THE BEACH BOYS, Albert Hall – Evening Standard, 28 Sept 2012

Clocking in at well over three hours with an interval, with more than 50 songs performed, it was almost impossible to think of a hit The Beach Boys missed at their 50th anniversary reunion show.

Yes, the big screen images were of the low-rent kind you might find in a Korean karaoke booth; yes, Mike Love mimed actions to the lyrics like an excruciating children’s entertainer, and has already soured the matey mood considerably by announcing a “post-50th anniversary configuration” that leaves out his fellow founders Brian Wilson and Al Jardine. But on stage together, with classic following classic, they were frequently perfect.

Wrinkles are deeper, voices are weaker, but a backing band largely consisting of Wilson’s solo group ensured that the harmonies were still bliss. Jardine was full of beans and sounded the most like his younger self when leading.

Wilson’s well-documented mental frailty left him at a keyboard on the sidelines, though the most touching moments were his — a truthful I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times and a quiet closing Summer’s Gone. There were also moving video tributes to his late brothers Dennis and Carl Wilson, with later member Bruce Johnston gazing up at the video screens like the Beach Boys’ biggest fan.

There were few lulls — even tracks from the recent anniversary album, such as Isn’t It Time, stood up in exalted company.

A final flurry of favourites was unbeatable — Sloop John B, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, Good Vibrations, you name it. They joined hands to bow at the end, and the crowd must have known that they’d never see this talent in a line again. While the acrimony continues, it’s the incredible music that will endure.

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