In 1976, The Beach Boys were riding a wave of nostalgia thanks, in large part, to the "Brian's Back!" campaign. The Beach Boys' principal songwriter had spent the better part of three years in bed -- eating, drinking and abusing drugs -- and disengaged himself from not only the band, but also the world. After hiring the controversial therapist, Eugene Landy, Wilson was deemed ready for action once more. The results were the first Wilson-produced Beach Boys album in a decade, 15 Big Ones, and his return to the live stage to coincide with the band's 15th anniversary. To capitalize on the event, an NBC TV special was filmed, mixing live footage with interviews and comedy skits. This program makes up the DVD, The Beach Boys -- Good Vibrations Tour.
The special starts with an image of a female driving a Ford Thunderbird set to the band's classic "Fun, Fun, Fun." This 1976 rendition is harder edged than its 1960s counterpart, but any images of the 1960s Beach Boys that may have been conjured up by the track are quickly dashed when the camera cuts to an overweight, bearded Wilson, smoking and lying in bed. Brian may have been "back," but it's fairly clear this was not the same guy at the helm of all of the band's biggest hits. It's a testament to how far he has come by 2013 -- releasing critically acclaimed albums and reuniting with the Beach Boys for a successful tour -- when one views this footage of him from 1976.
Throughout the documentary, we see interview footage with the band's members, collaborators, and an old music teacher, who commented that the song, "Surfin'" received an "F" in his class, but sold one million copies. Wilson comments about his often troubled relationship with his father, stating that while he was never afraid of his brothers Carl and Dennis, he was afraid of his father. He then leads Carl and Dennis in a charming piano rendition of "I'm Bugged At My Ol' Man."
The special underscores how much Carl and Dennis Wilson are missed to this day. Carl delivers spot-on renditions of "Good Vibrations" and "God Only Knows," his angelic voice in fine form on both, while Dennis offers a heartfelt "You Are So Beautiful," while his drums give the group's songs a more rock and roll edge. A comical clip finds Dennis, very seriously, judging a beauty pageant as if he were inspecting seals on the space shuttle.
The highlight of the show has to be "That Same Song" from 15 Big Ones, though. Accompanied by a gospel choir, Wilson looks to be having fun as he offers a smoother vocal take than the raspy studio version. Wilson looks a lot less comfortable during the comedy bit with Dan Akroyd and John Belushi where, posing as police offers, they arrest Wilson for failing to surf and take him out in the water to do just that.
The DVD is a straight reissue of the original TV broadcast. The live footage was shot at Anaheim Stadium in 1976. The picture quality is clean for its age, with surprisingly good sound. Thankfully, it is kept in its original 4:3 aspect ratio. While not a strict concert video per se, the DVD is worth it for "That Same Song" alone. All of the live performances are good though and it is the complete original group on stage together, making The Beach Boys -- Good Vibrations Tour well worth owning.