So what were you doing at 8:18 pm on 8/18/18?
Well, we’re not sure what you were up to, but we know that on that hot August night, we were listening to “America’s Band” — The Beach Boys — and watching them “Unleash the Love” while performing their incredible catalog of hits at Ocean Grove NJ’s Great Auditorium!
Formed in Hawthorne, California in 1961, the group’s original lineup consisted of brothers Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson; their cousin, Mike Love; and their friend, Al Jardine. In 1965, singer/songwriter Bruce Johnston joined the group so Brian — the group’s main composer, arranger, and producer — could spend more time in the recording studio.
The Beach Boys went on to sell over 100 million records and receive more than 33 RIAA Platinum and Gold record awards. They have been honored at the Grammys with a Lifetime Achievement Award and are also Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees.
Dennis Wilson passed away in 1983 and his brother, Carl Wilson, died in 1998. These days, Al Jardine still performs with Brian Wilson in The Brian Wilson Band. But with more than five decades of touring experience on their resume, The Beach Boys — currently fronted by Mike Love and Bruce Johnston — have performed more live concerts than any other major rock band in history.
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Before tonight’s show begins, we take a moment to chat with several generations of Beach Boys’ fans inside the historic Great Auditorium.
Millie, aged 10 1/2 from Ewing, is here with her friend, Abby, and her grandfather, Roger.
States Millie, “I know some of their songs from driving in the car, including ‘Surfin’ USA,’ ‘Surfin’ Safari’, and ‘Fun, Fun, Fun.’”
Abby, soon to be 12, exclaims, “This is my first concert ever!”
After Roger, a long-time fan of The Beach Boys, confesses, “I’m Mike Love’s age!” he tells us that he’s seen the band approximately a dozen times before noting, “I used to bring my son and daughter to their concerts, but now I’m bringing the next generation to their shows.”
When asked why he enjoys The Beach Boys’ music, Roger explains, “It’s good, clean music — they sing about cars, girls and the beach — and it’s music I can share with my granddaughter.”
He also suggests that The Beach Boys’ music has an emotional component to it as well when he recalls, “One time, not long ago, my wife and I were each shopping in a store when ‘God Only Knows’ — which is our song — came on. We had to call each other on our phones, find one another, and start dancing in the store as we listened to the song together!”
We also chat with a group of teenaged friends, here tonight to experience the music of The Beach Boys.
States Jake, 17, from Little Silver, “This is my fourth consecutive time seeing The Beach Boys here at The Great Auditorium.”
When asked about the group’s appeal, Jake — who also listens to everything from Frank Sinatra to ’90s rappers like Tupac — says, “It’s fun music,” before acknowledging, “Honestly, I became obsessed with it!”
Jake’s friend Adam, 18, from Little Silver, has seen The Beach Boys live “five years in a row,” noting, “I was the one who brought Jake his first time!’
Explaining, “My grandparents brought me here to concerts when I was younger,” Adam says he enjoys The Beach Boys’ music because “their songs are fun and happy,” before commenting, “Plus, the two original members — Mike Love and Bruce Johnston — still sound great!”
Their friend Evan, 18, from Bradley Beach tells us, “I listen to classic rock — The Beatles and some alternative rock like Muse and Led Zeppelin — but I love the Beach Boys. I’m a classical pianist and I can tell you their melodies and harmonizations are amazing — so I can really appreciate what they’ve done musically. I’m also a lifeguard — I’ve surfed since I was six years old — so I can enjoy their lyrics, too.”
Lastly another friend, Christian, 17, from Little Silver tells us he is here for his fourth consecutive Beach Boys concert revealing, “I even brought my girlfriend tonight — I introduced her to The Beach Boys music.”
Explaining, “I’m an oldies fan. I like ’60s and ’70s music — The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, and Led Zeppelin,” Christian further discloses, “I collect records, too” in an effort to keep the great music of the past alive.
An announcement is made and this audience of all ages stands for “The Star-Spangled Banner” as it is played on the Great Auditorium’s historic pipe organ. Once all of the audience members are seated, a video flashes on the large screen above the stage showing a variety of vintage scenes of The Beach Boys — from an appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand television program to a performance of their late ’80’s revival hit “Kokomo.”
