The Beach Boys LIVE! at Ocean Grove’s Great Auditorium
A rainbow of umbrellas dot the beach at Ocean Grove, NJ, on Saturday, August 19, 2017, as kids with pails and shovels play in the sand.
An American flag billows in the breeze overlooking the boardwalk where joggers meander between pastel colored beach cruisers.
As we stroll the boards, we see folks in striped terry cloth coverups and smell the distinct odor of sunscreen.
A passing convertible on Ocean Avenue blasts “Surfin’ USA” as real-life surfers — boards in hand — animatedly talk about the great waves they’ve experienced today.
The sun begins to set, and lifeguards wave swimmers out of the water signaling the end of the beach day and beginning of the beach night in Ocean Grove — a night when America’s band, The Beach Boys, will perform at the Great Auditorium!
Just two short blocks from the ocean, on Pilgram Pathway, the crowd outside the Great Auditorium already numbers in the thousands, these eager music lovers happily making their way inside the historic structure for tonight’s concert featuring America’s soundtrack to summer.
The evening begins with America’s song — “The Star-Spangled Banner — played on the great organ. Sung by the audience, the enormous Great Auditorium American flag above the stage flashes its red, white, and blue lights during the anthem’s final lyric, “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Screens on either side of the stage light up with videos of the one of the most popular musical acts of all time — The Beach Boys.
As classic images of the Beach Boys parade across the screens to classic ’60s tunes — the Great Auditorium crowd joyfully clapping along — musicians take their places, the video fades, and real life takes over as long-time Beach Boys’ members Mike Love and Bruce Johnston take the stage in front of the roaring crowd.
“1, 2, 3, Let’s go surfing!” exclaims Love who — with his iconic Beach Boys’ voice — takes the lead vocal on “Surfin’ Safari,” accompanied by Johnston on keyboard and background vocals.
Fans with cellphones in the air wave them as images of surfers hang ten on the screens before the Boys segue into “Catch a Wave,” the driving beat enticing the crowd to vigorously clap along.
After shifting gears into “Little Honda,” the band performs a nostalgic rendition of “Do It Again” as audience members dance in the aisles.
One tune which seems truly appreciated in this Jersey beach town is “Surfin’ USA,” where the Great Auditorium flag lights up in all it’s glory as fans sing along and wave from the balcony!
Love takes a look around the historic Great Auditorium — built by hand in 1894 — and jokes, “This place makes us feel young!” adding, “We hope you have a good time here — we always do!”
When Love points out that Beach Boys’ drummer John Cowsill — a member of the famous ’60s family band The Cowsills — “has just played five songs without stopping,” Cowsill quips, “It’s not an easy life being a Beach Boy!”
Love invites everyone in the house to take out their cellphones and wave them, flashlights on, to the group’s next number, “Surfer Girl,” which he dedicates “to the ladies.” Not only does the crowd oblige, but couples even begin to slow dance in the aisles.
Harmonies prevail on “Getcha Back” and a baritone sax rocks the room on “Good to My Baby” before Bruce Johnston’s “la-las” fill the room on “You’re So Good to Me” and tight vocals resonate on “Kiss Me Baby.”
Bassist Brian Eichenberger is featured on “And Then I Kissed Her” before six-part harmonies rule on “Dance Dance Dance,” a tune featuring a wailing guitar solo by Beach Boys’ musical director, Scott Totten.
Following an environmental number, “Summer in Paradise,” the guys segue into a peppy version of “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” and take the crowd with them on a nostalgic trip back to the ’60s with their rendition of “When I Grow Up to Be a Man.”
A high-flyin’ rendition of “Darlin’” features guitarist Jeff Foskett on lead vocals as Johnston accompanies him on keyboard and Love works the crowd.
Next, “Be True to Your School” features onscreen images of Rutgers’ Scarlet Knights’ cheerleaders, as beach balls skip and jump around the room.
Introducing a rare live concert number, Love announces, “This next song is a story about how much I loved my 1948 Chevy,” before Scott Totten takes the lead on “The Ballad of Old Betsy.”
Cruising on to a medley of car songs, the Boys perform “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” and “409.”
Fans dance in the aisles while Love autographs a poster for an avid fan while singing.
Continuing the car theme with “Shut Down,” the crowd feeds off the band’s energy, morphing into a dancing mass before the group concludes Act I with a scintillating version of “I Get Around.”
Act II opens with a sensitive rendition of “California Dreaming,” and the audience claps and dances along to the easy groove of “Sloop John B.”
Hearing the iconic introduction to “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” the crowd cheers, and young girls in the audience bounce and dance to the beautiful six-part harmonies emanating from the stage on this classic Beach Boys’ number.
Heads bop to the opening strains of “California Girls,” and parents hold their children up so they can participate in the beach ball activity taking place all throughout the auditorium. Love extends the microphone as far as he can so the audience can sing along before he changes the lyrics from “I wish they all could be California girls” to “I wish they all could be Jersey Girls.”
Showing their exceptional vocal talents, the Beach Boys take center stage to perform a lovely a cappella rendition of The Four Freshmen song, “Their Hearts Were Full of Spring,” a tune which features a former long-term member of that well-known singing group, Brian Eichenberger.
