Thursday, 05 August 2021

Beach Boys ensure good vibrations felt at festival

ONCE upon a time, the Beach Boys provided the soundtrack to summer.

ONCE upon a time, the Beach Boys provided the soundtrack to summer.

So it was quite fitting that they took to the stage under a glowing mid-July sun at Henley Festival in front of a freshly tanned audience.

Yet in truth it wasn’t until dusk that the Californian seven-piece, including only one founding member in lead vocalist Mike Love, got into full swing.

Beginning with Do It Again, the band barely left the starting blocks with the first few songs.

Love still appeared enthusiastic but he was struggling to raise his voice to an audible level above the noise generated by a large band and backing singers.

It wasn’t until Surf City, one of many songs to feature a Californian backdrop of beaches, waves and palm trees, that the band truly came to life.

Members of the crowed — many in their fifties and sixties — bounced around as they found some of the youthful energy that met the initial Beach Boys’ wave of success. On stage, those famous all-American high-pitched vocals were still in check, even if it was the younger lead guitarist who often stole the show with his captivating riffs.

Love, who was making his Henley debut after 51 years, made light of his age when he said after half a dozen songs: “This next song will come after our intermission, followed by a nap.”

It may have been a joke but it was noticeable that singing duties were passed around for the next couple of songs while Love concentrated on the tambourine.

At 72, you can’t blame him and he returned to the fore in style with I Get Around. As one of their major hits, it was the first song that was truly absorbed by the crowd.

Massive cheers and whistles met the opening chords and arms were thrust into the sky.

The band’s barbershop-style harmonies at this point were near perfect and the applause afterwards lasted for 30 seconds. Soon, the hits were being reeled out one after another as God Only Knows was played in front of a backdrop displaying historical images of the original band members. Perhaps it was because this song is so widely used in emotional Hollywood scenes or maybe it was just the absence of the majority of the band’s line-up from the Sixties and Seventies but this had the uncomfortable feeling of a funeral.

This was followed by Sloop John B, with the lyrics “I Wanna Go Home” echoed by the crowd like a drunken pub singing session, before Wouldn’t It Be Nice and Good Vibrations brought more sentimental cheeriness.

At times, Love, bearded and wearing a suit jacket and cap, resembled the mad granddad dancing by himself at a family wedding but by the encore he was back on form.

He threw off his jacket for the final three songs to reveal one of the “loud” beach shirts with which they became synonymous in their heyday.

The band then launched into Surfin’ USA and they had the crowd in the palm of their hands.

By the end, the word “FUN” was plastered over the backdrop and it was a true endorsement of this evening.

For band and crowd alike, this was a trip back in time and they both enjoyed the journey.

The Beach Boys

Henley Festival

Wednesday, July 10

Dan Robinson

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