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Memories of the first time I heard The Beach Boys in concert are vague, dulled by the passage of decades in time.
It was a Friday in May, the 7th to be exact, in 1965 at a “Shower of Stars” event hosted by WVOK-AM, The Mighty 690, in the north end zone of Birmingham’s then-cavernous Legion Field, known otherwise to us as the “Football Capital of the South” and scene to big game Alabama victories en route to back-to-back national championships in 1964 and 1965.
A carload of friends, one a drummer who later played for The Allman Joys before they became The Allman Brothers, and I had driven – partially on the yet-to-be-open Interstate 59 highway – to see The Beach Boys in an America vs. England Showdown, pitting the popular Californians against, hard to believe now, The Rolling Stones.
Tickets were $3 apiece. The Righteous Brothers also performed. So did Marty Robbins, Cannibal and the Headhunters, Skeeter Davis and Del Reeves.
Any details are sketchy at best, but it was a wildly exciting night and my guess is the entire concert lasted three hours or less.
Memories of the second time I heard The Beach Boys in concert, admittedly 47 years later, are much clearer.
It was a Monday in July, last Monday in fact, at the world famous Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre in tiny Morrison, Colo. just outside Denver, on a delightfully pleasant and cool evening at 6,450 feet elevation with 9,450 of our newest friends flanked by staggering formations known as Ship Rock and Creations Rock with the picturesque and breathtaking Denver skyline as a backdrop.
A carload of family, one a 9-year-old impressed more by an afternoon outing with highly trained sled huskies or hours in the Denver Zoo, arrived early, gawked at the one-of-a-kind venue that has hosted The Beatles, The Stones and likely every other significant group you can imagine, nestled in among excited, mostly gray-haired fans and realized if you closed your eyes, everything sounded and felt the same as that first experience years ago.
Tickets were more than $3. Other than those who sang and danced along or knocked a half-dozen multi-colored beach balls up and down the steeply pitched seats, nobody else performed. The Boys sang 51 songs, took one intermission, made fun of their own advancing age and stayed on stage more than three hours.
Remembering what they did on the 44th stop of their 50th Anniversary Reunion Tour and how they did it will be easy.
It was a classic performance, a Baby Boomers Concert delivered by one of the best music groups ever, one whose names – Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks – have become legendary, one certainly deserving of its Hall of Fame status, one whose harmonious talents remain pure even today.
They opened with “Do It Again,” followed by “Catch A Wave”, “Hawaii” and “Don’t Back Down” before Love got a giggle by suggesting, “We’re going to take an intermission now…followed by a nap…and then some oxygen.”
He was joking of course, as evidenced by the remainder of the set that included favorites like “Surfin’ Safari,” “Surfer Girl,” “Disney Girls”, “Darlin” and “Kiss Me Baby.”
Growing patriotic, he explained their need to recognize women in uniform as the emphasis behind a particular song, suggesting “Be True to Your School” honored those cheerleader uniforms they liked so well
And he turned nostalgic soon after, asking audience members about their affection for their first car, admitting, “I loved my 1949 Ford…not as much as I like my new Bentley…but I loved it just the same.”
“Little Deuce Coupe” and “409” followed.
“I Get Around” closed the first set, but little changed on their return with familiar tunes like “Pet Sounds”, “Wouldn’t It be Nice”, “That’s Why God Made Radio”, the title song of their new CD, “Good Vibrations”, “California Girls”, “Help Me Rhonda”, “Barbara Ann” and “Surfin USA” highlighting a high-energy, feel good pace.
Wilson’s personal tribute to his brothers, the late Carl and Dennis, both former band members, was especially touching and only when Love asked for waving cell phones instead of cigarette lighters to illuminate the evening during “In My Room” were you reminded of the passage of time.
It all seemed so surreal, so eerily simple and comfortable, so familiar and such a throwback to the decades of the 60s, the 70s and the 80s, drudging up memories, good and bad, of those remarkable years.
An encore grouping of “Kokomo, “Do You Wanna Dance” and “Fun, Fun, Fun” couldn’t have been more appropriate.
That The Beach Boys, now in their 70s, have retained their unique sound and have come together for this worldwide Tour -- 70 harmonizing shows in 158 days -- borders on the incredible.
Hearing them once was a treat probably taken for granted. Hearing them again was a pleasure, not to be forgotten.
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