Have mercy! John Stamos dazzles at White River State Park (The Beach Boys were there, too) (2024)

Holly V. HaysIndianapolis Star

John Stamos wasn’t just a featured player at Saturday night’s Beach Boys concert, he was the main character.

Sporting black pants and a black vest — no shirt — amber-tinted sunglasses and an unbelievably gorgeous head of hair, Stamos somehow made it easy to miss the bona fide rock n’ roll legend he first came onstage to introduce: 83-year-old Mike Love, the only founding member of the band appearing on this tour.

Over the two-and-a-half-hour performance at Everwise Amphitheater at White River State Park Saturday night, Stamos was everywhere: lead and backing vocals, guitar, keyboard, drums, congas, practically doing jumping jacks with a couple of tambourines. He’s running across stage, he’s improvising with the drummer who’s pretending he’s choking, he’s standing on the stool of his drum kit, using his sticks to conduct a crowd singalong.

I’m not saying Stamos was doing Too Much; he was giving the crowd exactly what they wanted, based on their screams and applause.

The show overall was nostalgic, well-produced, the vocals strong, the music great. The harmonies sounded fantastic, with Mike’s son, Christian Love, guitarist Brian Eichenberger and longtime member Bruce Johnston carrying their weight in recreating that original Beach Boys sound. Eichenberger in particular nailed the higher-range doo-wop sound listeners know and love.

I hesitate to use the word perfect, but…. We're only halfway through 2024, but I think The Beach Boys and John Stamos could end up being one of the best shows I see all year.

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Stamos, best known for his performance as Uncle Jesse on ABC"s “Full House,” has occasionally played with the Beach Boys for nearly 40 years. So, of course, when Love paused about a dozen songs in to ask if anyone noticed “our friend,” the crowd went wild.

How couldn’t we notice him? Stamos was the only person working the stage with that level of energy. Love is an octogenarian who did well just to walk back and forth in the July heat under the stage lights, and everyone else largely stayed in their assigned spots. Also, the giant screen behind them flashed a late-'80s-era headshot of Stamos accompanied by Uncle Jesse's signature catchphrase, “Have mercy.”

Want more? Here are all the acts coming to Everwise Amphitheater at White River State Park this summer (so far)

Of course, the show wasn’t all Stamos all the time. The performance was divided into two sets, with a roughly 30-minute intermission in between. (“Since our first song came on the radio in the fall of 1961, I’m personally a fan of the intermission,” Love joked.) For the second half of the first set, Stamos was at one of the drum kits further upstage, and it became a regular Beach Boys concert.

He didn’t even come back right away after the intermission! The rest of the ban played four songs before he reemerged, this time wearing a blue Hawaiian print shirt as he approached center stage to speak to the crowd.

“Discord is at an all-time high, and decency is at an all-time low, but thank God we have The Beach Boys’ music to get us through.”

“Music unites us, and it’s so personal yet so universal," he continued. "And, if anything, I would love for you to take a little piece of tonight home in your heart with you and just go to it when you need it most.”

For all the ham and cheese Stamos had offered up to this point, he gave us the most moving moment of the night, choking up as he explained that Saturday was the 23rd anniversary of his father’s passing, and he wanted to take a moment to remind us to be thankful and live in the moment, because nothing is promised.

He then took lead vocals for “Forever,” as a photo slideshow featuring Stamos with his dad, his son and the late Bob Saget, with whom Stamos starred in Full House, played on the screen behind him. It was not the best vocal performance onstage Saturday night, but it was perhaps the sweetest.

‘Good Vibrations’ is reason enough to see The Beach Boys live

OK, the Stamos of it all aside, The Beach Boys put on a hell of a show Saturday night.

I was prepared for this. I am a disciple of Glenn Gass, the IU Bloomington professor known for developing and teaching courses on the history of rock music. He's been known to wax poetic about the impact of the Beach Boys' 1966 album, "Pet Sounds," and his chalkboard-scribble method of breaking down the vibes in "Good Vibrations" is, among students, as iconic as the tune itself.

"Good Vibrations" was certainly the song I was most looking forward to, and I was not disappointed. The arrangement was fantastic, the vocals were spot-on. I love the way that song builds to this sonic release that’s layered and kooky (shout-out to the electro-theremin). I would buy a ticket to The Beach Boys just to see “Good Vibrations” live again.

A number of other songs Saturday like “Kokomo,” “God Only Knows" and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice" blew me away in large part because of the nostalgia factor,

The show was well-produced — not just the sound, but in ways that enhanced the fan experience. For popular songs and key singalong opportunities, lyrics played on the screen behind the band, maximizing the potential for crowd interaction. And in place of the usual band introduction and jam that can interrupt the flow of a show, the Beach Boys had the band walk off to an extended outro that basically ran like end credits featuring the names and faces of every performer.

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Speaking of the performers, there’s no talking about this show without mentioning Jon Bolton, the non-Stamos drummer. For a musician whose position on stage can leave them easily overlooked in a band like this, his stage presence was dynamite. He was without a doubt the night’s most animated performer, and he led a rousing cover of The Mamas & The Papas' “California Dreamin’” that was probably the most fun version of that song I’ve ever seen or heard live.

If you get the chance, you should go to a Beach Boys show — with or without Stamos.

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Contact IndyStar pop culture reporter Holly Hays at holly.hays@indystar.com. Follow her on X/Twitter: @hollyvhays.

Have mercy! John Stamos dazzles at White River State Park (The Beach Boys were there, too) (2024)
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