Beach Boys/JLS – review

Hyde Park, London

It's a swelteringly hot afternoon, and the rapidly reddening crowd at this family-friendly festival day has just seen Andy Murray powering to Wimbledon victory on the big screen to the side of the main stage. Greeted by giddy euphoria, the Beach Boys could not hope to encounter an audience keener to party.

It's a pity, then, that any feelgood factor surrounding seeing the Beach Boys in 2013 is lessened by a nagging sense of disquiet. Last year, all surviving members of the group's original lineup reunited for a 50th-anniversary tour. When that was over and all contracts fulfilled, Mike Love, who has owned the band's name since 1998, bade farewell to his cousin, the band's fragile creative genius Brian Wilson, along with Al Jardine and David Marks, and returned to the touring circuit with his own troupe of hired musicians.

It's ironic that Love has so little truck with sentimentality or familial loyalty, two qualities that might reasonably be assumed to be the very essence of the Beach Boys. It also means it's hard to regard this lineup, co-fronted by fellow long-term member Bruce Johnston and featuring Love's son, Christian, on guitar, as anything more than a cynically assembled travelling franchise.

They can certainly play the songs. Love has been touring roughly the same band for 15 years, and musically the band's peerless back catalogue is safe in their proficient hands. The perfect harmonies and stardust melodies of Little Deuce Coupe and I Get Around still shimmer like musical sunbeams of pop.

Good Vibrations and California Girls similarly remain infusions of pure joy, seemingly beamed in not from a beach or recording studio but from some distant, superior planet. But as Love leads his slick troupe through their paces, there is a beaming, bemused, Brian Wilson-shaped hole where the Beach Boys' heart and soul should be.

Headliners JLS lack one iota of the Beach Boys' mercurial magic, and are calling time on their generic but successful pop/R&B career. When they inevitably reform for a comeback tour in later years, they must hope their ranks don't include a member apparently driven to exploit their history and legacy at all costs. They must pray they don't have a Mike Love.

Contributor

Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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