For years, the Rolling Stones have been singing "Start Me up." For even longer, the Beach Boys have been harmonizing on "Shut Down." When it comes to 50-year anniversary concerts, I think the Beach Boys got the lyrics right.
I know, I know, we're all getting older. Once, our mantra was sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Now it's Viagra, Lipitor, and American Idol. Nowadays, those Golden Oldies have been appropriated by advertisers hoping to target a demographic apparently interested in reverse mortgages, mail-order prescriptions, and retirement villages. Nowadays, we can go to a nostalgia-oriented show to see the faces we once idolized on album covers, only to discover 90% of the musicians on stage weren't even born when we owned piles of black vinyl and heard DJs play those hits over and over and over . . .
Don't get me wrong—I love nostalgia. I spend a lot of time interviewing rock stars from times past, read the memoirs, enjoy the PBS reunions, and eagerly await remasters of the classics. But this year, I've decided there's one line that should rarely be crossed. That's paying for overblown 50th year celebrations that don't really seem to be celebrating anything.
My first disappointment this year occurred while watching The Beach Boys' Live in Concert: 50th Anniversary Tour DVD. Judging from reviewers who actually saw one of the shows, this release was only half of what the guys sang on stage. This meant the rest of us got a very thin, workmanlike, robotic, hit-and-run performance. I admit the sight of the gray-headed "rockers with walkers" singing about the summer joys of teenage life, especially the pursuit of California "gurls," made me smile. Who else could sing these songs and not sound like pedophiles with full Viagra bottles handy in their guitar cases?
But if anything magical happened at the actual shows, we didn't get it. The DVD package was so bare bones, there were no special features at all. Any viewer can be forgiven for concluding this was tossed out as an afterthought to put a cap on a pro forma tour. After all, soon as the reunion was over, Mike Love wasted no time hitting the road again with his ersatz Beach Boys, a group essentially Love's backup band.