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Provo • The America's Freedom Festival's Stadium of Fire has always revolved around music, with recent past performers Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, The Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus headlining the annual patriotic celebration at Brigham Young University's LaVell Edwards Stadium.
But Wednesday's Stadium of Fire was special because of the music it offered. The Beach Boys headlined the event during their 50th Anniversary Tour, making it the first time in more than two decades that Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks and Bruce Johnston have toured together. (While Marks and Johnston weren't founding members, they have been with the quintessential California pop group since the 1960s.)
Another signal that this event was punctuated with music was that the emcee was Alex Boyé, a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with a solo career as well. Boyé, born in England and residing in Utah for the last decade, became an American citizen in February.
In his opening remarks, Boyé talked about how this year marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, a watershed moment that ironically led to a friendship between the country of his birth and his new country that endures to this day. Then, in one of the most poignant parts of the program, the new citizen led the Stadium of Fire Chorus, and the packed stadium, in singing "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Scotty McCreery, the season 10 winner of "American Idol," was the official opening act for The Beach Boys, performing a 25-minute set that showcased his preternaturally deep baritone and his country band, recalling a young George Strait though Strait likely didn't charmingly gush about pretty Utah girls during his performances like McCreery did.
Other highlights of the show included country singer Nathan Osmond performing his original, rousing new song, "Stars and Stripes," at the opening of the show, as well as the Stadium of Fire dancers celebrating the 100th birthday of the Girl Scouts in a military-themed dance choreographed to "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." Some of the dancers paraded around in fatigues holding prop guns.
In addition, Provo native Ryan Innes and South Africa native Carl Dylan (now residing in Atlanta) competed in the Stadium of Fire Talent Search finals, with Innes coming out on top. (It came as a shock, considering that Dylan's drummer was an Army Ranger, and Innes' bassist was from the University of Utah, which the crowd loudly booed when it was first announced.)
With an average age of around 70 years old, The Beach Boys were the highlight of the warm night, at least for those who weren't there to catch the always-impressive fireworks spectacular that closed the show.
With songs such as "Surfin' Safari," "Surfer Girl," "Little Deuce Coupe," "I Get Around," "Be True to Your School," "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "California Girls" and "That's Why God Made the Radio," the performers' sound was pristine and enveloping, with no evidence that the men's ability to harmonize has dimmed a bit.
Most impressive was hearing Wilson, the only surviving brother of three who founded the group. He hadn't toured with any incarnation of the group since 1996, but it was sheer pleasure to listen to his lead vocals on "God Only Knows" illuminate the dark skies that hovered over the stadium.
All-American music provided by The Beach Boys, McCreery, Osmond, Boyé and others seemed to be one of the best ways to honor the country, and its troops, on the Fourth of July.