It's been 23 years since the Beach Boys performed in Wichita, so the band's concert this month at Hartman Arena feels as much like a reunion as a holiday show.
"The group has many levels of appreciation from fans," said longtime Wichita radio personality Dan O'Neal of Newsradio 1330, KNSS. That ranges from fans of the simple upbeat harmonies of early songs like "Let's Go Surfin' Now" to people who appreciate the band's complex arrangements of later years.
O'Neal said the Beach Boys first performed in Wichita on May 1, 1963 at the long-gone Kiddieland on East Harry, clad in striped short- sleeved button down shirts. Their last show here was at Lawrence Dumont Stadium in 1990.
At Hartman, the band plans to mix songs from their Christmas album — made in 1964 and reissued several times since — with songs from a career that's produced 36 Top 40 hits.
The Beach Boys' story is well known to longtime fans, but it bears repeating for those who might be new to their music.
Formed in 1961 in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne, Calif., the Beach Boys initially consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, plus their cousin, MIke Love, and a friend, Al Jardine. They practiced in Brian's bedroom and were originally managed by the boys' father.
Combining harmonies with lyrics about surfing, cars and girls, the band scored 16 hit singles between 1962 and 1965. Brian Wilson was the band's songwriter, influenced by the surf rock genre, Chuck Berry and the Ronettes.
The band was one of the few American groups to survive the British invasion headed by the Beatles. If fact, in 1964 the Beach Boys scored their first No. 1 hit, "I Get Around."
Interestingly, the band stopped focusing so much on surf and sun after that album and tried a variety of styles on the recordings that followed. The result was the album considered by many critics to be the band's best — "Pet Sounds," with songs like "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "God Only Knows" — closely followed by a single that's rated among the top rock songs of all time, "Good Vibrations."
Although the band was regarded by some as a nostalgia act by the 1980s, it actually released its biggest hit of all in 1988 — "Kokomo." The Beach Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the same year.
Despite lawsuits and disputes involving some members, the five remaining members reunited in 2006 and have performed together several times since then. At Hartman Arena, Mike Love and longtime member Bruce Johnston will appear, supported by a band that includes Mike's son, Christian.
This month's concert will definitely have a wintery feel, with songs such as "Little Saint Nick" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas" expected.