BY ELLIOT STEPHEN COHEN
Three huge ’60s acts came together to share a post-July-4th celebration. It’s easy to be cynical about the Beach Boys. A lot of the good vibes created by last year’s 50th anniversary reunion tour (with original members Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks) came to an abrupt end after some 70 well-received shows. The band split into two factions: Mike Love, a principle owner of The Beach Boys’ name, continued performing with long-time Beach Boy singer and keyboardist Bruce Johnston and various back-up musicians, with Wilson, Jardine and Marks going out on their own tour.
However, with guitarist Marks returning for the night and Jeff Foskett (who worked with Brian Wilson for many years) back in the band, as well as actor John Stamos, as special guest on vocals, drums and guitar, the show was not as predictable as might have been expected.
After opening with “Do It Again,” the group’s follow-up number was the newly added “Goin’ To The Beach,” a never-released song meant for the group’s 1980 album “Keepin’ The Summer Alive.” Other surprises included Love’s introspective new single “Pisces Brother,” written as a tribute to George Harrison, recalling the time in 1968 when he and The Beatles studied mediation in India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Stamos, a long-time Beach Boys fan, did himself proud on “Forever,” a beautiful song co-written by Dennis Wilson, the band’s original drummer and sex symbol, who drowned back in 1983. Marks, at 65 the youngest original Beach Boy, although his years of battling Hepatitis C has left him looking older, was excellent on the style of surf guitar he helped popularize on the band’s early recordings.
Following the current trend of bands showing performance videos of deceased members, augmented with live accompaniment, a very emotional moment came about when the late Carl Wilson was shown on-screen singing “God Only Knows.”
Al Jardine, who was originally rumored to be part of this show, was actually performing in England the very same night with Brian Wilson. His famous Beach Boys hit “Help Me, Rhonda” was enthusiastically executed by drummer John Cowsill, while the band’s musical director, Scott Totten, sang the relatively obscure “Ballad of Ole’ Betsy.”
With the exception of “Kokomo” (and “Do it Again”), all the songs were originally recorded prior to 1967. The festivities closed with the 1964 hit “Fun, Fun, Fun.”
Earlier in the evening, the show was opened by veteran promoter Ron Delsener, praising the accomplishments of “Rock and Roll Hall of Famers,” The Lovin’ Spoonful. The introduction didn’t mention that there would be no John Sebastian who w a s The Lovin’ Spoonful, singing lead as well as composing nearly all of the band’s original material. It was like seeing Creedence Clearwater Revival without John Fogerty.
This aggregation was really a Spoonful cover band, headed by Joe Butler, the Spoonful’s original drummer who now fronts the band as the lead singer, even mimicking Sebastian’s patented autoharp playing on “Do You Believe In Magic?” Original bass player Steve Boone and guitarist Jerry Yester, who played on the last Sebastian-led Spoonful album “Everything Playing,” performed well and enthusiastically on the group’s eight-song set, which included “Daydream,” “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice,” and “Summer In The City.” It wasn’t the group’s performance (which was actually very good) that I had a problem with. The fact that they were advertised as “The Lovin’ Spoonful” follows a disturbing trend of so many veteran bands like Foreigner, Journey and Bad Company, who tour with new singers, while many fans are unaware of this.
The evening’s best vocals were provided by former Rascals’ leader Felix Cavaliere, one of the all-time great “blue-eyed” soul singers. Following a very successful two-year tour of the four original band members, Cavaliere is back, leading his own group. His too-brief six-song set included five Rascals classics “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long,” It’s A Beautiful Morning,” “Groovin’,” “People Got To Be Free,” and “Good Lovin’,” plus a cover of Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour.” Cavaliere is currently on tour doing full sets of his past Rascals hits, as well as selections from his solo catalogue.
An album of new material would be most welcome.