Concert review: The Beach Boys bring an evening of nostalgia to Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater

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Friday April 15th, The Beach Boys stopped at Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall to indulge their many fans in a blast from the past. Although The Beach Boys have made many transitions with and without their founding members, and had many proclaimed “come-backs,” Friday’s lineup included, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, John Cowsill, Tim Bonhomme, Randell Kirsch, Christian Love, and Land ‘O Lakes homeowner, Scott Totten.

I’d never seen such a seasoned audience at the Ruth Eckerd Hall, nor had I seen so many Hawaiian or beach shirts all in one room, and this is Florida after all. Besides a random clump of teens and kids accompanying their parents, I may have been one of the youngest people in the audience. There was no opening band and the Beach Boys took the stage promptly at 8pm. They immediately hit the audience with “Catch a Wave,” and the beach scene was set. With groovy lights and an eager audience, the night ahead was bound to be entertaining.

Mike Love looked pretty darn good and still sang like a dream, a bit more scraggly than he was all those decades ago but strong nonetheless. They played it ALL: selections from their entire catalog! And the best thing about it was, if you’ve ever listened to an oldies station you probably knew the words, which was why the entire audience was singing along. Bruce Johnston brought out that old charm on the keyboard while Scott Totten apparently cracked the whip, keeping the old guys in shape as their musical director. “Surf City,” “Surfer Girl,” “Wendy,” “So Young,” “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” and “Betsy” were among those nostalgic numbers that they played within the first hour.

You couldn’t help but dance and sway. The energy was a mix between laid-back-beachy and classic cool. The crowd ate it up. It was a pretty awesome event to watch. Although some would say that without Brian Wilson it doesn’t count, there was a fair amount of older Beach Boys fanatics who managed to have a rocking time.

Before intermission they played some of their hits that they are best known for, and a few of my personal favorites including “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “409,” “(It’s The) Little Old Lady From Pasadena,” and “I Get Around.”  The first part of the set had us guessing what they’d close with. I desperately wanted to hear “Feel Flows,” but I had a bad feeling that would escape the set list, which it did. I heard a fan behind me say during intermission, “As old as they are they need a break!” After touring for nearly 50 years, they deserved it too.

Everyone got back to hear round two and the band came out ready and refreshed. “California Dreaming” took the second act to the next level. At some points it was so surreal it was as if they were performing on Clearwater beach for a handful of fans instead of filling the seats at Ruth Eckerd Hall. “Sloop John B.,” “In My Room,” “God Only Knows,” and “Good Vibrations,” kept the crowd singing and dancing through the last beat of the last song. At times each of the members had the opportunity to be in the spotlight and impress the fans. Between the vocals, harmonies, chemistry and overall talent within the composition of the evening it was a 50th Anniversary of the Beach Boys performance to remember.

“Help Me, Rhonda,” “If You Wanna Dance With Me,” and “Barbara Ann,” drifted the listeners into the last one of the night, “Surfin’ USA.” Of course they were beckoned back onstage for an encore and they returned armed with two of their catchiest hits, which were bound to be stuck in the minds of the audience at least for the car ride home. To end the epic and reminiscent evening they played, “Kokomo,” and finished with “Fun, Fun, Fun,” which was quite fitting because the fans and the band definitely had “Fun, Fun, Fun” that Friday evening.

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