August 25th, 2012
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center

In a word, it was astonishing.

Never mind that the Beach Boys are hardly boys anymore – and that two of the original members (Carl and Dennis) are dead.  And forget too that the group is bolstered by stellar backup musicians (14 on stage in all) who beef up the sound and even take turns singing lead vocals.

The Boys’ encore performance last Sunday (they played the FCC Ball several years ago) was surely one of the concerts of the year at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center for several reasons….

 

 

Just name another act who can come on shortly after 8pm and reel off 49 songs with an energy level that bands a quarter of their age would be hard pressed to match.

And name another group who could play hit songs from a repertoire spanning decades – from their undeniable sixties and early 70s heyday on through to their late 80s hit “Kokomo” (a banal #1 song that somehow sounded refreshing  as an encore) and “That’s Why God Made The Radio”, their recent reminder that their classic harmonies that are unique and unforgettable.

It was also notable for the appearance of songwriter/keyboardist Brian Wilson singing lead on several songs (“Heroes and Villains”, “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times”, “In My Room”). He wasn’t always on tune, seemed confused by where he was and definitely relied on a teleprompter mere feet away. But it was refreshing to see that he and lead singer Mike Love seem to have finally buried their longstanding feud.

As for Love, his vocals were softer and breathier than they were in his prime (but still distinct at 71), yet his humorous quips turned him into an informal MC for the night. “This song was written in 1872,” went the introduction to one song which prompted much laughter.
Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston were also given plenty of time to shine. Johnston’s lead vocals on the wistful ballad “Disney Girls” made it one of the clear highlights of the first set. Jardine’s guitar playing and sunny vocals on “Help Me Rhonda” helped propel the second set towards an exciting conclusion of hits.

For the 3,000 exuberant attendees it seemed as though there was something for everyone. Devotees got deep tracks from legendary albums “Pet Sounds” and “Smile” in addition to a Leadbelly cover and a mystical ode to transcendental meditation. Casual fans let out a roar when “California Girls”, “Surfin’ USA” and the finale “Fun Fun Fun” were unveiled with an energy undimmed by the thousands of times the group has surely performed those tracks.

It was a show that went deep, wide and seemed to turn back the hands of time. We’ll surely never see their likes again—and for one epic two hours and forty minute set, the group showcased a musical depth that was awe inspiring and harmonies that were unforgettably joyous and haunting.

Unless they come around, this city surely won’t see their likes again, something  that the Hawaiian shirt brigade, grandparents, middle aged hipsters and dancing teens in attendance expressed by turning the HKCEC into the city’s biggest karaoke joint.

Review by Scott Murphy

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