The current members of The Beach Boys — lead singer Mike Love and keyboardist Bruce Johnston, along with John Cowsill on drums, musical director Scott Totten on lead guitar, Christian Love on guitar, Brian Eichenburger on guitar, Tim Bonhomme on synthesizer, Keith Hubacher on bass, and Randy Leago on woodwinds — take the stage and open the show with “Do It Again.” Immediately, heads start to bop, and feet start to tap to the tune’s infectious beat, while surfing images appear on the screen above them.
Following cheers and applause, the group moves on to “Surfin’ Safari.” As beach balls pop up from the audience, Mike Love holds his microphone out for audience members to join him in singing on the famous “Come on and safari with me” tag line while lights shine on the audience.
To a kaleidoscope of on-screen beach images, the Boys perform “Catch A Wave” and “Hawaii” before segueing into the audience favorite, “Surfin’ USA.” As they perform, everyone from teenagers to grandmoms line the aisles and dance to the beat, arms surfing along to this classic ’60s hit!
After introducing drummer John Cowsill — originally of the family band, The Cowsills — on drums, Mike Love exclaims, “Five songs in a row in today’s heat!” before thanking the audience for coming. Then, he says, “This is our audience cell phone participation song — find the flashlight on your phone — because this one is for the ladies.”
Almost instantaneously, lights emanating from hundreds of cell phones dot the auditorium like dancing fireflies on a warm summer’s evening. As Love observes the scene he’s just created, he begins to croon the lead to “Surfer Girl.”
The phones dance to the beat, swaying and lighting the auditorium, as images of surfer girls fill the screen.
Following large applause, The Beach Boys perform “Getcha Back” and an upbeat rendition of “Wendy.” As John Cowsill’s drums roll and fill in between the vocal harmonies, purple lights flash as they alternate with luminous red and white lights.
Cowsill’s vocals are featured on “Darlin’” — a rockin’ number accompanied by on-screen pop art — but five-part harmonies rule on The Beach Boys’ rendition of “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” Randy Leago’s bari sax honking along as the singers sing with their falsetto voices.
Next, hands clap overhead to the timeless, “When I Grow Up to Be a Man,” and Mike Love’s daughter, Ambha, joins her dad as a vocalist on “Kiss Me Baby.” After following up with “You’re So Good To Me,” The Beach Boys perform one of the highlight numbers of the evening, a stellar rendition of “Dance, Dance Dance” which features a rockin’ guitar solo by Scott Totten.
Mike Love performs a new song, “All the Love in Paris,” before the crowd goes wild for “Be True to Your School.” On this crowd pleaser, Love hits the first note and holds it out for what seems like two or three full minutes before the audience “follows the bouncing ball” and sings along with the song’s lyrics projected on the big screen. And if that isn’t enough, the Jersey crowd cheers for the onscreen photos of Rutgers University’s Scarlet Knights cheerleaders!
Introducing the next number — a novelty song — Love announces, “This next song is a story about how much I loved my 1949 Chevy Fleet Corvette,” before Scott Totten takes the lead on “The Ballad of Old Betsy.”
Bassist Brian Eichenburger handles the falsetto lead on “Don’t Worry Baby” as images of original Beach Boy Carl Wilson appear on the screen above him. Then, the Boys launch into a energetic medley of car songs including “Little Deuce Coupe,” “409,” and “Shut Down.”
The group concludes Act I with their 1964 chart topper, “I Get Around.” By this point, the Great Auditorium feels more like a Great Beach Party with music lovers up and out of their seats moving to the music!
During intermission, we take a moment to converse with a group of friends in the audience about the concert thus far.
Audrey from Barnegat declares, “It’s girls’ night out!” before making up a poem on the spot: “We love the music. We love the songs. We love the moves. We’re going along!”
Audrey’s friend, Janet from East Hanover, notes, “We’re reminiscing,” before adding, “We do everything together.”
Their friend, Joan from Barnegat, concurs noting, “We love coming to the Great Auditorium. We not only come for the concerts, but we also come for the church services, too.”
Doris from Barnegat says, “This concert is so wonderful, it’s making me cry,” before adding, “and the last few songs brought back memories of a car I had when I was young!”
Doris’ friend, Connie from Barnegat, agrees adding, “The music does bring back memories. I had tears in my eyes — it’s very good.”
Lastly, another Joan from Barnegat remarks, “This is my fourth time seeing The Beach Boys, and I still enjoy them!”
Act II opens with a sensitive rendition of “California Dreaming” featuring John Cowsill on vocals before the audience claps and dances along to the easy groove of “Sloop John B.”
