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Concert review: Beach Boys upbeat and at home at Irvine Bowl

Concert review: Beach Boys upbeat and at home at Irvine Bowl
Original Beach Boys Mike Love, left, and Bruce Johnston get the show started during their headlining set of hits at the KX 93.5 Festival of Music at the Irvine Bowl on Saturday. (Don Leach, Coastline Pilot)

There went Mike Love, the 73-year-old Beach Boys singer, songwriter and musician, at the Irvine Bowl — but this time, not on stage.

Rather, the vocalist, dressed in his usual performance garb of Hawaiian shirt, black pants and baseball cap, was walking through the concession area before showtime, passing unbeknownst to fans.

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"How many concerts do you see the headliner walk by?" a security guard said to an attendee.

The venerable band headlined Saturday night at the second annual KX 93.5 Festival of Music at the Irvine Bowl on the Festival of Arts grounds, drawing in a near-capacity crowd for a venue that can seat approximately 2,600.

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For the first time in more than 10 years, Laguna Beach opened the Irvine Bowl for a concert. Tyler Russell, the station's founder, said he hoped for a successful, respectful show in the local venue.

It was. With two opening acts followed by the anticipated Beach Boys amphitheater debut, the night was lively and energetic, stirring memories of happy days.

Los Angeles electronic indie group Say Say kicked off the night with melodies emerging from synthesizers, drum machines and ambient guitar. Their debut singles, "Like an Animal" and "Touch," were more sound than lyrics, but the techno-beat with a style that was a cross of the Killers and Tears for Fears got ushers to tap their feet.

It was the second act, 133, that brought whistles and cheers from the audience. The group of diverse singers and songwriters who share the common thread of a Laguna Beach background included Steve Wood, Beth Wood, Jason Feddy, Nick Hernandez, Poul Pedersen, Bob Hawkins, Drew Hester and Alan Deremo. The eight members may have performed together for the first time as a band, but every bluegrass-flavored song was flawlessly carried.

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The crowd did not want to see 133 leave the stage. Younger fans griped about the band's short set.

Once Feddy, who is the midday KX 93.5 host, announced the final song, it was welcomed with noises of disparagement. Six songs was not enough.

The group's "It's All Good," which was written about how the phrase is usually associated with something that's not so good, received a standing ovation.

Russell asked the audience if they wanted to attend another concert at the Irvine Bowl. Based on an applause-o-meter, it was a thunderous yes.

Minutes later, the house lights dropped. A backdrop of palm trees transitioned behind a drum set and keyboard. Blasts of fog shot out to the crowd.

The man dressed in the Hawaiian shirt and black pants returned to the stage.

This time, he held a microphone.

Mike Love, joined by Bruce Johnston and five other musicians, launched right in with the 1968 callback to the band's earlier surf-based material, "Do It Again," followed by "Little Honda" and "Catch a Wave," which triggered fans to break out of their seats, dance and shout out "Yeah!"

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Those dance moves transitioned into bouts of twists and twirls once "Surfin' Safari" kicked up.

"How cool is this?" Love said before the ninth song. "It's harder to get into this place than Fort Knox," he joked about performing in the venue. "We love it here."

He asked the audience to pull out their cell phones — as if they already hadn't, since the night was all about taking "selfies" — and sing along to "Surfer Girl."

The Irvine Bowl was set aglow in a soft blue light off the phones' displays. No cigarette lighters in the air here.

Couples hugged, held hands and swayed back and forth to the memories flooding over them.

The Laguna Beach greeter, whose outfit looked like that of a sea captain, was spotted singing along and dancing in the aisle with an attendee.

But the concert's vibe changed once Love announced a song inspired by people in uniform —cheerleaders in uniform, that is.

On bended knee, he stretched the microphone stand before him and held the word, "When" for seconds, noting the beginning of the 1963 hit "Be True to Your School."

The 51-year-old song united generations of fans as they screamed along to a drumbeat worthy of a marching band. The school spirit and pride was loud enough to wake up neighbors.

Jeff Foskett, who joined the Beach Boys in 2012 on their 50th Anniversary Reunion Tour and re-joined the band in May, provided lead vocals on "Don't Worry Baby."

But noticeably absent from the group was John Stamos, who has performed regularly with the Beach Boys and whom Love dubbed as "America's favorite Uncle Jesse." Stamos had previously played earlier in the day at a Beverly Hills benefit. His presence was felt, though, as pictures of him sporting a very 1980s mullet flashed on the projector screen.

The group dedicated an a cappella version of "Their Hearts Were Full of Spring" to Stamos' parents since his mother died on Sept. 22.

Among the other tributes was a dedication to Carl Wilson, a Beach Boys founding member and lead guitarist who passed away from cancer in 1998. Pictures of Wilson on the projector screen illuminated the darkened stage, and his vocals to "God Only Knows" wafted through the evening breeze.

Love carried on with "Pisces Brothers," a song he released this year celebrating Beatles guitarist George Harrison's birthday and their transformative trip to India. Harrison would have been 71.

The nostalgia continued with more durable hits, from "Wouldn't It Be Nice" to "Sloop John B" and "California Girls."

Youngsters and Baby Boomers jumped to their feet to sing along to those memorized words. It was the soundtrack of their lives, from first loves to first cars, that called the crowd to reminisce about their youth.

"Has anyone in the audience really fell in love with a car?" Love sighed as he cued the theme song from "Love Story."

Images of a 1940s Chevrolet appeared on the screen, signifying his first car.

"How could you not fall in love with a body like that?" he said as Scott Totten, who began playing with the Beach Boys touring band on guitar in 2000, led "Ballad of Ole' Betsy."

The mood, so lively, so atmospheric underneath a starlit sky, flourished with the upbeat sounds of "Good Vibrations" and "Barbara Ann."

No one was leaving early tonight, considering the weather remained at 70 degrees at 10:22 p.m.

"I don't think I ever want to play outside of California again," Johnston said. "This is so cool."

With eight minutes short of curfew, they ended with "Fun, Fun, Fun" and a trip to "Kokomo," leaving the audience standing, dancing and singing along.

And yet, the Beach Boys were wrong about one thing:

No one needed to go far to get away from it all.

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