Endless Summer – The Music of the Beach Boys (concert review)

Endless Summer – the Music of the Beach Boys – Jeans ‘N Classics – Schuster Center – Dayton, OH – 4/27/13 – review

The 3rd year of the Dayton Philharmonic’s “Rockin’ Orchestra” series came to a close with a rousing performance from the Canadian ensemble Jeans ‘N Classics doing Endless Summer – the Music of the Beach Boys.

The dozen or so shows I’ve seen of this series have varied wildly from performance to performance – a few great, some good, and some, not so good.  Yet, each time Jeans ‘N Classics takes the stage, they’ve hit the mark.  The key for them is being able to strike the delicate balance between capturing the spirit of each band’s music, while adding enough originality to keep things interesting.   The Music of the Beach Boys was no exception.

Obvious choices like “California Girls” and “Surfer Girl” were tempered with lesser-known fare like the soulful “Sail on Sailor” and the Phil Spector masterpiece “I Can Hear Music.”  There were also some fantastic arrangements – the little-heard Carl Wilson sung “Darlin’” segued effortlessly into the horn-infused instrumental part of Chicago’s “Make Me Smile” (both bands toured and even shared managers for a while in the Seventies, so this pastiche makes sense).

Another thing that helps Jeans ‘N Classics stand out from the rest is their choice of accompanists.  Neil Donell’s four-octave range came in handy during those Brian Wilson high parts, while the trio of Kathryn Rose, Leah Salomaa, and Stephanie Martin faithfully reproduced those intricate background harmonies.

But, the real surprise was the inclusion of saxophonist and vocalist Aaron MacDonald, who recently played with Roger Hodgson of Supertramp.  His funky solos replaced the typical guitar parts in songs like “Dance Dance Dance,” and helped elevate things to another level, while his gritty vocals were a perfect foil to Donell’s falsetto.  He also had the absolute highlight of the evening – an instrumental version of the obscure ballad “Girls on the Beach,” played on a luscious soprano sax.

As with most Jeans ‘N Classics shows, pianist John Regan played “DJ” – interjecting odd bits of trivia between songs, giving a little background before each piece of music was played (did you know that the Beach Boys’ “Help Me Rhonda” knocked the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” off the #1 spot?).

Not that surprising – the material from Pet Sounds sounded spectacular backed by the Dayton Philharmonic.  “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Sloop John B,” and “God Only Knows” – these songs could’ve easily been played with no vocals and been just as potent.

Jeans “N Classics turned in not only the finest performance of this year’s series, their’s ranks among the best ever.  They’ll be back as part of next year’s run – doing “Women of Rock.”  We’ll be there for sure.  –Tony Peters