REVIEW: Beach Boys – Cuthbert Amphiteater, Eugene, OR – 7-14-12

Here’s what I want you to think about, for just a moment: think about the scope of bands that have come onto the scene in the last 30 or so years. Now, take away bands like, say, Animal Collective (especially Panda Bear), Spiritualized, and Fleet Foxes. Take away any band that used multi-part harmonies, really. Now take away every band that used Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound: My Bloody Valentine, Jesus and Mary Chain, Bruce Springsteen on Born to Run. Without getting too far down the rabbit hole, if you remove bands like those, you have a small idea of what music would sound like without The Beach Boys. They’re easily the most important band to come from America, and their influence has flowed into everything around them. They were a band that existed before bands were ever derivative of other bands, and between them and The Beatles, it’s possible that rock music would never be even close to the same thing without them. In short, The Beach Boys are not quite a band, but a force of nature, a muse meant to spread out and affect everything.The Beach Boys stopped playing 20 years ago. That’s a mighty long time, and for a very long time, there was really no chance of the band getting back together. There was always too much animosity and bad blood between the members of that group for it to ever be a feasible thing. Until, it became a feasible thing. And, 50 years after the band first formed, they decided it was time to go on tour. And if you have the chance to experience a band that has stopped being just a band, you grab that opportunity like grim death. Which is what I did.

Leading up to their show in Eugene, OR, I experienced exactly one reunion performance: their performance of “Good Vibrations” at the Grammy’s. While it was fantastic in its own right, it left something to be desired, as though something was missing. The band’s age and the rust might have gotten to them. I didn’t want my expectations to be swayed, and I wanted to stay blissfully excited, ready to see that band play. And the obvious question, of course, is this: was it worth it?

Here’s the lowdown: The Beach Boys played to a sold-out amphitheater on a hot summer day in a college town. They played 47 songs over the course of  two-and-a-half hours (a solid three, including the intermission). They played every single song you would expect from them: “409,” “Surfin’ Safari,” “Catch a Wave,” “God Only Knows,” “Sloop John B,” “Good Vibrations,” Fun Fun Fun,” “Little Deuce Coop.” They played “Heroes & Villains,” a song that was only finally released this year. Mike Love referred to Asia as “The Orient.” Brian Wilson played bass. The amphitheater was filled with fireflies, which I have never seen before in my life. I wept during “God Only Knows,” a song I wasn’t aware was so moving, until then. 5,000 people sang “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” in unison, at the top of their lungs. A twelve-year-old told his friend, “They had better play “Surfin’ USA”,” and then they totally did, and that kid lost his mind. Mike Love and Al Jardine were jovial and made jokes to each other: “This is an old group! This shit gets tiring!” It was like the last two decades had never happened, and that there was never any animosity between any of the members. Seeing them perform like that felt transcendent, and brought me to another time in history entirely, where the band sounded like they did there: big, and fun, and poppy, and rocky, and boisterous, so very, very American.

Someone who didn’t know what they were talking about once said, “You should never meet your heroes.” Since I began seeing bands, I began seeking out musicians who I admired, and letting them know that I was appreciative of their impact. Sometimes, it goes well (Isaac Brock is a nicer man than anyone will ever give him credit for), and sometimes it doesn’t. Though I didn’t get to meet Love, Wilson, Jardine, etc., it almost felt like seeing them perform allowed me to take home a small section of their souls, thus letting me revisit the experience again and again, as needed. After that, I didn’t really need to meet them, because after seeing how they handle themselves after half a century, it was like I knew them personally.

If The Beach Boys have it in them to tour again, and you have the chance to go, just do it. There are not many times in your life that you get to see a group of people who are responsible for half of the music you listen to, either directly or indirectly. You owe it to yourself, and to that band, to pay homage in any way you can.

Oh yeah, and here’s a photo of my copy of the setlist, for the curious.


3 thoughts on “REVIEW: Beach Boys – Cuthbert Amphiteater, Eugene, OR – 7-14-12

  1. Johanna Land says:

    Thank you for a wonderful review! I grew up in Southern CA and spent my teen years at the beach in Surf City (Huntington Beach) listening to the Beach Boys on my transistor radio. They were the soundtrack to my life. Dancing and singing along on Saturday night at the Cuthbert just reminded me that I’ll always be a “California Girl.”

    • George Mather says:

      Saw them in Montreal on June 20 at the Bell Centre. Fabulous show!
      First set 1 hour and 20 minutes, 20 minute intermission and
      Second set 1 hour and 10 minutes. Total of 48 songs.
      Highlight for me was the opening of the second set with the guys
      gathered around Briano at the piano and singing “Add Some Music”
      I’ve seen them over 50 times including the three different groups
      since Carl’s passing and this was by far the best big arena show
      I’ve seen them do. Best small theatre show was in June 1971
      at Montreal’s Theatre Maissoneuve in Place des Arts.
      Thank you Brian, Mike, Al, Bruce, David and the band.
      It was a show for the ages.

