It’s Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show
Pack up the babies and grab the old ladies
And everyone goes, ‘cause everyone knows
Brother Love’s show
The only group on the Kennedy Center stage that has played longer than the Beach Boys was the National Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1931; but they were more than willing to share the stage with the kids from California.
At least this version of the band was still acting like teenagers (and making the audience feel the same) while they were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Pet Sounds album.
That tribute was to come later. First it was a greatest hits fest which included too many to list, including Surfin, Catch a Wave, Surfer Girl, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, California Girls, Little Deuce Coupe and I Get Around.
While some groups acknowledge their past, this one reveled in it with a video and light show that had film of Bruce Johnston actually surfing, Mike Love doing the Watusi, clips from every music show broadcast in the 60’s and enough bikini clad girls to fill several Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues. But the home movies (some of which matched the live singers with lip-synch from the original songs) contained enough self-deprecating humor and shared nostalgia that they seemed just another ride on the Beach Boys Roller Coaster.
The program called Love the “Captain” of this cruise which seemed appropriate as he led the band, sang harmony (he lets Jeffrey Foskett carry the lead vocals along with Brian Eichenburger) and joked with the audience and narrated the historical transitions.
The second set paid tribute to the Pet Sounds era with film of Carl Wilson singing on the screen above the live bands and Dennis Wilson also getting a solo bit. Missing from the show was any tribute to Brian Wilson who travels with his own singers (and orchestra) in support of Smile. It was a subtle reminder of the Big Breakup that derailed the band just as they were doing their best work.
Caroline No, Sloop John B and Wouldn’t it Be Nice were done well and pleased the crowd. The show hit a speed bump when Mike brought out daughter Ambha for Warmth of the Sun and Bruce Johnston stumbled on Disney Girls, apparently unable to get his mic and earpiece working properly.
The Symphony was often drowned out by the band (playing in front of them) but their two marvelous overtures (Warmth of the Sun and In My Room) made me wish for an entire evening of the NSO’s take on the rich music that under girds the pop lyrics.
Love’s tribute to George Harrison, Pisces Brothers, was a wonderful surprise and showed he can still create new songs after all these years.
Music and memories are all that’s lost
Your songs are what go on and on.
The big finish had the crowd on its feet singing along with Kokomo, Help Me Rhonda (we didn’t need lyrics on the big screen for that, Mike) Good Vibrations, and Barbara Ann. At the end we were having so much Fun, Fun, Fun, I had to break out my air guitar.