The Beach Boys' On Tour: 1968 begins with an incomplete version of "Darlin'," which is a signal that this digital-only release is another copyright clearinghouse from the Beach Boys and Capitol Records. It's larger than most of its kin, weighing in at a whopping 114 tracks. Given the size and the fact that the album is designed to round up all the existing live tapes of the Beach Boys from 1968, it's no surprise that repetitions abound. The set -- which runs five-hours-and-20 minutes -- collects concerts performed in Chicago, Fargo, Lincoln, Phoenix, and Waterloo, Iowa, along with three shows performed at two venues in London (only the first show from their stand at the Finsbury Park Astoria is here because the second was issued in 1970 as the Live in London LP). At each of these, the band plays roughly the same set list -- "Johnny B. Goode" makes an appearance in Fargo, Lincoln, and Phoenix, but not elsewhere; "Darlin'" is often truncated at the beginning of a show, as if somebody hit the record button late -- which means the main distinguishing factor is the level of band's enthusiasm, along with Mike Love's incessant, ever-changing stage banter. This similarity means that it's a bit hard to listen On Tour: 1968 in one sitting, but broken up into a series of sets, what's striking is how it showcases a group who seem to be coming into their own on-stage. With Brian Wilson sitting this tour out, the Beach Boys are augmented by keyboardist Daryl Dragon, bassist Ed Carter, percussionist Mike Kowalski, and a brass section. The auxiliary players give the group a bit of show biz flash, but the big news is that the group feels like a muscular working unit in a way they didn't during their surfing peak. This evolution runs parallel to their experimentation in the studio and makes for interesting, satisfying music -- provided that it's sampled in doses.
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