The Beach Boys live in Belfast
By now, most fans of The Beach Boys have undoubtedly heard that famous “Brian, I’m a genius too” bootleg.
Well since she put me down I’ve been out doin’ in my head…
Whether Murry Wilson was the genius he thought, there’s little doubt that Brian Wilson was. That’s not to say the other members of the Hawthorne, CA band weren’t geniuses too in their own way. Without getting into courtroom dramas over who wrote what, it’s safe to say Mike Love became one of the most recognisable voices of the 1960s.
Almost 60 years later, he’s the only original member of the lineup remaining in the touring band. Bruce Johnston joined The Beach Boys in 1965 and tours with Love on keys and vocals.
Mike Love acknowledges the rift between band members. He’s rumoured to have said:
For those who believe that Brian [Wilson] walks on water, I will always be the Antichrist.
Fans across the world still worship both and although there are a few more miles on the clock, Mike Love’s voice is as distinct as ever. The Belfast Waterfront may not be San Francisco Bay but it sounds like summer.
There are early outings in the set for ‘Surfin’ Safari’, ‘Surfin’ USA’, and ‘Surfer Girl’. The latter slows the pace a little and Love urges fans to light up the venue with mobile phones. The Beach Boys have ridden the crest of this wave since the early 60s.
With various members of the original band striking out solo, Mike Love followed suit. His solo material comes across a little cheesier than the old tunes. ‘All The Love In Paris’ suffers from some clichéd accordion sounds but provides an introduction for Christian Love, son of the band leader, on guitars and vocals. He performs admirably taking on Carl Wilson’s vocals in ‘God Only Knows’.
Most of the band look younger than The Beach Boys’ oldest hits. Yet, each of them brings something to the party. On occasion, Scott Totten’s lead guitar is a little more Brian May than Brian Wilson but as musical director, he has put together quite a show.
Jeffrey Foskett, a former member of Brian Wilson’s touring band excels on guitars and vocals. The standout member of the band, however, is John Cowsill who relentlessly drives the tunes on drums and has a mean classic-rock voice. His take on Leadbelly’s ‘Cotton Fields’ and the 1967 single ‘Wild Honey’ are sublime.
All those songs about hotrods and bikini-clad blondes have somehow stood the test of time. Mike Love’s solo material, including ‘Pisces Brothers’ dedicated to fellow meditator George Harrison doesn’t quite have the same sixties soul.
Bruce Johnson joined The Beach Boys in the late 1960s, taking on touring duties from Glen Campbell. He’s the only member of the current with a Grammy award and an Irish passport. His time to shine is on ‘Disney Girls’.
The show rocks and rolls on, reaching a jubilant crescendo. From ‘California Dreamin” to ‘California Girls’, a heartily sung ‘Sloop John B’ leads seamlessly into ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’.
All the while, video of contemporary California mingles with 60s imagery and photographs from the band at their peak. With high potential to veer into wedding band territory, the young guns in the bass section and other new band members made sure to stay true to the school.
Faithful renditions of each song and only one moment of ‘dad dancing’ from Mike Love, made for an evening low on cliché and high on nostalgia. The casual blue and white striped shirt sported by the frontman even paid homage to the outfits of old.
In Belfast, ‘Good Vibrations’ has become a way of life more than just a song. It keeps the crowd on their feet, keeps them in fine voice, and keeps the faith that good music can endure through the best and worst of times.