It was a festive, claustrophobic, inebriated New Year’s evening last night at the Seminole Hard Rock, a party headlined by the Beach Boys. Mike Love, the only remaining original member of the pioneering band, and his seven-piece group dusted off a solid 90 minutes of nostalgic surf-pop inside Hard Rock Live. Love had the line of the night when, after an opening set of upbeat numbers that included “Surfin’ Safari,” he called the crowd “bluehairs” and quipped that “the only people standing up were the people walking to their seats.”
Truth be told, while the audience was predominantly composed of baby boomers, it was a more eclectic crowd than a traditional Beach Boys tour appearance might draw: All ages were present and singing along to the ubiquitous tunes. Love’s observation helped; by the end of the set, as balloons rained from the rafters, most of the audience was on its feet.
The band put on a more energetic, less geriatric show than I had anticipated. There was a lot of youth present on the stage to balance the gray hairs of Love and Bruce Johnston, most popularly in the form of TV star John Stamos. Stamos, a frequent but not full-time member of the current Beach Boys incarnation, played drums (including a wicked solo during “Be True to Your School”), guitar and sang lead vocals on one song, all to the swoons of innumerable young ladies.
And he wasn’t the only unannounced guest star: Lita Ford, original member of the all-girl punk act the Runaways, appeared to shred some electric-guitar energy into “Help Me Rhonda” and “Surfin’ USA” shortly before midnight.
Considering the Beach Boys have been playing roughly the same live set for 40 years and could probably play these songs in their sleep, Love and company injected as much heart and enthusiasm as can be expected. For me, this greatest-hits set reached its apex well before midnight, when the band played four of the greatest songs in the history of rock-n-roll in a row: “God Only Knows,” “Good Vibrations,” “Sloop John B.” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” Released during the Beach Boys’ visionary zenith, this quartet of (non-surf) classics had the triumphant effect of almost transporting you to the group’s heyday.