After introducing Bruce Johnston as the Grammy-winning composer of Barry Manilow’s hit, “I Write the Songs,” Johnston is featured on his composition for the Beach Boys, “Disney Girls (1957).”
Following great applause, the tight-sounding band continues boppin’ along with “I Can Hear Music,” as both the musicians and the audience clap above their heads in time to this catchy number.
In a moving tribute to original Beach Boys’ member Carl Wilson, Carl’s recorded voice plays and his image appears on screen as the band performs live to his signature song, “God Only Knows.” Cellphone lights sway in time to this touching song.
Mike Love pays homage to his friend, Beatle George Harrison, in a tender original song entitled, “Pisces Brothers.”
The Beach Boys then pay tribute to another original Beach Boy, Dennis Wilson, as his recorded voice fills the auditorium and images of him playing the drums fill the screen as the band plays along to “Do You Want to Dance.”
For their final tribute number, the band pays its respects to Chuck Berry. Love sings lead on “Rock and Roll Music” while the dancing crowds of people gathered on either side of the stage create a true beach party atmosphere!
As Love explains, “Help Me, Rhonda” features band member “Randy Leago on the saxophone-o,” and, then, according to Love, “the beat continues on an island trip to ‘Kokomo,’” the crowd singing, dancing, and clapping along to the band’s 1988 #1 hit.
The Beach Boys’ performance of their musical gem, “Good Vibrations,” fills the Great Auditorium. The sounds of a theremin, organ, and harmonica fan over the crowd, and lights flash at the powerful conclusion of this Beach Boys’ masterpiece, the entire crowd on its feet cheering and applauding!
For a first encore, the Beach Boys retake the stage and feature drummer John Cowsill on 1967’s “Wild Honey.” With guitars wailing, Cowsill ends the song with a flourish — sticks in the air — followed by thunderous applause!
Small children and their moms are invited onto the stage to dance with Mike Love and Bruce Johnston as the group performs a second encore, “Barbara Ann,” featuring several moms dancing with babies in their arms or on their hips.
The Beach Boys close out the show with a third encore, “Fun Fun Fun,” the perfect ending to a fun-filled night filled with nostalgia and, arguably, one of the greatest catalogs of music of any American band ever!
Following the show, we chat with several members of the audience who tell us about their experiences enjoying the Beach Boys here at the Great Auditorium.
States Rosalind from Ocean Grove, “I love all the interactive stuff — the beach balls and the dancing! I’ve never seen an audience so engaged. It’s great to see an audience get what exactly what they deserve — great entertainment!
Next, we chat with Katie, Jessica, and John — three generations of Beach Boys’ fans from River Edge.
Says granddaughter Katie, 13, “I’ve been coming to Beach Boys’ concerts for at least five years now. I like their voices and I like that the songs are old-fashioned. They each have a theme — the beach, summer, cars — and you can actually sing along with them,” adding, “and I especially like songs like ‘Be True to Your School’ and ‘Fun, Fun, Fun.’”
Katie’s mom, Jessica, acknowledges, “I’ve been listening to the Beach Boys all my life — we even decorate our Christmas tree to the Beach Boys’ Christmas album every year — but my favorite song is the one my Dad always used to sing to me when I was younger, ’Surfer Girl.’”
Jessica’s dad — and Katie’s grandfather — John, smiles and recalls, “I saw the Beach Boys for the first time in 1967 in Providence, RI — that’s when ‘Good Vibrations’ had just come out — and my family and I have been following them ever since!”
Likewise, Patty from Toms River reveals, “I’ve seen the Beach Boys ten times. They’re great,” going on to note, “And I don’t even have a favorite Beach Boys’ song because I love ’em all!”
Justine from Bayville admits, “This is my first time in Ocean Grove. The Great Auditorium is a beautiful theater — it’s majestic — and just a different kind of setting for a concert like this. But, to me, the Beach Boys still sound just like they did when I was younger!”
We also chat with John and Barbara from Freehold — fans of the Beach Boys since 1963.
“This concert is great!” contends Barbara, disclosing, “We’ve been following the band’s live concerts in between having kids…,” to which John interjects, “…and we’ve been married 52 years!” before exclaiming, “It’s amazing that a group like this can last this long!”
Lastly, we meet up with Ron and Richard, a father and son, from Tinton Falls.
Dad Ron tells us he’s been fan of the Beach Boys “since the 1960s,” commenting, “This was a great concert — anytime we can dance and have a good time, we’ll be there!” before adding, “We just saw the Beach Boys this past Thursday at the Beacon Theater in New York, and we’ll see them again on Tuesday in Ocean City, NJ.”
And with regards to his son, Ron notes, “Richard just loves the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s,” acknowledging, “I think he really should have been born into those times.”
Son Richard, 23, agrees, admitting, “I am a huge Beach Boys’ fan. You really don’t hear good music like this anymore.”
Continuing, “I discovered the Beach Boys when I saw the movie, Love and Mercy. I’ve now seen them nine times. I’m really into the music,” Richard concludes by adding, “And I love going to Beach Boys’ concerts with my dad. Every time we go, we always bring a party with us!”