By David Beard

Saturday, April 6, 2024, at the Center of Anna Maria Island


Understated. That word came succinctly to mind several times during Al Jardine’s performance. As I sat captivated by Al’s vocals and the great music, I was reminded of Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Dennis Wilson, Carl Wilson, David Marks, and Bruce Johnston. Granted, this happens every time I go to see any one of the members of the group, but this trip down memory lane was significant.

In recent years – from 2018 until he stopped performing – Brian’s shows (that included Al, Blondie Chaplin, and Matt Jardine) were, at times, difficult to watch. Brian often sat without participating vocally, and when he did it was more spoken than it was sung. It was easy to see Brian was in failing health. Al and Matt would vocally carry the show, but I think because it was Brian’s name on the ticket, Al and Matt were thought of as a support system and not the reason the show worked. Along with Brian’s amazing band (a statement true in any decade) Al and Matt were quietly presented with the onus of vocal responsibility of carrying Brian’s shows and succeeded in spades.


Believe it or not, I’ve never driven 11 hours to see any concert, but that’s what I did to see Al. I think the last time I had seen him perform his show was in 2011 in Franklin, TN. So, it had been a while. When I saw that Al was going to be performing in Anna Maria, FL, which is only one hour-plus southwest of Tampa, FL, where my wife’s uncle lives, I made it a point to make the trip. So, we traveled to Tampa and made a week of it. We went boating on our first day (Monday, April 1), anchored, swam, and took the boat into the Tampa Bay area; it was a great day in the sun and an ideal setting. It wasn’t California, but it was sure close. My wife’s uncle’s home has an exquisite backyard with a tiki hut, pool, and palm trees. It’s the perfect vibe to get anyone in the right frame of mind for Beach Boys music … or Yacht Rock. Ha!


I had never been to Anna Maria Island and saw that there was limited parking when mapping out the distance and time it would take to get there. It is a fairly remote island full of beach life everywhere you look. We got there early enough to find a great parking spot, walk to the beach, have dinner, and return in time to go back and see Al, Matt, Bobby Figueroa, Probyn Gregory, Randell Kirsch, and meet Debbie Shair before the show. Everyone was in great spirits. The Center of Anna Maria Island is a non-profit community center and a gathering place for the locals on the island. I couldn’t tell you the capacity of the place, but it was SOLD OUT. We were the lucky ones.


I was curious about the setlist but didn’t ask because I wanted to be greeted with surprise. I was also looking forward to seeing Debbie Shair play because I had yet to see her perform. [Note: I have never seen Al perform in his trio configuration. That’s something I hope he will continue to do … and that he will bring that show to the Carolinas.] Debbie got things started as she dropped her hands to the keyboard and began to play the all too familiar opening chords to “California Girls.” Watching a keyboardist is as interesting as watching any member of the band on stage. While Carnie and Wendy Wilson were not a part of this show, it was nice to have a ‘California girl.’

Next was “Do It Again.” It was used as a ‘surf theme’ catalyst for “Catch A Wave,” “Hawaii,” “Surfin’ Safari,” and “Surfer Girl.” Al, as always sounded great, and the band, particularly Bobby, Randell, Probyn, and Debbie held the music together.

The car songs followed: “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “409,” and “I Get Around.” It was interesting. I could tell that Al was more than pleased to perform these classics for the audience because he recognized and appreciated the group’s immensely popular catalog, but there was a bit of distance in his ‘artistic’ eye as he performed. That suited me fine because this is where Matt was the ‘guy.’

Beginning with the unmistakable opening percussion of “Don’t Worry Baby” Matt stepped up, grabbed the microphone with both hands, and poured his love of the music into every note. This was Matt’s show, and similarly to the Brian Wilson tour dates that I experienced, he is the current-day voice of The Beach Boys. He loves the music, allows it to embody his emotion when he sings and connects everyone in the audience to the stage and the performance. Without cues, the audience members sang along throughout.

Next was the always-welcome “In My Room.” Again, Matt pulled everyone in with his emotive attachment to the intention behind the words. What happened next was the first of two great moments: it’s what I’ll call Al’s ‘California suite.’ Starting with Holland’s “California Saga (On My Way to Sunny California)” Al was vibrant and dialed in as a storytelling Californian who loved sharing his life experience with the audience. He wants people to know about the coastline and the majestic life it offers. I love that he embodies these artistic nuances and wears them on his sleeve. There was never another member of the group that could reach into the California folk ethos like Al, and he nailed it. It isn’t just performing the song; it’s being able to feel the artist’s intention.

Now, because this show was in a community center, they had an open bar, so people were constantly getting up for drinks and chatting. Al was ready to perform the next song; it was important to him, so he tried to ask the audience to quiet down. At the moment the place was quite chatty, and Al sort of gave up on trying to get their attention because it looked as though he just didn’t want to be pushy about it. So, he turned back towards the band, and the song slowly began.

The song was “Surf’s Up.” With many people still chatting, Matt stepped up and began to sing “The diamond necklace played the pawn” … it wasn’t until after the first chorus that the audience started paying attention. It was clear to me that most of the attendees weren’t familiar with the song, but Matt drew them further and further in until they had no choice but to listen. And when it finally got quiet Matt’s voice soared and blanketed the entire center. Al had a gleam in his eye as any proud father would as well as a look of deep artistic satisfaction. Al wanted “Surf’s Up” in the set, and as they all began to sing the coda it was clear – whether the audience knew the song or not – the musical experience had changed them.

Next, Bobby dug his musically athletic heels into “Sail On Sailor.” It was great and full of gritty soul. I should mention that I sat with my good friend, Marti Smith (son of Myrna Smith), and it was very interesting to see his reaction and response to these classic songs. He was more than engrossed throughout the show and was particularly fond of seeing the variety of music from the catalog.

The showstoppers were next: “God Only Knows,” “Sloop John B,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” and “Good Vibrations.” The audience was back in full participation and was more than happy to be cued to sing “gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a happenin’ with her” with Matt leading the band singing the ‘doo bee doos’ that the group used to do when Carl used to sing the part with The Beach Boys before his untimely passing. It was a cool reminder of those earlier times, and the audience was more than happy to oblige.

My second favorite part of the show was the next two songs: Al’s signature “Help Me, Rhonda” and the great Del Shannon’s “Runaway.” As you might imagine, Al owned “Rhonda” with every inch of his soul and the band musically and vocally locked right in. It was great! I wasn’t ready for “Runaway,” and it was glorious! Debbie nailed the vibe and intention behind those great keyboard melody lines and blew me away on the bridge with her accuracy, joy, and vibe. I loved watching her rock out with Al looking on! This song alone was worth the price of admission.

The encore of the show featured “Barbara Ann,” “Surfin’ USA,” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.” If you’re reading this you more than likely know all the song titles mentioned in this review, but if you don’t recognize any of the titles then I’d look at that as an even better reason to consider driving to see Al, Matt, and company in concert. Was it worth the eleven-hour drive? I’d say so.

©2024 David M. Beard/All Rights Reserved


Leave a comment

Dave Conrad

2 months ago

Amazing recap, David! Made mine look like a kindergartener wrote it. Again, it was great to meet you. I wish we had had more time to chat. Hope we’ll have the opportunity again.


2 months ago

Jai Guru Dev
Al Jardine

James Dycus

2 months ago

My wife and I drove for a four day getaway from our home in Long Beach, MS to see the concert. Just an honor and my first time to see Al and his band. Something I will always hold dear to my heart. Great review of the event! Thank you.

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