Since the time Al Jardine co-founded the Beach Boys in 1961 with the Wilson brothers (Dennis, Carl and Brian) and their cousin Mike Love, he has drummed up excitement with his bright songwriting, youthful vocal harmonies and sincere smile, perhaps just as much when touring years later with the Brian Wilson Band or the later versions of the original group.

But on this night, Jardine appeared onstage to perform what he referred to as a “stripped-down set,” merely accompanied by his son, Matt Jardine, whose soaring lead vocals and own harmonies, especially when he 'did' Carl Wilson’s famous parts, were consistently sonorous; bordering, at times, on angelic.

Jardine described his son as “my pillar.” And during another poignant interlude, Matt exclaimed, “It’s hard to believe I’m on stage with a real Beach Boy. There’s a lot of great memories,” to which his father added: “We have the same relationship with the Brian Wilson Band.” Jeff Alan Ross (Peter Asher, Badfinger) played the iconic keyboard parts that serious Beach Boys fans know by heart.

The trio performed a two-hour set that flew by like the blink of an eye, beginning with a series of jubilant surf songs: ‘Surfin,’ ‘Surfin’ Safari’ and the softer and more romantic ‘Surfer Girl', topped off with Jardine’s saga about the odd girl who attended his high school, Hawthorne High. Although the music alone was thrilling, what set this night apart from the average concert was the cultural history tour that Jardine narrated as the audience watched a series of related slides.

An additional highlight was when Jardine discussed and demonstrated how the Beach Boys transformed the acoustic, nautical ‘Sloop John B.’ (originally made famous by the Kingston Trio) into an electric extravaganza.

A few memories recounted were major surprises, such as 'Transcendental Meditation', which Jardine penned after a few Beatles randomly encouraged him to meet and meditate with the famed guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. A much earlier slide showed the early Beach Boys backing up singer Annette Funicello: Jardine claimed he’d been asked about his impressions of the starlet for years thereafter. He simply shrugged and admitted he never actually met her.

For a refreshing twist, Jardine talked about working with technically-minded Roger Christian, whose knowledge of automobile parts came to play on the ‘Little Deuce Coupe’ (a co-write with Brian Wilson), which is based on an actual 1932 Ford Model 18.

Jardine’s vocals remained strong and expressive, as he switched from upright bass to acoustic and electric guitars. The camaraderie between the musicians made for a relaxed, intimate show with asides freely flung and Matt’s comical admission that he’d been bounced around as a toddler from tour bus to tour bus.

The variety of songs was impressive. As expected, hits such as ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ (written in response to Phil Spector’s ‘Be My Baby’) and the rhythmic ‘California Girls’ got guests rocking hard and singing along. And surprisingly, Brian Wilson’s tightly arranged ‘God Only Knows’ sounded orchestral, despite being played live with such a small cast. Jardine described the ballad as “Probably the best song Brian has ever produced and arranged.” And in terms of the band member perception of Brian’s professional role: "We were his finely-tuned instruments."

Time was also allocated for songs from 2011’s ‘A Postcard from California', Jardine’s sole solo effort, in which he received support from Glen Campbell who, in the mid-60s, had subbed for Brian Wilson on tour. Campbell up to that point had been a sought-after session musician for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ricky Nelson and The Wrecking Crew, and had been forced to quickly shed his 'country' roots for pop and psychedelia, but shot to extraordinary fame as a result of his connection to the Beach Boys.

Although Jardine came across as energetic and relatable playing the Beach Boys hits, his pride shone through when playing several of the album cuts, as gorgeous slides of his beloved West Coast “Steinbeck Country" appeared, and perhaps the most striking song was ‘Don’t Forget the Sea,’ a moving ballad about preserving Nature penned by Terry Jacks. His well-crafted, lead guitar solo wowed the audience during the title song.

Jardine had fun regaling the story about one of the Beach Boys’ weirder studio moments, too, when Brian Wilson encouraged his bandmates to create sound effects by squishing up fresh vegetables in a make-shift tent, much to the chagrin of the roaming Paul McCartney.

‘Good Vibrations’ also enjoyed some fun talking points. Jardine claimed that its sophisticated sound effects made it too “advanced” for ‘Smile,’ an album that would not be released as a follow-up as expected at that time. Jeff Alan Ross certainly had a good time embellishing on the essential chord structure, wielding some cool and psychedelic concoctions that, while true to the original, also expressed his unique gifts.

The encores included ‘Surfin’ USA’ and ‘Barbara Ann’, in which Alan Ross displayed his dexterity and overall incredible chops; this writer’s personal favourite, ‘Help Me, Rhonda,’ which boasts the world’s most lovable chorus, got everyone up on their feet.

Prior to this encore, Al Jardine had confidently quipped, “Others play one or two songs, but I’ll do thirty percent more.” His generosity was not lost on the grateful crowd.

In summary, Al Jardine’s City Winery visit should stand as one of 2018’s surefire highlights, as it drew its magic from sublime hits and lesser-known chestnuts, humorous stories, fun facts and swirling harmonies.


Photos by Howard Greenblatt

















Related Links:

http://www.aljardine.com/
https://en-gb.facebook.com/thebeachboys/
https://twitter.com/alanjardine
https://twitter.com/TheBeachBoys
https://www.facebook.com/aljardine
https://www.thebeachboys.com/


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