Beach Boys perform to standing-room-only crowd at Moon Bar

Original band member Mike Love and The Beach Boys perform at the Mississippi Moon Bar inside the Diamond Jo Casino, in Dubuque, on Saturday. PHOTO CREDIT: Nicki Kohl

The band had grown older.

So had the crowd.

But as soon as those sweet, unmistakable harmonies hit the air, one never would have known it.

Nostalgia ran deep Saturday night as fans gathered in homage to one of music’s most legendary bands.

It was “Surf City” as the Beach Boys performed two standing-room-only shows at the Mississippi Moon Bar. The group took the crowd on a journey through tunes that sung of a simpler, more innocent time and offered a snapshot of the band’s musical history, complete with a multimedia presentation that included vintage photographs and video footage of the band throughout the years.

Comedian with local ties, Steve Moris — who acted as the Beach Boys’ opening act for 20 years — introduced the group before the Beach Boys launched into a time line of classic after classic.

From early hits, like “Goin’ to the Beach,” “409” and obvious crowd-pleasers, including “Surfin’ Safari,” “Little Deuce Coop,” “I Get Around,” “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man),” “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?,” “Sloop John B” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?,” the crowd clearly came to hear their favorites. And, the Beach Boys delivered.

Each song seemed to spark a different memory for audience members.

The “California Girls” lyric, “The Midwest farmers’ daughters really make you feel alright …” seemed tailor-made for the tri-state crowd, as well as “Be True to Your School,” where team logos of the Wisconsin Badgers, the Iowa Cyclones and the Iowa Hawkeyes were projected onto the screen.

“Well, thanks for showing up,” said Mike Love, Beach Boys co-founder, vocalist and songwriter behind many of the group’s biggest hits.

The Beach Boys — formed in 1961 — didn’t shy away from that fact that time had moved them on. In fact, Love, along with long-time Beach Boys vet Bruce Johnston — representing original band members in the show — seemed to play the age-card to their advantage.

A few songs into the concert, Love joked with the crowd, “At this point, we take an intermission — followed by a nap. Instead, we’ll slow it down,” playing “Surfer Girl.”

At another point, Love slowly dropped to one knee on stage, only to be accompanied by a “creaking” sound effect as he rose back up to his feet, with a sly grin.

Love also cracked a few jokes about the youthful, peppy and albeit a bit laughable subject matter of early Beach Boys’ tunes.

“It’s a miracle the Beach Boys survived its subject matter,” Love said, before the band sang a moving love ballad, dedicated to Love’s 1949 Chevrolet. “There just aren’t too many love songs written about cars.”

A particularly moving point in the show was the performance of “God Only Knows,” projecting the late Carl Wilson on the screen, with a recording of his golden tenor filling the room, as the band performed along. Love — Wilson’s cousin — faced the screen for much of the song.

Wilson died of lung cancer in 1998.

“It’s great for us to have Carl with us every night,” Love said.

He then shared a new song, “Pisces Brothers,” with the crowd. The song had been inspired by his shared astrological sign with the late Beatle George Harrison. Love shared stories of the two sharing a birthday in India while studying transcendental meditation together — a practice Love now teaches.

Hits, like the 1980s classic “Kokomo” — another audience favorite — followed.

It’s almost unfathomable that one band could have spawned so many recognizable melodies — a testament to the genius of Love and cousin Brian Wilson, who last performed with the group in 2012 before returning to a solo career.

Even those indifferent to the Beach Boys would have to stand in awe of a band more than 50 years in the making still able to rouse a crowd to their feet with a list of chart-topping classics that seemed endless.

The tunes might be oldies. But they’re still as good as they’ve ever sounded.