Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The 5th of July Non-Bloodbath.........

Well, it appears all involved in the Beach Boys universe made it out of the 4th/5th of July holiday unscathed. Brian played his two European gigs with Al, to good overall reviews.

Al as always appears to have brought his pristine voice to the proceedings. The group played a setlist not terribly unlike those of 2013, which isn't a bad thing. Al was given his usual recent leads on European-centric hits like "Then I Kissed Her" and "Cottonfields." The main point of interest, as far as something visually and sonically new, was the debut of Matt Jardine in Brian's band.

These two Brian gigs were noteworthy not only for the debut of Matt in Brian's band, but also as pretty much the first solo gig Brian has done without Jeff Foskett by his side (I can't say with certainty that there has never been a full Brian show without Jeff; there may be a few one-offs I'm forgetting).

Stage setup wise, it appears they are going with the route of simply having Matt sing up front standing, with no instrument (other than a tambourine). No apparent bongos are present as in the case of Matt's 90's shows with the Beach Boys and sometimes with Al's band. I think it speaks to the emphasis they are willing to place on Matt's voice (both in terms of cost and stage presentation) that they are having him up front and there solely to belt out his falsetto and a few leads.

They haven't wasted any time in getting Matt out there, as he was even handed several leads during the show, including "Don't Worry Baby" and apparently "Wouldn't It Be Nice." Fans lately have been having a weird "falsetto debate" discussing the pros and cons of Matt versus Jeff Foskett.

I've said all along, since the band splintered in 1998, that I've always felt Matt's falsetto was the most pleasing to the ears (other than Brian's 60's original), and also works best in the "Beach Boys mix" of harmonies. Matt also has a good lead voice, and his voice at times can indeed sound like a weird hybrid of Brian and Al. He's pretty versatile, often singing Beach Boys classics at Al's shows by handling both the "Mike" and "Brian" parts.

I've never had a problem with Jeff Foskett's voice, and he has handled the falsetto parts just fine. He tends to bend up notes to hit them sometimes while doing falsetto parts, whereas Matt hits them straight on. (Comparing their takes on "I Get Around" is perhaps the easiest way to hear this). It's simply a stylistic difference; but I prefer Matt's voice. In fact, if I could dig through every internet post going back 15 years, I know somewhere at some point I actually made a futile wish for Matt to be the falsetto in Brian's band.

In any event, the big question now as far as Brian's shows are concerned is whether Al (or any other guests) will be added to future shows. It seems pretty 50/50 now. Having Al there makes sense. He clearly won't be in Mike's band anytime soon. Having Matt in the band makes having Al there make even more sense. But it also appears they didn't originally plan to have Al at these two July Brian gigs. Al also referenced touring with his own band later this year. I certainly hope Brian keeps Al in his band. His voice needs to be heard, and it would make even more sense if in fact they are going to be promoting an album that Al also sings on.

Meanwhile, David joined Mike and Bruce's "Beach Boys" for the Jones Beach gig. Also in attendance was everybody's favorite Uncle, John Stamos. It it perhaps telling that, flipping through a photo album that the Jones Beach venue has posted on their Facebook page, there are seemingly over a dozen shots of John Stamos, and precisely one shot of David Marks. I couldn't even find a shot of David with the other band members.
Reviews indicate the show was just fine. It was a shortened setlist due to time constaints. Dave's one lead vocal was apparently "Do You Wanna Dance." Even staunch supporters of Mike's "Beach Boys" seem to feel Stamos was a nuisance as usual at the show, hamming it up and stealing the spotlight, and singing the lead to "Forever", which apparently is a Dennis tribute unless Stamos is present to sing it.
It appears Dave was pretty low key at the show, with his one lead vocal and otherwise staying back and letting the band Stamos ham it up. While I don't like the idea that there will be some bad interpersonal fallout from Al's non-appearance at the show, I can't say this show format would have afforded much input from Al. He would have been in the background like Dave, and likely wouldn't have had but the few requisite leads on "Rhonda" and perhaps one or two others.
If they had been inclined to get it all lined up and get four Beach Boys on stage, this wasn't the show to do it. It was a shortened show due to multiple bands on the bill as well as a local sound curfew, and they had Stamos stealing the spotlight anyway. David was not announced as a special guest, and many noted that if you didn't know who he was, you would have never known he was even there.
Aside from the reunion lineup getting back together, I'd love to see Dave *and* Al back on board with Brian's band. We shall see.
In any event, everything apparently went off relatively well for both camps. Everyone survived, and the audiences enjoyed the shows. No snide comments from either camp during the show. Ironically, Stamos was reportedly the only person to namecheck the Wilsons and Jardine during a quick comment thanking them for the music. Coolest thing by far Stamos seems to do at these shows.