Remarkably, in a career spanning three decades, the Beach Boys only ever released two official live albums. Live at Knebworth
, recorded on June 20, 1980, is the third. Uniquely, and with apologies to David Marks, it features all six principle Beach Boys: Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnstone, Mike Love and, yes, even Brian Wilson. Even better--and in contrast to the prejudices of those who believe the band of that era to be bloated old-timers existing solely to function as a suncream nostalgia act for the picnic-in-the-park brigade--it's excellent, with even "Surfin' USA" crashing around the listeners' ears on the crest of a rock & roll tsunami.
The contrast between the band's lacklustre 1980s studio output and the ongoing musical dynamism, perfect harmony and celebratory joyousness of the live shows couldn't be more profound. Digging beyond the wall-to-wall hits, there are pleasures for aficionados, such as the medley of sepia-tinted Americana on "Cottonfields / Heroes And Villains", Al Jardine's "Lady Lynda" (arguably the Beach Boys' last non-novelty contribution to the British singles charts) and--presaging the darker days to come--Dennis Wilson croaking "You Are So Beautiful" in a manner which is both sincere and pathetic. A few bones begin to creak when they get to "Fun Fun Fun" but none of us are getting any younger. The Beach Boys music, however, will stay youthful forever. --Kevin Maidment