Last night I watched immeasurable douche Mike Love perform to many thousands of people, and I loved it. Weird.
As I mentioned yesterday, there were two reasons that I set aside my disdain for the performer and shelled out quite a few bucks to take my whole gang (my two kids, girlfriend, her two kids, and a French exchange student . . . more on that later) to the Virginia Beach Amphitheater – my least favorite venue in the area – to sit in 96-degree heat and watch a show put on by a reasonable facsimile of a group my parents enjoyed in the 1960’s.
As I type that, it seems even more implausible that I dug it, but I did.
The first reason I jumped at the chance to see the 50th Anniversary tour of the Beach Boys was that I hadn’t ever before. Those of you who’ve seen my ridiculous, not-quite-obsolete collection of compact discs knows that I am what they call a “completist” (my parents call it “idiot”), passionate about getting pretty much everything into my collection. I’m just as bent on seeing shows. Although the spending money I had (and blew) in the 1990’s pre-kids has largely waned, and it’s not quite as simple these days, I still have a dosage of fanaticism that neither doctors nor prudent significant others can cure.
I’ve said it before, I take some sort of bizarre personal contentment in the fact that I saw Jerry Garcia and Joey Ramone (not to mention Dee and that curmudgeon Johnny) before they passed on to the great gig in the sky. I’ve seen some bucket-list RnR HoFers who are still kicking, acts like Springsteen and The Who and Neil Young and Ray Davies and Bob Dylan (who was lousy, but still . . .). I planned to see the Stones with Flynn but waited too long. I’ve seen the Allmans with Dickey, the Beasties with MCA, and The Black Crowes with both Robinsons. I saw Jimmy Buffett and Aerosmith before they were total jokes. When I missed bands before they parted ways, I was happy to see them when they regrouped: The Police, The Pixies, The Pogues, Phish . . . really, and band that begins with a P. And Devo, and Violent Femmes, and Camper van Beethoven, and many more. I’ve seen Ween and the Flaming Lips, which everyone with a sense of humor should do.
There are still many more on that list. But now I’ve seen the Beach Boys. Check.
Our friend Otis has a story I always remember, because it’s the king. He saw Elvis in concert. He was 7 or 8, and his folks took him to the show. Yes, this makes him even older than I am, but it’s also a pretty cool conversation piece. My parents never saw the King in concert, and none of their friends that I know did, either. But one of my fraternity brothers did. Kinda cool.
And here’s the segue to the second reason I was there last night: because I could bring my children. When my daughter Zoe was too young to know any better, I began the process of influencing her musical tastes unduly. And the first band she ever loved was The Beach Boys. Favorite song: “Help Me, Rhonda.” And the look on her eyes when I told her we were going to see them in concert far, far outweighed the look on my completed rolled-up eyes when Mike Love told the crowd last night that he loved his first car back in the 50’s but loves the Bentley he now drives even more. (Seriously, what a prick.)
Yes, once or twice last evening I wanted the sweltering heat to claim a heart attack casualty in an Aloha shirt and a red baseball cap onstage . . . but mostly I was thrilled to be there. We had seats in the 10th row or so, and my little girl was, like Loverboy, lovin’ every minute of it. As the dads out there know, that would be reason enough to go, and reason enough to enjoy it.
Except . . . I really liked the show. For myself.
The band(s) sounded spot-on, and included that appendix because there were – count ‘em – 14 people on stage. Somewhere in the middle of the show, it dawned on me . . . ah, this is probably the assemblage of Mike Love’s touring band, Al Jardine’s as well, and maybe even Brian Wilson’s guys. These people have been “Beach Boys” or something akin to it for, in some cases, decades.
Anyway, it was a big group with the three truly original living members and a couple of other “original” guys; I guess it’s hard to keep Bruce Johnston out of that club when he’s been playing with the group for 47 years or so. The sound was big, and it sounded great.
Somewhere in the midst of it, I had to let my guard down against Mike Love, dammit. He simply is the voice everyone has known on so many of those old hits. That nerdy, nasally voice that displays less vocal talent . . . but you know what? They’re classics, and they blazed through 46 songs (!) in two sets and an encore and left nothing on the table. Love’s banter made me want to dismember him and burn his ballcap collection (they showed yearbook photos on the big screen – he was pretty damn bald in high school), but in the moment of “I Get Around,” when the lights got bright and the crowd was cheering, eh . . . it was fun, fun, fun, and the reason I go to shows as often as I can.
In 1988, when Axl was on top, he was a total dick – but he was an awesome lead singer. I listen to “Mr. Brownstone” and think that if he could’ve held it together, I’d be going to hear him today . . . but he didn’t. (You can’t be an ass AND suck.) Same with a lot of people on the list – I don’t want to have a beer with them, but when they’re on . . . yeah, I’ll buy a ticket.
So, make no mistake, last night only confirms that Mike Love is still a douche. But he fronts my daughter’s first favorite band, an all-time music group for the ages, and a collection of old dudes who can still put on a show the reminds me why I love rock and roll.
Happy Independence Day.
Happy Independence Day.