Nostalgia is a strange monster. At times we may cringe, and other times we embrace it. The Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Tour is all about nostalgia, but it's more than a bunch of 'remember when' moments strung together via song. It's about the legacy of one of America's -- make that one of the world's -- greatest musical entities ever.

On a seasonably cool evening in Ohio, the Beach Boys managed to to shine a light on that legacy very brightly.  It is all-but impossible to name another band on the road that dishes out a 47-song set, let alone one where the core members are all just shy of, or just past, 70 years old. More impressive is the way it all comes together, in no small part due to the supreme nine-member backup band, comprised mostly of Brian Wilson's touring band, that recreates 'the sound' flawlessly.

'Do It Again,' itself a classic ode to nostalgia, perfectly kicked off the evening. From then on out, it was a cavalcade of big hits, well-worn favorites, and some obscure stuff as well. The 1963 track 'Hawaii' made a surprise appearance early on, as did the 1964 gem 'Don't Back Down.' Other odd choices like 'Marcella' and 'All This Is That' from the mid-'70s were welcome additions to the more expected hits. Of those, of course, there were plenty, and hearing them in this context -- one after the other -- is jaw-dropping. From 'Surfin Safari' and 'Surfer Girl' to 'I Get Around,' Fun Fun Fun' and of course 'Good Vibrations,' the crowd ate 'em all up.

Band leader Brian Wilson was in surprisingly fine form on this evening, taking lead vocal on more than several numbers including a beautiful 'Please Let Me Wonder' from the 'Today' album (an unsung 1965 masterpiece) . At times Wilson seemed totally connected to band and audience and happy to be there, and at other times looking somewhat slightly dazed. When he sang 'why don't they let me go home' in 'Sloop John B,' it seemed somewhat apropos for the troubled legend. A spot-on version of 'When I Grow Up To Be A Man' was delivered beautifully and without any sense of irony whatsoever. Throughout the show, Al Jardine had a very youthful exuberance that defied his years, especially on songs like 'Cotton Fields,' and 'Help Me Rhonda.' David Marks was all aces with his lead guitar work all evening, whipping out some classic surf style licks and then some.

Another obscure gem, 'Disney Girls,' gave Bruce Johnston a chance to step out front, and as hard as it has been over the years to tip the hat his way, praise must be given to Mike Love for downplaying his natural desire to be cheesy. Tonight, he relished the role of 'lead singer' as much as the role of 'frontman' and, with the exception of some pretty crass sales pitches to buy their new album, he more or less reigned himself in.

The second half of the show opened with the main players gathered around Brian's piano delivering a wonderful rendition of 'Add Some Music To Your Day' from the great 'Sunflower' album. This was quickly followed by 'Heroes And Villains' with what may have been Brian's best vocal of the night. The group only performed two songs from their new album, 'That's Why God Made The Radio.' They did the ultra-catchy title tune as well as 'Isn't It Time,' another of the new LP's high points. Love mentioned that the album debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard charts, which make it their highest chart debut ever. Crazy!

A clutch of songs from the iconic masterwork 'Pet Sounds,' including 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' and ''I Just Wasn't Made For These Times,' hit a real high mark. A fairly odd moment came when they paid tribute to the fallen Wilson brothers Dennis and Carl. I say 'odd' because they actually used original vocal tracks by the two long gone brothers, and thanks to modern technology, performed live to them complete with video montages. 'God Only Knows,' sung by Carl, was beautiful, but one of the evening's most powerful moments came with the stunning rendition of Dennis' song 'Forever.' A super-charged 'Good Vibrations' had the entire crowd on its feet singing along, a place they would be for most of the evening. The band's signature harmonies were right on target all night, obviously helped in part by the youger muscians on stage, but the blend of voices was fantastic.

And yes, dearest cynics and naysayers, it's true, the guys are old and won't top anyone's crucially relevant list for 2012. Without insult, yes, their best years are long behind them. But hold on! That doesn't mean they didn't triumph here. Far from it. They delivered a great show that shone a light on an amazing body of work. Songs embedded in our collective brains alongside others that probably had many scratching their heads as to what they were hearing. They were smart enough to enlist the aid of a more than sympathetic cast of musicians to augment the core group.

It's uncertain why there is such an attitude toward 'old' bands, with people always quick to say so and so should hang it up and hit the retirement home. But really, why should they? They are having fun. The audiences are having fun. Life doesn't have enough 'fun,' so, you take it where you can get it, you know? The fact that these guys can still get up there, do their thing and put smiles on countless faces is enough proof-laden pudding. Fun, fun, fun is all relative, of course, but what the quote some other old guys...'it's only rock and roll, but'...well, you know.

The crowd of varying ages gave opening act Foster The People a very warm welcome, especially with their big hit set closer 'Pumped Up Kicks.'

The Beach Boys Set List 6/13/2012

First Set:

Do It Again
Little Honda
Catch A Wave
Don't Back Down
Surfin Safari
Surfer Girl
It's OK
Then I Kissed Her
Kiss Me Baby
Isn't It Time
Please Let Me Wonder
Why Do Fools Fall In Love
When I Grow Up To Be A Man
Be True To Your School
Disney Girls
The Ballad Of Old Betsy
Don't Worry Baby
Little Deuce Coupe
Shut Down
I Get Around

Second Set:

Add Some Music To Your Day
Heroes And Villains
California Saga
Sloop John B.
Wouldn't It Be Nice
I Just Wasn't Made For These Times
Sail On Sailor
In My Room
All This Is That
That's Why God Made The Radio
God Only Knows
Good Vibrations
California Girls
All Summer Long
Help Me Rhonda
Rock & Roll Music
Do You Wanna Dance
Surfin USA


Barbara Ann
Fun Fun Fun

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