Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Al Jardine Concert Review - Part 1

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again …    

Al Jardine has the best singing voice of all The Beach Boys today … strong and clear without a hint of age.

We’ve seen Mike Love where he could barely muster up a raspy whisper …

And Brian Wilson when it seemed like finding (and sticking to) the melody was the unfulfilled mission of the night …

But Al Jardine has consistently come through with one great vocal triumph after another. 

It was on display on The Beach Boy’s 50th Anniversary Comeback LP “That’s Why God Made The Radio” …

It was on display during his featured tracks on Brian Wilson’s “No Pier Pressure” LP …

And it was on display Monday Night (April 2nd) at City Winery Chicago as he worked his way through a very impressive two hour set of Beach Boys favorites, accompanied only by his son Matt and Musical Director Jeff Alan Ross.  (Very special thanks again to Dan Conroe who provided tickets for me and two pair of lucky Forgotten Hits Readers … it was a real pleasure to watch the show with such devoted fans.)

Now I’ll admit, I went into the evening a bit skeptical and apprehensive … what does one expect from an Al Jardine concert?  Sure, he’ll have to do a few Beach Boys songs to please the fans … but will the rest of the night be spent showcasing new, unfamiliar solo material … or will Al use this as an excuse to FINALLY present the folk-roots program he’s always dreamed of doing?

As it turns out, neither could be further than the truth.  (Other than the review of a Massachusetts show posted below, I really hadn’t read anything about what Al would be doing during this special “Postcards From California” tour.)

What he did was take us on a guided musical tour through The Beach Boys’ entire career, pretty much in chronological order, beginning with Al playing a stand-up bass while performing their very first record, “Surfin’,” a local hit that made The Top Ten in California but barely dented The National Charts. (#75, 1962)

From there, the journey continued through their hits “I Get Around,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Surfer Girl,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “California Girls” (Absolutely INCREDIBLE sounding with just the accompaniment of Al’s guitar and Jeff’s piano … in fact, the sound this trio was able to achieve throughout the entire evening was nothing short of outstanding … it was VERY impressive listening to what they could recreate by using just their three voices and two musical instruments!), “God Only Knows,” “Heroes And Villains,” “Good Vibrations” (Can you believe they even dared?!?!  And yet it sounded fantastic!), “California Saga,” “Vegetables” (!!!) and, for me, the highlight of the evening, “Sloop John B.,” which gave Al the chance to tell the story about how he was FINALLY able to get Brian to record a folk song, four years into the band’s success.

In fact, the storytelling was a good part of the fun, even though Al had to be prompted from time to time to stay on point.  The audience was a mix of all ages, as one would expect from any show having anything at all to do with The Beach Boys … they have already spanned four generations of fans … and the trio received rousing applause throughout the evening as well as several standing ovations.  They completed their set with a three song encore:  “Surfin’ USA,” “Barbara Ann” and “Help Me, Rhonda,” the song most closely associated with Al.  (Throughout the night, he proved he could do their entire catalog justice, singing leads to songs he would otherwise never be given the chance to do.)  In fact, photos of the band at virtually every stage of their career were displayed on both sides of the stage during the entire performance, punctuated by an occasional video clip here and there … including … can you believe it!!! … the opening musical sequence from “The Monkey’s Uncle”!!!  OMG … does this mean another three weeks of earworm hell?!?!?)

All three of us in our Forgotten Hits group were able to take a picture with Al and his son Matt after the show.  And we were even able to snag a couple of great stage shots and share them with our readers, courtesy of City Winery House Photographer Howard Greenblatt.

Here's mine:

All-in-all, a GREAT show … I can honestly say that it exceeded my wildest expectations in every way.  

It sounds like Al’s just filling time doing some solo shows through the end of the month until he teams back up again with Brian Wilson in May for a full-scale tour with The Brian Wilson Band, which includes three shows in Nashville with a full orchestra.  They'll return to the Chicagoland area in November at The Horseshoe Casino in Indiana, where’ll they’ll also perform a complete set of Christmas music.

Great time … if the opportunity presents itself again, do yourself a favor and check these guys out … you will not be disappointed!  (kk)

Stage Concert Photos by Howard Greenblatt
Tickets Courtesy of Dan Conroe and City Winery Chicago


I received this review from long-time FH Reader (and MAJOR Beach Boys Fan) Phil Miglioratti after he learned that he had just won tickets to the show …

Below is a review of Al Jardine's "Postcards From California" show posted from a Beach Boys fan group I belong to.

I attended the Al Jardine show in Beverly, MA, Friday night – same set list as the list posted here earlier with one notable exception. Someone yelled out a request for “Susie Cincinnati” and after spending a few moments trying to remember the key and the chords, Al obliged with the first verse. Earlier, he also played a snippet of “Take Good Care of Your Feet.”

It was an entertaining, although occasionally frustrating, show. Matt Jardine and Jeff Alan Ross do an excellent job of supporting Al, both musically and keeping him on track with the sequence of songs. It’s hard to believe you could do a nice rendition of “Good Vibrations” with just a keyboard, a guitar, a tambourine, and three voices, but they did.

The frustrating part was Al’s rambling stage patter and fidgeting with the mic stand. He had the basis of a few good stories that unfortunately just sort of petered out. I would have appreciated more personal reflections on the band’s early days and his favorite memories of Carl and Dennis, too. If he worked on crafting his anecdotes and observations between songs better, it would have been much more effective.

Tune-wise, I would have also liked to have heard more “deep cuts.”
Al was a bit absent-minded throughout the show and Jeff and Matt jumped in several times to remind him of stories to tell or which tune was next. Since it was a relaxed, semi-unplugged performance, nobody seemed to mind. It was a nearly-full house and a very appreciative audience.
Jim Cassidy

More reviews tomorrow from our ticket winners Phil Miglioratti and Art Walicki ... stay tuned!  (kk)