‘Oh then you’ll be able to listen to Cotton Fields,’ said my dad.
Last Wednesday night’s The Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Tour concert was certainly that kind of night when your parents did really know best. Older folks in colourful Hawaiian shirts flocked Singapore Indoor Stadium, which was playing Petula Clark’s charming Don’t Sleep in the Subway, vastly outnumbering the number of skinny jeans- and slim fit tee-wearing young’uns in attendance. As 70-somethings Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, David Marks and latterly Brian Wilson, to the loudest cheers, appeared onstage at 8.15pm, it wasn’t until third number Catch a Wave that the party really took off. By the time Surfin’ Safari, the legendary group’s first Billboard Hot 100 top 40 hit in 1962, came around, sections of the near capacity crowd had already begun boogieing and grooving to the quintet’s still formidable signature vocal harmonies and doo-wops.
While two-thirds of the remaining original Beach Boys, Love and Jardine, rolled back the years to charm the fans with banter and energy that belied their advancing age, a steely faced Wilson, widely considered the band’s creative figurehead through the years, sat grumpily at his piano on the left corner of the stage. Having battled with mental illnesses since the late ’60s, Wilson’s sing-when-necessary demeanour must’ve been a concern for some, not least when the gig lost some of its early momentum, no thanks to a succession of lesser known songs (the Lead Belly cover Cotton Fields did eventually make an appearance to my chagrin) as well as a few uninspiring tracks from latest record That’s Why God Made The Radio. The relative lull was not to last, however, as the tender Don’t Worry Baby signalled the introduction of a flurry of feel-good surf-pop gems Little Deuce Coupe, 409 and I Get Around, to the delight of the crowd.
A 25-minute intermission soon followed, with the song count already at a whopping 28, before the boys from California returned with promises of tracks from seminal 1966 record Pet Sounds. The mention of his masterpiece, generally regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time, by his cousin Love seemed to pique the interest of the visibly more animated Wilson, who took the reins on the poignant God Only Knows. ‘God only knows what I’ll be without you,’ crooned Wilson to the heavenly melodies that were once set against the backdrop of Heathrow’s arrival hall in 2003’s Love Actually, but it was certainly a special moment to remember his fallen brothers and fellow founding members, Carl (the song’s original vocalist) and Dennis.
Crowd favourites like Good Vibrations, Kokomo and Fun, Fun, Fun ultimately closed this particular leg of the iconic band’s first high profile tour to include Wilson in over two decades, but as I rushed to catch the last MRT at a little past 11pm, I could only hope that Wilson finds solace in the fact that The Beach Boys did at least outlast fellow ’60s giants and long-time friendly rivals The Beatles.