The Bootleg Boys – Review

Life is like a box of chocolates, a great man once said. You never know what you’re going to get.

And so it was when we rocked up to the Civic for a show paying tribute to the music of the Beach Boys.

They’d be a hard act to follow, let alone reproduce faithfully, you’d be forgiven for thinking, given the notoriously particular, complex vocal arrangements devised by the original band’s genius orchestrator Brian Wilson.

And when the five Bootleg Beach Boys opened their mouths and started singing, they were so good that I found myself distracted for the first few songs looking for signs that they were lip-synching to backing tracks.

They weren’t lip-synching. They were simply exceptionally good.

In terms of live vocal performances, the range of vocal tones and registers, and blend of harmonies, they would be in the top two best pop vocal bands I’ve ever heard – the other being the 10CC lineup that played at Gibbston Valley in 2014, which did actually feature an original member, Graham Gouldman.

The Bootleg Beach Boys’ musicianship was on point too. The four frontline members, portraying the latter-day lineup of Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love and Bruce Johnston, all played and swapped instruments at the front without missing a note on those incredible high, tight harmonies, while the character portraying the late Dennis Wilson on drums came down the front to lead the vocals a couple of times.

Their two hour-long sets were crammed with all the hits you’d expect, and some you might not, from the catchy primal surf-pop and challenging psychedelia of the 60s to their brilliant Pet Sounds album. Punters would have known or recognised more than 90 percent of the songs. Their fast-paced set and genial stage presence gradually got the typically reserved Invercargill crowd warmed up, with clapping, sing-alongs and sporadic outbreaks of dancing.  It was a fun gig.

The biggest surprise of the night came near the end, when the Mike Love character announced that, despite the American accents, the band was actually from Ireland.

Fair play to ya, lads. That was a decent craic, to be sure.

The Bootleg Beach Boys
Civic Theatre, Invercargill
2 August 2018
Reviewed by Chris Chilton

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