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On a recent Throwback Thursday, a suggested playlist popped up on Spotify that caught my attention, “Oldies but Goodies.” I started the playlist enthusiastically, not having the ability to pre-screen the mix. The first song to play was Sisqo's "Thong Song." At that moment, I wasn't quite sure what offended me more, that a song from my middle school days was considered an oldie by some younger-than-me-millennial, or that Sisqo would be in a category of "Oldies but Goodies." An oldie evokes ideas of classics, songs that withstand the test of time and musical fads. Songs, bands, singers, and songwriters that make "Greatest Songs of All Time" lists by the most reputable industry minds. "Oldies but Goodies" are timeless, and the best example of this happened only one short week ago at Ravinia with The Temptations and The Beach Boys.

No better groups epitomize Golden Oldies than The Temptations and The Beach Boys. Together they represent an incredible era of music from the 50, the 60s, and 70s from the pop-like rhythm and blues of Motown to the surf sound with electric guitars and vocal harmonies. Both musical styles were on full display Sunday night at Ravinia.

The Temptations performed with the gusto of men half their age. Their glee was palpable as they breezed through their dancing arrangements in perfect unison to their major hits like "Ain't to proud to beg," "Papa was a rolling stone" and their anthem "My Girl." Accompanied by a big band and master of ceremony, the group moved seamlessly from song to song not breaking for more than a breath or a drink of water. For 45 minutes straight the five men put on a show that is simply unseen in today's music. They were charismatic and engaging, their vocals and showmanship from another era. Unfortunately, their performance was lost on the audience in the pavilion seats. With tickets running as high $150/seat you'd expect those spending the money to see the group up close would be eager to see them, sing with them, dance with them. On the contrary, the pavilion guests appeared by bored, almost inconvenienced when they were asked to get up and sing and dance along. It seemed like they were there more for nostalgia; not present as fans of the music or the musical legends, but in remembrance of a bygone era and in mourning for youth. The seats were lost on those that tried to buy their time back.

The Beach Boys' set, in contrast to the rhythm of Motown, played with the same ease of an ocean at sunset, each song getting its play and lazily meeting the next. "Good Vibrations" had plenty of time to crash across the lawn seats before the group started "Sloop John B" or "God Only Knows." I rode the sound waves out to the lawn to meet up with friends and stretch my legs from the pavilion seats. Perhaps it was the extra space and freedom of the lawn seats, or perhaps just The Beach Boys themselves, but people were up, dancing and belting out every word. Beach balls by the dozens were hit from fan group to fan group, smiling and laughing even when some were smacked into heads, or in my case, my wine. The evening really captured the surf sound, listening to wavy-like music against a setting summer sun with a cold drink and good friends. This vibe still couldn't penetrate the pavilion seats, and having left my seat I couldn't return until there was a designated break in the music set. Though the group took at least 4-5 minutes to get from song to song there wasn't enough time to get people to their seat. But watching the audience I was reminded of The Beach Boys' earliest days, performing in matching short-sleeved button up shirts, slouchy with their hands in their pockets. Most guests sat the same way, slouchy, hands in their pockets and grimaces on their face. I spent the rest of the show on the lawn hitting beach balls, drinking wine, and crooning along to "Kokomo."

You can classify Sisqo as an oldie to appeal to older millennials and get clicks on trendy music apps, but true oldies (songs and bands) live across generations, draw thousands of fans to a suburban music venue, and can be enjoyed by kids young and old. Those are the only songs that can be considered Oldies But Goodies, even if the goodies can't be enjoyed by the people who are now "oldies." Ravinia has shows that extend through September, see what they have to offer at www.ravinia.org.



Published in In Concert

Ravinia plays host to so many memorable concerts throughout the year, but one of the most unforgettable came last Tuesday night when The Beach Boys shared the stage with the legendary Temptations. Amply called “Surf and Soul” audience members were able to take in some of the most celebrated classics in music history under the stars.

Taking the stage first were the Temptations led by Bruce Williamson and the band’s only original member, Otis Williams. Dressed in matching, brightly colored suits the band clapped, spun and added some fancy footwork to such favorites as “Treat Her Like A Lady”, “The Way You Do the Things You Do”, “Just My Imagination” and “My Girl”. Gracing the crowd with smooth harmonies and romantic lyrics, the Temptations still had women swooning as they probably did some fifty years ago.

After a healthy set of soulful bliss, The Beach Boys then came out to perform headed by original members Mike Love and Bruce Johnston. Fun videos of 1960s nostalgia and band footage were displayed on each side of the stage throughout the show while The Beach Boys launched into an array of their famous surf hits. Strangely however, Brian Wilson seemed to be shunned from such footage barring a few quick shots were it was nearly impossible to exclude him. Obviously missing was Brian and Carl Wilson, but the band still managed to pull off a highly efficient performance taking on such songs (most Mike Love driven hits) as “”Do It Again”, “Sloop John B”, “Surfin’ USA”, “Catch A Wave”, “Be True To Your School”, “409” and “I Get Around”. Also thrown into the set, and maybe a bit unnecessarily, was Mike Love’s solo project number “Pisces Brothers”. The band did venture into a few Brian Wilson led songs with the touring musicians handling his high vocal range quite nicely – the same goes for the terrific harmonies in each song.

The Beach Boys played two songs from Pet Sounds – “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “God Only Knows”, the latter of which the band got creative with the jumbo screens to allow the late Carl Wilson sing the lead (as only it should be) while they gently played and sang harmonies underneath. Ending on a high note, Love and gang jumped into the band’s last big hit “Kokomo” from the late 1980s and their ever so popular anthem “Good Vibrations”.

Not to be a band that walks away from challenges, Mike Love was greeted with a bucket of ice water over his head in support of ALS awareness to put the finishing touches on a fully enjoyable experience.

Overall, though at times a bit sad to be reminded of our mortality and the inevitable aging process we all must endure, both bands were thoroughly entertaining, tight and most of all – fun. I can only hope both will return to Ravinia in 2015. Surf’s still up, boys! 

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