Get 45 minutes to talk to one of the most recognizable lead singers in the history of popular music, and you’re going to receive some amazing insights into being a legend. You can check out part one of my interview with The Beach Boys’ Mike Love, where he discussed his influences and how he came up with some of the band’s most enduring lyrics here. Today, in part two in what has become a four part exclusive interview, Mike talks about the art of the live Beach Boys concert. And he’s the man who should know – he’s been fronting the group in all its various incarnations for more than 50 years now.
Andy Burns: So what would be the ideal Beach Boys show for you?
Mike Love: To do the proper show, where the Beach Boys cover all the bases, you’d need a three hour show. We’ve got some really beautiful songs that go unperformed because of the time constraints. What, are you not going to do Good Vibrations? Or Kokomo? Or California Girls? Or Help Me, Rhonda? Or Fun Fun Fun?
Andy Burns: The list is pretty endless of the songs you almost have to do for people to go home happy.
Mike Love: Yeah. That’s always been my philosophy. There’s one thing, when you’re being so artistic that you lose the majority of the people. But the majority of the people want to come and have a good time. They’re going out for the evening; they want to have a good time. There are some hardcore fans that would be disappointed if we didn’t do the flip side of this or that single. And I appreciate that, and that’s why I really like to do theatres, where they have great acoustics, and you can do an opening set. When we play a theatre, we do an opening set of an hour and ten minutes, followed by an intermission, followed by another hour. We’re more satisfied in doing that, and the hardcore fans are satisfied in us doing that, because they’re going to hear at least four or five songs that you can’t do in an hour and a half. Artistically and subjectively, I like doing theatres and with longer shows.
But you can’t do that on a 50th Anniversary Tour, which is a hugely expensive thing to mount, with multiple trucks and it’s a huge production. You can do a lot of good things; don’t get me wrong. But you’re limited to where you can go. We did one or two theatres; we did the Beacon Theatre in New York…
Andy Burns: But it was mainly amphitheaters you guys did for that summer.
Mike Love: Correct. And amphitheaters…if you’re doing Their Hearts Were Full of Spring, let’s face it, an amphitheater of people out on the lawn; you’re going to lose them.
Andy Burns: I agree with you, totally.
Mike Love: For those types of songs, it’s far superior for the listener experience and for us as performers, to do it in a setting that is conducive to some of the more esoteric things.
Andy Burns: It’s interesting, because with the 50th Anniversary tour, the expectation was that you would hit amphitheaters, but with The Beach Boys band today, and the band you’ve been touring with for a decade, you guys can do everything from state fairs and casinos to amphitheaters, to Hyde Park, which you did about a month or so ago.
Mike Love: That’s right, it was like 30,000 people or so. It was huge. On Memorial Day weekend, there were 40,000 people to see the Cincinnati Red play the Cubs, and at the end of the game maybe half of them left, because they’d been there for a few hours, but we were still playing for 20,000 people. Sometimes we play baseball stadiums, but summertime is amphitheater time and state fair time and county fair time. Let’s face it – a state fair audience or a county fair audience; those are families coming out, multiple generations, and not everybody who comes to our show is a Beach Boys fan. We want them to leave as a Beach Boys fan. We want to convert them into a Beach Boys fan through the set list that we do. But there again – the grandstands and all that – some songs would be lost on the audiences there. So mostly you keep it moving, and keep it up-tempo. Sure, we’ll drop down and do Surfer Girl or In My Room; God Only Knows is very touching. Lately we’ve been doing it like we did on the 50th tour, backing up Carl Wilson.
We’re very big on which each song advances the next one. That’s like a continual, nightly fine tuning, depending on what you’re doing. Like a casino…a casino isn’t the best place for a real, true fan to come and see a show, because they don’t want you to do anything more than an hour plus an encore. We’ll do an hour and a half, and the only reason they ask us back is because we bring in some people. But the true, hardcore fan is better off seeing us in a theater.
Andy Burns: You guys are coming to Toronto on August 18th. Do you have any fond Toronto or Canadian memories you can leave us with?
Mike Love: Well, for years we’ve done Casino Rama. We haven’t done it for a couple of years now. That’s been pretty nice. We’ve had 5,000 people a night for two nights in a row. The CNE Bandshell is what we’re doing now. We used to play the Grandstand, we’d do two shows, an afternoon and an evening show. We rocked that place. Toronto’s been one of our favourite towns to hang out in, that’s for sure. We’ve done the theatre downtown…
Andy Burns: Massey Hall.
Mike Love: Massey Hall! We’ve done that; we’ve done everything. We’ve done tons of stuff there. Toronto has always been such a great town for the Beach Boys. We always look forward to coming back to Canada.
Thanks to Jay Jones for helping make this interview happen, and to Mike Love for being so generous with his time. The Beach Boys play the CNE Bandshell in Toronto this Sunday night at 7:30.