      George Mather, Brockville, Ontario Canada

  2. archbald says:

    So, yesterday internets was kinda screwy for me and others during the day, so I couldn’t get in yesterday to report on the Beach Boys’s concert Saturday night. In short… it was GREAT. The ampitheater sold out and there were people waving $100 dollar bills around outside trying to get in… the line was literally a couple of thousand deep before the gates opened. The band played nearly 50 songs spanning their entire career… and the new tunes sounded great. Mike Love was is usual overconfident douchey self, but… that’s what you get with Mike Love. Oh, and Al Jardine is VERY short. Especially standing next to Love, who is somewhat tall. And of course seeing Brian Wilson smiling, singing and playing piano was incredible. I’ve heard from some reviewers who have said he is unanimated, but the man is 70 years old, and went through DECADES of practical mental breakdown… so, I mean, come on…. anyway David Marks and Bruce Johnston were along, as well as a 5 piece backing band, but the show was all about the 5 remaining Beach Boys… they sounded great, and not just for their age, they just sounded great… the tempo of the songs were SLIGHTLY slower than on the lp’s, but hey, whatever… I won’t post the whole 50 song setlist, but it went down kinda like this…
    SET 1: a mix of new songs and very early stuff (all the songs about fast cars, surfing, and girls… they played “Wendy” during this set, and it was amazing) – Mike Love made a joke after about the 4th song that they were gonna take an intermission and a nap and be back… also his sister, who played the Cuthbert a week early with PINK MARTINI, was in the audience… (she played harp on the Beach Boy’s “In my Room”)
    INTERMISSION – I should note here that the set actually got tighter, faster, and more harmonized as the show went on, as if instead of getting tired, they got more engergized…
    SET 2: opened with Pet Sounds… did more of the psychedelic stuff during this set… highlights included “Heros & Villians”, “God Only Knows”, “Darlin'” and “Good Viberations” – then things REALLY heated up near the end – by “Help me, Rhonda”, possiblily, the best song of the night, with massive crowd partipation and beach balls getting tossed around the air… there was of course an encore of “Kokomo”, which was nice… and then they closed out with a RIPPIN rendition of “Fun, Fun, Fun” – and everyone went wild and home happy 🙂 THE END…. but wait…

    A WORD ABOUT THE CROWD… and SITTING vs. STANDING at rock concerts:

    Much to my supise, after the band came out and everyone applauded… Without fail, THEY ALL SAT DOWN… now, true, most of the concert goers weren’t much young than the Beach Boys themselves… in fact one woman in line with me went to high school with them. There was ME, and ONE other guy, also around my age up dancing around. In fact, at 1st I sat down as well… and then I was just like “fuck these people, I paid $55 bucks to get in too, and I’m not gonna just sit down the whole time” – there was a couple of ladies who also would get up on the jumpier numbers and dance about half the song before sitting back down on the grass. I guess this drunk loudmouth chick saw me up, moving around, so she made it my way and was all yelling and being obnoxious and shit… and some guy also about my age- maybe a few years older comes by and says “everyone is sitting down, why don’t you two?” – and I’m thinking THIS IS A ROCK CONCERT… THESE GUYS ARE 70 and TOURING… and you are just gonna sit? I mean, that’s fine with me, but bother me with it, I’m WELL AWARE you guys sitting.
    Anyway… I DO sit down, for one.. a couple mellower numbers come up, and two I didn’t want the loud bitch near me anymore… but as the show progresses, the band motions for everyone to get up for a pretty upbeat tune or 3 before the intermission, and now, like 60% of everyone is standing… and I’m like “OH IT’S OKAY TO STAND WHEN MIKE LOVE says ITS OKAY” – anyway- and this is what trips me out the most… during the intermission, EVERYONE STANDS… not even getting food or going to the restrooms, just standing around talking… and I’m thinking.. OKAY.. so in Eugene maybe the show apprication, by standing around during the intermission and then sitting as soon as the band comes back. I sat this time as well… for most of the 2nd set, but then something weird happened… a hippy guy and his girlfriend and i SWEAR… this guy looked just like Prefontaine… teh GHOST OF PREFONTAINE… anyway.. he’s about 25 or so… takes of his shoes… and around the time “Good Viberations” starts, I get up, they get up, and more and more people get up… and it just continues… until by 3/4ths into the show EVERYONE is up and dancing and singing and going crazy. So, I say fuck it… if you wanna stand, stand… don’t follow the heard mentality, at least at a rock concert… you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. You might not make friends, but that’s not what you’re there for.

    *oh instead of holding up lighters, MIKE LOVE got everyone to wave their cell phones (him included) during “In my Room” – I never thought I would see a Beach Boys waving a cell phone back and forth at a concert, but this seems to be reality.
    Signing Off- #

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