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The Beach Boys - Live at Knebworth 1980
Warner Vision/Warner Vision . R4 . COLOR . 70 mins . E . PAL


Writing some sort of florid introduction about the Beach Boys is about as useful as doing the same about The Beatles, after all they were the two big musical representatives of the US and UK back in the ‘60s, and anybody who hasn’t heard of them, or indeed ingested many of their songs, is either unborn or decidedly ignorant. So let’s forego the usual history lesson and cut to the chase, shall we?

While the UK has a knack of having pretty much the coolest festivals going every year – think Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds etc – there also used to be a regular event held at Knebworth in Hertsfordshire, sort of a Glastonbury for the daggier music fans out there which some wags dubbed ‘Knobworth’. 1980 saw the Beach Boys headlining the event, in what was to be the last British Isles appearance of their original line-up, with a couple of tragic deaths befalling the band in the following years.

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Derryn Hinch gets around...

But enough of the glumness, for the Beach Boys are all about fun, and the concert featured here is quite the celebration of their career, which at this point had spanned almost 20 years. Sure, they’re not exactly in the midst of their halcyon days, there are more frightening beards than you’d see at a Life of Brian stoning and they seem to have been outfitted by a blind wharfie, but it’s the music that matters in the end, and here they certainly deliver. The original six Boys take to the stage, along with four additional players, and after a slightly shaky start things soon click into place as they adapt to clouds and rain rather than sun and surf and get quite the decent little groove going. The harmonies are quickly nailed, then hits are wheeled out one after another after another after another, the fabulous air of which is only punctured by an inexplicably dumb take on Joe Cocker’s utterly blah-worthy You Are So Beautiful. Still, when you can scarcely count the big hits on your entire allocation of digits then such things can be forgiven, especially when followed by Good Vibrations, even if the audience participation thing is a tad overdone.

Track listing…

Intro (Good Timin’)
California Girls
Sloop John B
School Days
God Only Knows
Be True to Your School
Do it Again
Little Deuce Coupe
Cotton Fields
Heroes and Villains
Keepin’ the Summer Alive
Lady Lynda
Surfer Girl
Help Me Rhonda
Rock & Roll Music
I Get Around
Surfin’ USA
You Are So Beautiful
Good Vibrations
Barbara Ann
Fun, Fun, Fun


It seems that visually there was no hiding the age of this footage. The full frame transfer exhibits quite a few annoying faults, including the odd video glitch, a general lack of detail which has a tendency to make the Boys look somewhat Muppet-like more often than not (or maybe it’s the beards?) and as for shadow detail, there essentially isn’t any – when things go dark we’re faced with a big blobby screen full of nothingness. This all being said, compared to many other releases of similar vintage the vision is alright, and it’s unlikely that most people who are in it simply for the music will be too concerned with those issues which are present.

News on the audio side of things is a tad better, mercifully, with three options on offer. Those with DTS will be happy to exploit the feature, while Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 mixes round out the package. Obviously not the greatest ever live recording to begin with, those boffin types who have wended their remixing magic on this seem to have done all they could, however no matter which audio option you plump for you’ll get a certain amount of annoying toppiness and regular examples of distortion, most notably on the vocals. Live recording limitations are in evidence on occasions – from electrical interference to the odd brief cut out or clunk – however in all things scrub up reasonably well, with a pleasingly solid bass track making frequent (and relevant) use of the subwoofwoof. As for differences in the mixes, the DTS and 5.1 are pretty much identical save for a notable volume increase in the prior offering, both utilising rears for crowd noise, but little else. The 2.0 mix is just kind of there.

If you’re cruising along the highway in search of extras, you’ll have to be extremely vigilant. Disc-wise the only thing present is the rather awkwardly named The Beach Boys on the Beach Boys Songs, which is simply a set of 11 pages with various band members offering up their thoughts on some of the songs featured. At least a nice little booklet is stuffed into the DVD case, a six-page, full-colour foldout affair with a somewhat selective potted history of the band, disc credits and the odd photo scattered about.

This may not be the Beach Boys in their heyday, but it’s still a pretty fine show, and one from which fans will no doubt derive many, many great sing-along moments. And the best bit? No Kokomo!

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  •   And I quote...
    "This may not be the Beach Boys in their heyday, but it’s still a pretty fine show…"
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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