center, Houston Independent School District, the Spirit International Amateur Golf Tournament, and other combined organizations.)
Of their three Houston appearances over the past fifteen months, this was, by far, their best. Whether you chalk it up to the brisk autumn air or end-of-tour happiness, the band was tighter and more energetic than ever. No distractions; no dancing girls onstage; no band members’ kids “helping out” on classic numbers; just straight music from the eight-man touring band.
New touring members John Cowsill and Scott Totten have settled in well (replacing Mike Meros and Philip Bardowell), though “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Kokomo” lacked Bardowell’s dead-on reproductions of Carl Wilson’s original vocals. Nevertheless, the precision harmonies and musical arrangements were faithful to the recordings of yesteryear. Kudos to Mike Love and Bruce Johnston for assembling a touring band worthy of the Beach Boys name.
Mr. Love’s voice was clear and strong on this night, and Adrian Baker’s renditions of the Brian Wilson vocals on “Don’t Worry, Baby” and “Surfer Girl” remained on target. Likewise, John Cowsill’s lively lead on “Help Me, Rhonda” sounded like pure Jardine. The most pleasant surprise, however, was Bruce Johnston’s performance of “God Only Knows.” True to the original lead voicings by the late Carl Wilson (to whom the song was dedicated), Johnston’s vocals were strong and wide-ranging.
Weak points were in two song selections. Though the band loves to show off their vocal harmonies, it’s time they retired “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” from the line-up. And with so many classic originals to choose from, why, oh why, did they perform Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music?” Otherwise, the concert was a rollicking success and the refreshing weather kept the audience mood at peak level throughout.
Purists can say that without Carl, Brian and Al, these Beach Boys are not the real thing. Be that as it may, their upbeat music is needed now more than ever, and a modified/evolved Beach Boys is better than none at all. Furthermore, the current touring line-up honors the legacy of the band. Thanks, Mike and Bruce, for keeping the music alive!
Contributed by: Bryan Hardesty