God only knows how challenging it was to put together the Beach Boys’ 50th-anniversary tour.
With multiple managers, three booking agencies and the five Beach Boys participating in the reunion – Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks – not to mention a blending of Wilson’s touring band the Wondermints and the regular touring Beach Boys band under de facto leader Love, there were many opinions floating around about how to proceed.
But, in the end, the team devised a strategic routing that takes the group through theaters, amphitheaters, festivals, casinos, performing arts centers and special plays like the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.
The tour works with a wide range of promoters, including Live Nation, AEG Live, Another Planet, Danny Zelisko Presents, Double T, I.M.P. and Jam Productions.
Danny Zelisko had the first show of the tour: April 24 at the AVA Amphitheatre in Tucson, Ariz. “The band they have assembled makes it possible to experience all of the music and perfect harmonies from the original recordings, bringing forth happy cold chills throughout your body the entire show,” Zelisko says. “The genius of all of these songs comes to life in front of your very eyes and ears.”
Much as they influenced rock’n’roll, the Beach Boys in many ways wrote the book on modern touring, being among the first bands to venture into national tour deals (with the first incarnation of Concerts West) and play alternative venues. The band has toured incessantly and played every conceivable platform around the world.
But with Wilson back in the fold, the tour became a different animal, hence the blending of agencies in veteran Beach Boys booker Terry Rhodes, senior VP at International Creative Management, and Wilson’s agent, David Levine at William Morris Endeavor. The Agency Group handles international booking.
Ticket sales are strong and the buzz is huge. “A lot of the [key cities] went really quickly; the shows are doing great,” Levine says, adding that tickets were priced conservatively. “It was important to all of us that the price range work for both young and old.”
For the most part, ticket prices range from about $40-$45 to $100-$125, with larger venues offering price points below $30.
At more than 40 songs, the set list is one that very few acts could offer in terms of familiarity and cultural influence, from “Surfin’ Safari,” the group’s first top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1962, to such later classics as “Good Vibrations,” which topped the chart in the summer of ’66, or “Kokomo,” which returned the band to the Hot 100 in 1988.
Larry Fontana, GM of the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, Texas, sent a report through email during his April 26 show, the tour’s second: “The show looks great, the guys sound great, and the crowd is loving it, on their feet most of the night.”
In addition to around 50 North American shows, the Beach Boys have confirmed concerts throughout Europe, and will also perform in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. All tour dates can be found on TheBeachBoys.com.
The group’s 50th-anniversary tour is the band’s first full-blown outing to include Wilson in more than 20 years. “This is the ultimate summer show, 50 years in the making,” Levine says.
Much of that “making,” when it comes to touring, was routed by Rhodes, the group’s agent for 30-plus years. This is and has been a working band and brand.
“They work 100-plus shows a year, around the world,” Rhodes says. “Sometimes we work as many as 35%-40% of the dates outside of North America. Five or six years ago, we did Okinawa and Houston on the same day, coming back across the international date line.”
For many, the Beach Boys define summer, and Rhodes says he could book the group four or five times every Saturday for the summer months. “I’m usually done for the summer by mid-October every year,” Rhodes says.
For the 50th-anniversary tour, “there were certain venues they wanted to work,” Rhodes says, citing the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, Calif.; the Hollywood Bowl; the Beacon Theatre in New York; the Chicago Theatre; Milwaukee Summerfest; the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival; and Bonnaroo.
“They could have done 10 shows at the Beacon,” Rhodes says. “We had to really scramble to get the two dates we got, but they could have done two weeks there, as they could have in other theaters in towns like Boston and Los Angeles.”
The group’s visionary approach toward touring dates back to the ’80s, when the band was managed by the late Tom Hulett and road-managed by Elliott Lott, now manager of the Love-led Beach Boys.
“Tom Hulett kind of set the bar with the way you work with the Beach Boys,” Rhodes says. “They always kept the musical integrity, but they were also the first to take advantage of things like state fairs, amusement parks, playing shows after baseball games.”
John Meglen, now co-president/CEO of Concerts West/AEG Live, worked for Hulett in the ’80s, and the Beach Boys were his account. Meglen recalls weekend double-headers, with the group performing two shows on Friday, two shows on Saturday and two shows on Sunday – all in different cities.
“We’d wake up in one city, fly to another, do a show, get off the stage, get in a plane, fly to another city, do another show, then fly to the next city,” Meglen recalls, adding that every show was professionally delivered and built the brand. “You have to give Tom Hulett credit for reinventing the Beach Boys in so many different ways.”
Wilson had retired from touring with the band during Meglen’s involvement. “Dennis [Wilson] and Carl [Wilson] were both there, and Mike and Al and Bruce. Then Dennis passed, and it was Carl, Mike, Al and Bruce, and for a long time that was the core of the band.”
Dennis Wilson died in 1983 and Carl Wilson in 1998; both appear in video form to harmonize on a couple of songs. “We miss the credibility of Carl, the spirit of Dennis, but you’ve got to give Mike, Bruce and Al credit for really keeping that brand out there,” Meglen says. “There isn’t a band in American music that has spanned as many decades as they have, and they truly are ‘America’s band.’ The only band I can think of that has the tenure, the credibility and the catalog of the Beach Boys among American bands is the Eagles.”
When it comes to touring, Meglen says, “They’ve done it all. They invented playing after baseball games, they were one of the leaders in rock bands playing state fairs, they were a mainstay of the amphitheater business, they did incredible co-headline tours with Chicago. Every single song they play in a show was a hit, written by one of the genius songwriters of all time in Brian Wilson, along with the other guys. And you can’t say enough about Elliott Lott, who is the one guy who has been there for basically 30 years now. They’re all absolute pros, and they’ve got the songs. You just can’t knock those guys.”