Heads bop to the opening strains of “California Girls” before audience members rise to their feet singing along with Love.
When Bruce Johnston chimes in, “I wish they all could be Jersey Girls,” the audience cheers!
With the crowd still standing, the group performs “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” before Mike Love introduces Johnston as the Grammy-winning composer of Barry Manilow’s hit, “I Write the Songs.” Then, Johnston is featured on his composition for The Beach Boys, “Disney Girls (1957).”
Love’s daughter, Ambha, retakes the stage to join in singing on “The Warmth of the Sun,” as a grandpa and his granddaughter dance together out in the Great Auditorium audience.
In a moving tribute to original Beach Boys’ member Carl Wilson, Mike Love’s son, Christian, handles the lead vocals on “God Only Knows.” The number ends with a photo of Carl with the on-screen caption “We love you, Carl.”
Mike Love pays homage to his friend, Beatle George Harrison, in an original song entitled, “Pisces Brothers.”
Then, Love performs another new song — the title number from his latest album, “Unleash the Love.” As he sings, crowds of people come closer to the stage to better enjoy the music.
Following an environmental number, “Summer in Paradise” — featuring a Randy Leago sax solo — The Beach Boys pay tribute to another original Beach Boy, Dennis Wilson. As Dennis’ recorded voice fills the auditorium and images of him playing the drums fill the screen, the band plays along to “Do You Want to Dance.”
For their final tribute song, the band pays its respects to Chuck Berry. While Love sings lead on “Rock and Roll Music,” dancing crowds of people gathered on either side of the stage create a true beach party atmosphere!
Winding down the show with the classic tune from the film, American Graffiti, “All Summer Long,” the Boys go on to play one of their most popular numbers, their 1965 #1 hit, “Help Me, Rhonda.”
Here, Love encourages the fans in the audience to sing along as the house lights come up, the band stops playing, and the audience takes a series of solos on the famous “Help, help me Rhonda” chorus.
On “Barbara Ann,” the stage fills with Beach Boys’ family and friends before Mike Love and Bruce Johnston do a kick-line dance!
Finally, Bruce, Mike, and the Boys rock the Great Auditorium rafters with a live rendition of their 1966 musical masterpiece, “Good Vibrations,” leaving the members of this entranced audience standing on their feet.
For an encore, Love says, “Let’s take a trip! Everyone sing along!”
As the group performs their 1988 single, “Kokomo,” the audience sings along on the famous “Aruba, Jamaica/Oh I want to take ya/Bermuda, Bahama/Come on pretty mama” chorus and everyone sways to the tropical lilt of the music.
Following animated applause, the sound of a wailing guitar starts off the final number of the evening, “Fun, Fun, Fun,” where band members have a blast shimmying in unison and waving to the crowd.
As audience members make their way out of the Great Auditorium, we chat with several in the crowd who comment on tonight’s performance.
First, we catch up with a mom and her adult daughter who had been dancing together in the aisle for the entire concert!
Says daughter Kimberly from Pt. Pleasant, “This is our fourth year coming here together and we’ll do it again next year — it’s a family tradition!”
Noting, “I grew up listening to The Beach Boys’ music because my mom played it,” she adds, “It’s a good night because they played my favorite song, ‘Sloop John B’”
Kimberly’s mom, Debbie from Colts Neck, tells us she’s a long-time fan of The Beach Boys.
“I first saw them in the 1970s at Madison Square Garden,” recalls Debbie. “We have a ball every time we see them — we just love it — especially ‘Fun, Fun, Fun,’” before revealing, “Next year, I’m planning to bring my eight-year-old grandson.”
Next, we chat with Lorraine from East Brunswick.
States Lorraine, “I’m a fan of Beach Boys’ founding member Brian Wilson and his music and I have been for years,” before acknowledging, “but tonight, I really loved Bruce Johnston’s rendition of ‘Disney Girls,’ and the singing of Mike Love’s daughter, Ambha — I thought she was very good.”
Lastly, we chat with John from Ocean Grove who exclaims, “This was one great show! I’ve never been to a concert where, literally, every song was a hit,” before he concludes, “As far as I’m concerned, The Beach Boys really know how to ‘Unleash the Love!’”
To learn more about The Beach Boys, please go to thebeachboys.com. For further information on future concert programming at Ocean Grove’s Great Auditorium, please go to oceangrove.org.Photos by Love Imagery
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