(LENOX, Mass.) – At first I wasn’t even going to mention that a group using the name “The Beach Boys” is performing at Tanglewood in the Shed on Monday, August 18, 2014, at 7 p.m. After all, two of the original founding Wilson brothers are deceased; Brian Wilson rarely if ever tours with the group; and it’s quite possible that the only original member of the band performing at Tanglewood will be singer Mike Love, who has been incessantly flogging the group’s legacy since forever. Call it what you want — the truth is whatever band shows up at Tanglewood can’t possibly be much more than a Beach Boys tribute band.
But then I rethought my approach, in large part due to the reality that the Beach Boys have always been two separate units. There is the creative force, which has for the most part always resided in Brian Wilson’s brain, and comes out in the recording studio – with vocal contributions by band members but mostly otherwise bypassing other members of the group in favor of hired guns who can actually play what Brian Wilson hears (in the band’s mid-late 1960s heyday, this was the group of studio musicians we now call “the Wrecking Crew”).
That is to say, the Beach Boys themselves were never great musicians, which is why from practically day one (or, more correctly, year three or four) the touring outfit sent out to replicate those recordings (almost always without Brian, from practically the beginning) has always featured hired hands – real musicians and singers including Glen Campbell and Blondie Chaplin plus dozens of others.
So, for over 40 years, people have enjoyed the experience of going to hear “The Beach Boys” in concert playing the group’s catalog of greatest hits – heavy on their early surf-rock tunes (“Surfin’ USA,” “Surfer Girl” “Surfin’ Safari”), as well as favorites like “California Girls,” “I Get Around,” “Sloop John B,” and a few of the band’s more experimental tracks, including “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Good Vibrations” – regardless of whom they are actually listening to. For the most part, it’s been some combination of Mike Love and longtime member Bruce Johnston, occasionally with singer Al Jardine on hand, and once in a blue moon with Brian Wilson or founding guitarist/singer David Marks, such as on the group’s recent 50-year reunion tour.
But God only knows, it doesn’t really matter. The original members couldn’t possibly sound as good as hired hands (and as noted, several are dead), so why even flog the point. The Beach Boys live has essentially always been a Beach Boys tribute band. And furthermore, Tanglewood is pulling all stops to help you get in the mood for a full-fledged California beach party in New England with dance areas on the lawn outside of the Shed, volleyball nets near the rear of the lawn, beach balls dispersed throughout the concert, Beach Boys-style temporary tattoos, and sand and surf décor around the grounds.