The most notable thing, first of all, is that this sounds like the Brian Wilson band. Each of the various Beach Boys touring bands has their own sound, and even though to the average listener they’d all sound ‘like the record’ there are clear differences. On Good Vibrations, Al’s band (none of whom other than Al and Dave are present) have a 70s rock feel, almost like a jam band. Mike and Bruce’s band, on the other hand, have a garage-psych feel that very much emphasises the strangeness of the track, all thudding bass, clanging guitars and screeching theremin. Brian’s band emphasise the beauty of the song, and play very precisely, and it’s this latter version that we have here.
This was probably going to be the case anyway, because there are seven of Brian’s backing band there to two of Mike and Bruce’s, but it does show that this tour will sound more like a Brian Wilson tour than any of the recent Beach Boys tours.
However, John Cowsill is, as I suspected, a wonderful addition to the band. His rapport here with Nelson Bragg is quite stunning – Cowsill does some lovely cymbal work, and of all the drummer-plus-percussionist combinations Brian has worked with (at various times his drummers have been Todd Sucherman, Jim Hines and Mike D’Amico, with D’Amico, Bragg and Andy Paley on percussion) this is the best. Cowsill gave the band an energy they’ve sometimes lacked.
Brian was obviously down in the mix to the point of being mixed out altogether, with Foskett singing the lead. Sadly, this makes sense. Brian can sound good when he’s comfortable – in front of his own audience, with time to warm up. However, whenever he’s done a big TV performance he’s sounded, frankly, appaling. A Brian in the same state that he was in at the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 2002 would have made the reunion a target of every bad comedian ever. You can guarantee that he’ll be perfectly audible on the actual tour. He sounded fine in the harmony sections, where he was more audible.
Bruce is completely inaudible in the mix, but Dave Marks works well on the ‘ba ba ba’ sections – he really does add something to the band. But it’s Al’s voice that was most prominent in the harmony blend, unsurprisingly – he’s the only one of them who possibly sounds even better now than he did in the sixties.
So yes, this is tacky and showbiz, but that’s to be expected for the Grammys. Given the context, it’s about as good as we were going to get, and does give us some hope.
Incidentally, this is the first time *ever* that these five Beach Boys have ever performed together – even though they are all proper Beach Boys. David Marks left the band in late 1963, but Bruce Johnston didn’t join until 1965, and while Dave has performed with the band at various points since, especially in the late 90s, he’s never done so with Brian.
We’ve also learned a little more about the upcoming album, and we have another song title – That’s Why God Made The Radio – to go with the one Brian mentioned a while back, The Private Life Of Bill And Sue. This gives me a surprising amount of hope for the new album – those both sound like Brian Wilson song titles, as opposed to what I was fearing, which was a bunch of songs called things like Still Surfin’ In Kokomo, USA. I doubt the album will be a great one, but it sounds at least as if they’re *trying* to do something creative, which will make it better than any Beach Boys album released since 1979.
For those who don’t know, the five Beach Boys on stage are, from left to right as we look at them, Al Jardine (rhythm guitar, vocals), Bruce Johnston (vocals), Brian Wilson (piano, vocals), Mike Love (vocals) and David Marks (lead guitar, vocals).
The backing band for this show is the same one announced for the tour, with the addition (hopefully permanent) of Nelson Bragg:
Jeff Foskett – rhythm guitar, falsetto vocals
Probyn Gregory – guitar, tannerin, vocals (he’ll play a lot more instruments on the tour)
Paul Mertens – woodwinds, harmonica
Brett Simons – bass
Darian Sahanaja – keyboards, vocals
Scott Bennett – keyboards, vocals
Nelson Bragg – percussion, vocals
John Cowsill – drums, vocals
Scott Totten – lead guitar, vocals
That is pretty much exactly the band I would have picked for this tour.
The younger people with microphones pratting about at the front of the stage are apparently members of Foster The People and Maroon Five, who are apparently young person’s skiffle musicians of the day.
For those who don’t know, tour dates will be announced on Wednesday.