From their surf-themed beginnings to a series of experimental opuses, The Beach Boys will always be America’s definitive band, though when it comes to tearing up the pop or soul charts throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, few can top Motown’s leading men The Temptations. Despite their differences in sound, putting both groups together on the same bill was a no brainer on name recognition alone and attracted a full house when The Beach Boys merged their “2017 Wild Honey” World Tour with The Temptations’ lengthy list of hits.
Additional excitement came during the communal dance party coaxed by “Barbara Ann” and the finale “Fun, Fun, Fun,” which not only congratulated the Chicago Cubs on their World Series win, but hammered home this beachy band’s perpetual place as music’s “Boys Of Summer.”
The Detroit natives kicked off the early evening with sole surviving original Otis Williams leading the pack, though these current Temptations have logged their fair share of time on the road and occasionally in the studio. Of course, the current incarnation couldn’t hold a candle to the days of David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks or even Dennis Edwards, but they sure were a lot fun thanks to flavorful renditions of “Get Ready,” “The Girl’s Alright With Me” and about a dozen others.
However, with just 45-minutes of support, The Temptations would’ve been better off not trying to coax everyone to sing the much less memorable “Lady Soul” and traded that failed attempt for an overlooked chart-topper like “I Can’t Get Next To You.” But there was no way they would’ve gotten out alive without at least fitting in “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me),” “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” or “My Girl,” which sounded outstandingly sweet 53 years later, no matter the specific members.
The Beach Boys line-up wasn’t ideal either, returning to the pre-reunion pair of singer Mike Love and keyboardist Bruce Johnston while Brian Wilson and Al Jardine continue to tour as a separate entity. At 76, Love’s voice wasn’t what it used to be, but he’s still an enjoyable front man who managed just fine thanks to some lead and harmony assistance from six supporting musicians, plus periodic taped apperances from the late Carl and Dennis Wilson (both shown in montages of vintage footage on the jumbotron).
Nonetheless, it was the songs themselves that keep fans of any age coming back year after year and there sure were piles of them dating all the way back to 1961. Playing more than twice as long as The Temptations (whom Love called “phenomenal” and a “force of nature”) allowed for more than 30 smashes, along with a peppering of surprises.
For the water daredevils, there was “Surfin’ Safari,” “Catch A Wave,” “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “Surfer Girl,” while car enthusiasts could claim “Little Deuce Coupe,” “409,” “Shut Down” and “Ballad Of Ole’ Betsy” as their own. The Beach Boys certainly addressed all the essentials from their crowning achievement “Pet Sounds” (currently being performed in its entirety by Brian Wilson), but also placed special emphasis on the 50th anniversary of the grittier rock meets R&B album “Wild Honey” (recently reissued with a new stereo mix, rarities and live cuts in the “1967- Sunshine Tomorrow” set).
The ‘90s throw away “Summer In Paradise” was less welcome (despite coming equipped with a timely plea for environmental activism), though “Rock And Roll Music” connected fully as a salute to Chuck Berry and “Kokomo” colorfully previewed this year’s “A Capitol Fourth” concert (to be hosted on PBS by John Stamos, a part-time collaborator and everyone’s favorite Uncle Jesse). Additional excitement came during the communal dance party conjured up by “Barbara Ann” and the finale “Fun, Fun, Fun,” which not only congratulated the Chicago Cubs on their World Series win, but hammered home this beachy band’s perpetual place as music’s main “Boys Of Summer.”
Upcoming concert highlights at Ravinia include Buddy Guy and Booker T. Jones (Jul. 6); Sheryl Crow (Jul. 7); OneRepublic with Fitz And The Tantrums and James Arthur (Jul. 14-15); Blondie and Garbage (Jul. 22); Andrew Bird with Esperanza Spalding and Mucca Pazza (Jul. 23) and Stephen Stills and Judy Collins (Jul. 26). For additional details, visit Ravinia.org.