SEPT 1 ― There’s something special about the letter “B” when it comes to band names in pop and rock ‘n’ roll. For normal pop and rock ‘n’ roll fans, The Beatles and The Beach Boys are obvious touchstones.
For power poppers like me, there are even more touchstones to add to the two, with Big Star and Badfinger being the most prominent examples. When you’re crazy about bands this old (and you’re as young as me, haha!), you just take it as an accepted fact that you will probably never get to see them with your very eyes, especially when you’re way out here in Asia.
There’s practically no chance now for me to ever see The Beatles, Big Star and Badfinger live as their key members are all gone now. And with The Beach Boys having already lost two of the Wilson brothers in tragic dreamer Dennis and the angel voiced Carl, I’ve long given up hope that I will ever get to see them live as well, especially considering the rifts between the surviving members of the band which resulted in various incarnations and lawsuits pertaining to the use of the Beach Boys name for live shows.
So I truly considered it a miracle when out of the blue, all the surviving members of The Beach Boys united to release a new album, “That’s Why God Made The Radio”, earlier this year and then announced a world tour to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary. Even more of a miracle is the fact that they announced that Singapore would be one of their stops.
So, even though the concert was on August 22, 2012, which was the fourth day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, there was never a doubt in my mind that this was a concert that I would never want to miss, even if I had to limp to go see it.
Everyone knows how big a deal the Raya holiday is, so I’m truly thankful that my mom knows me well enough to know that The Beach Boys have been a huge part of my life and didn’t make a single fuss when I told her that my Raya holiday at home this year would have to be cut short by my need to see Messrs Brian Wilson and co.
There was another show happening the same night in Singapore as well, with 80s legends New Order. So even though I expected that there will be a drop in turnout because of that, I was still frankly shocked to see how few people turned up to see what’s probably a once in a lifetime chance to see such a giant of a legend like The Beach Boys live in concert with a lot of the key members still there in the line-up.
This being their 50th anniversary and also the first time they’ve made their way here, it’s surely very unlikely that another concert will come anytime soon, especially since the band members are probably now in their 70s already.
The audience was mostly made up of older people decked in Hawaiian shirts, obviously fans from the band’s 1960s heyday, and it was fun listening to their conversations, mostly recalling moments when they first or last heard or saw the band.
Knowing how old The Beach Boys are now, I’ve significantly lowered my expectations when it comes to their trademark vocal harmonies. I’ve already kind of expected that their backing band would be a monstrously tight one, the backbone of which consists of power pop geniuses The Wondermints alongside many other familiar names in the power pop scene like the honey-voiced Jeffrey Foskett, percussionist Nelson Bragg, keyboardist Scott Bennett and former drummer of The Cowsills and Tommy Tutone, John Cowsill.
But right from the start it was just hair raising how beautiful the Boys’ harmonies still are. Launching into “Surfer Girl” very early on in their set, I felt like a helpless little girl listening to the wondrous blend of their voices, and “Surfer Girl” is not even in my top tier of favourite Beach Boys songs.
All in, I think they played around 50 songs that night, with some of them medleys of course. Highlights would surely be Pet Sounds era songs like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “God Only Knows”, “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” and established classics like “Good Vibrations”, “Heroes And Villains” and of course their classic and car and surf songs like “I Get Around”, “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Surfin’ USA”.
My true favourite moments though, were when they surprisingly went into deeper album cuts, songs that were never made singles and were therefore not ‘hits’, but which I personally think are extraordinarily beautiful.
“Please Let Me Wonder” from their album “Today!” is one of my all time favourites, and was given a stunning rendition that almost left me in tears. Same goes for “Kiss Me, Baby”, “Darlin”, “Wendy” and “This Whole World”, a gorgeous gem from their 1970s era that deserves to be better known.
The sight of Brian Wilson looking incredibly tired and quite unwell on stage was quite a sad one to witness, but the undeniable songs and the obvious joy of everyone onstage made all of us forget for a while how exhausted these old dudes must be feeling to go on a world tour and perform 50 songs a night. It was surely the most magical concert that I’ve ever been to, and one that I’m unlikely to ever forget.
Thank you, Boys!
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.