On Christmas tour, Beach Boys mix some wintry carols in with the beloved summer hits

‘People want to hear their favorites,’ says longtime singer Mike Love, promising some ‘Good Vibrations’ at the Chicago Theatre along with the ‘Little Saint Nick.’

SHARE On Christmas tour, Beach Boys mix some wintry carols in with the beloved summer hits

Mike Love (center) performs with the Beach Boys at the 2017 National Christmas Tree Lighting in Washington, D.C.

Astrid Riecken/Getty Images

For 60 years, Mike Love has been all around this great big world with the Beach Boys.

He has carried with him the sounds of endless summer through the band’s harmony-laden pop music and images of surf, sun and good vibrations.

Love and the band are regular visitors to Chicago, but there’s a twist for next weekend’s show at the Chicago Theatre. When the ambassadors of the easygoing Southern California lifestyle breeze through town, expect sleigh bells in the snow in addition to the band’s mainstay of surfboards and sunshine.

The “Tis the Season With the Beach Boys” tour follows Love’s custom of having set lists topping 30 songs. Next Sunday’s concert will include a generous selection of Christmas material alongside standards like “Catch a Wave” — but not too generous, Love reassures.

Beach Boys Christmas tour

‘Tis the Season With the Beach Boys

When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18

Where: Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St.

Tickets: $58+

Info: ticketmaster.com

“We realize that people want to hear their favorites,” says Love, rattling off a list including “Surfin’ Safari,” “Surfin’ USA,” “I Get Around,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “California Girls,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “Good Vibrations,” “God Only Knows,” “Wouldn’t it Be Nice,” “Sloop John B,” and “Kokomo” before pausing for breath. “We’ll do all of the hits, but we’ll intersperse some of the holiday tunes.”

The seasonal fare will draw from 1964’s “The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album.”

“That album was basically a result of growing up with the family getting together for holidays,” Love says of boyhood days in California with cousins and future bandmates Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson. “My mom was one of eight children, so we had plenty of cousins, uncles and aunts and family friends. We would go Christmas caroling around the neighborhood. Now, we’ve expanded the neighborhood to the rest of the United States.”

Love, 81, recalls events leading to the Beach Boys’ first Christmas song.

“In the early ’60s, we made a 45 with ‘Surfin’ Safari’ on one side,” he says. “On the other side was a song about a hot rod, ‘409’ — the hot Chevy that was available at the time. Then, we did ‘Surfin’ U.S.A.’ and [drag race song] ‘Shut Down.’ Along about 1963, we said, ‘Let’s give Santa a hot rod sled,’ and ‘Little Saint Nick’ was born.”

Other Christmas songs including “Celestial Celebration” will be performed from Love’s 2018 album “Reason for the Season.”

“I wanted to do a boogie-woogie reminder that there’s a spiritual component to Christmas,” Love says.


The set list at the Beach Boys’ Dec. 18 show will draw from their 1964 Christmas album.

Side two of “The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album” captured the group’s first recordings with an orchestra, accompanying peerless harmonies on songs including “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” with lush arrangements. It’s an enhancement the Chicago Theatre audience will experience courtesy of the Holiday Vibrations Orchestra — and not just for the Christmas fare.

“ ‘God Only Knows’ sounds beautiful with an orchestra,” Love says.

This tour also provides an opportunity to acknowledge the Beach Boys’ new “Sail on Sailor — 1972” box set, which explores the albums “Carl and the Passions — So Tough” and “Holland” for their 50th anniversaries. The albums veered from the innocent escapism of early singles like “Surfer Girl,” but the adventurous work holds favor among the Beach Boys’ most ardent devotees.

Love plans to revisit a few rarely performed songs from these albums.

“I think the effect is special for us as well as the audience during ‘All This Is That,’ ” he says. “It’s almost hypnotic. The original words are in Sanskrit, and it’s taken from the Vedas. It’s an expression that I heard first from Maharishi” while visiting India with Beach Boy Al Jardine and the Beatles in 1968.

“We’ve also got to do ‘Sail On, Sailor,’ for sure. My son Christian will probably sing lead on that.”


Mike Love holds a copy of “Sail on Sailor — 1972,” a new box set marking the 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys albums “Carl and the Passions — So Tough” and “Holland.”

Sarah Morris/Getty Images

Love remembers the circumstances leading to “Holland,” which included an extended departure from home in California.

“We thought, ‘What if we got a different perspective and went overseas?,’ ” he says. “It was way too expensive, but it was interesting. I lived in a place called Bloemendaal for about six months. We must have been a little homesick because we wrote that trilogy ‘California Saga’ in Holland. I wrote a sweet little poem about a beautiful spot on the earth, ‘Big Sur.’ Al wrote the song ‘On My Way to Sunny California’ and had me sing the lead. It was a good collaboration.”

The Beach Boys’ harmonies have roots in a range of sources.

“Brian and I would sing doo-wop together,” says Love, citing favorites like The Cadillacs and The Five Satins. “We would get my sister Maureen to sing with us or brother Carl. The Four Freshmen inspired us to sing those complex four-part harmonies. The Everly Brothers also inspired us because of those cute songs and their beautiful blend. We’ve paid a lot of attention to our blend, which is where you sublimate your individual voice to meld with each other and create that special sound. Another big influence was singing at Wednesday night youth group at Angeles Mesa Presbyterian Church.”

Love and Brian Wilson shaped the Beach Boys’ history in different ways. Wilson, who hasn’t toured with the band since 2012, was the principal architect of the Beach Boys sound, and Love kept the music alive in the public eye.

“Brian was brilliant in the studio, and he loved that environment,” Love says. “I always appreciated the live music environment. Seeing the effect of the music on the audience has always been my greatest pleasure out of it all.”

The Chicago Theatre Dec. 18 performance concludes the Beach Boys tour. Love says he has a special connection to the city.

“There was a girl from Chicago who was a nurse at the time I met her more than 30 years ago,” he says. “I’m married to her.”

Love probably won’t stick around to visit Christkindlmarket after the gig, though.

“We’ll probably hit and run back home to Lake Tahoe because the relatives and friends and children are all getting together with us for Christmas out west,” he says.

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