The Beach Boys – review

Wembley Arena, London

It's hard not to spend the last night of the Beach Boys' 50th anniversary tour trying to read the runes of the relationship between Mike Love and Brian Wilson. The former, the owner of the Beach Boys name, has told the latter – his cousin and the genius emeritus of American pop – that as of the end of this show, the Beach Boys reverts to being Mike Love plus hired hands, with no room for Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks.

During Add Some Music to Your Day, when Wilson sings "You can feel it touching your heart," he looks over his right shoulder, directly at Love, who glances back with all the sentiment of a workhouse beadle who has been asked for more food. And come the end of the show, it is Wilson who seizes Love's hand for the group bow.

Nevertheless, for more than three hours, these elderly men – backed by an expert group largely comprising the musicians who have played for Wilson over the past decade or so – swallow their differences, and remind all present why they were, as we are told, "America's greatest rock'n'roll band". It doesn't really matter that four of them look as if they are on their way to the golf club, while Love – in an extraordinary silver and black paisley tuxedo and Beach Boys baseball cap – looks like he is off to a strip club: once the Beach Boys start singing together, they are irresistible.

Seeing Wilson and Love performing Heroes and Villains and Good Vibrations is a potent reminder that this extraordinary music emerged from the squarest of groups: it is impossible not to wonder if Wilson's bandmates had the faintest idea what was going on in his head during his extraordinary rush of avant-pop creativity between 1965 and 1967. Even the unnecessary covers that round out this 55-song set – the Del-Vikings' Come Go With Me; Bobby Freeman's Do You Wanna Dance – serve as a reminder of how far ahead of his supposed competitors Wilson was. Early songs such as Catch a Wave, Surfer Girl or In My Room possess an extra, unexpected chord or harmonic trick that other writers were simply incapable of locating.

This being Mike Love's Beach Boys, the set leans heavily on the songs about surf, cars and girls that made the group's name before Wilson set his sight higher. But who could complain, hearing Dance, Dance, Dance and Please Let Me Wonder and This Whole World rattled out without pause for breath and without a hint of imperfection.

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Michael Hann

The GuardianTramp

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