It was a sight to celebrate, something that hasn’t been seen around here in a long time: Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, and Bruce Johnston all on the same stage.
After years of lawsuits, rumored reunions, and each member taking his own band on the road, the remaining core members of the Beach Boys are together again. (Technically, Johnston is “the new guy,” having joined in 1965.) They’ve even added to the lineup David Marks, who was part of the band early on but left just as it was getting big in the early 1960s.
It’s a relief to report that the Beach Boys sounded terrific — authentic, even — at the Bank of America Pavilion Tuesday night. The harmonies were close and luminous. Beach balls bobbed over the sold-out audience like those dots you see bounce above lyrics at karaoke nights. And that’s largely what the show boiled down to: For nearly 2½ hours, it was a chance to sing along to joyous hits that defined a certain era of American pop music.
Marking their 50th anniversary, the Beach Boys achieved the unlikely — this was not an oldies revue. Songs from their new album, “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” were warmly received alongside the classics (“Surfer Girl,” “I Get Around,” “Good Vibrations,” “Barbara Ann”).
The set list, in fact, struck a masterful balance between hits and misses. For the casual fan, there were the usual suspects, all the way from “Surfin’ Safari” to “Kokomo.” A block of car songs revved up with “Little Deuce Coupe,” “409,” and “Shut Down.” But the diehards must have relished how deep the band burrowed into its ’70s legacy, dusting off esoteric gems like “All This Is That” and “Marcella.”
After his sluggish performance in the first set, Wilson grew visibly more animated in the second half, partly because it gave him more to do. A trio of songs from “Pet Sounds,” his magnum opus, paid homage to his genius: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Sloop John B,” and “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times.” His voice rang out strong and clear on “Heroes and Villains” and “Sail On, Sailor.”
Wilson was the evening’s revered man of honor, but the show gave all of the principals a moment in the sun. With his boyish charm intact, Jardine sounded pretty great, too, when he took lead on “Help Me, Rhonda” and the lesser-known “Cotton Fields.”
Likewise, Johnston turned out a handsome rendition of “Disney Girls,” from 1971’s “Surf’s Up.” And the departed founding members were also saluted. Dennis Wilson was seen and heard in archival performance footage singing “Forever.” (A photo montage served as a reminder: Man, that guy was attractive.) Carl Wilson got the same treatment with a graceful live version of “God Only Knows.”
Longtime adjunct member Jeffrey Foskett was indispensable, taking the high harmonies that Wilson no longer attempts but are still key to the Beach Boys’ magic. In total, 14 people were on stage, which was a testament to just how textured and complex some of the arrangements are.
Opening the second half of the show, Love, Jardine, Johnston, and Marks huddled around Wilson at his keyboard to sing “Add Some Music to Your Day.” When they finished, Wilson summed it up with a simple but beautiful observation: “We’re the Boys. We’re the Beach Boys.”