Wow, what a show!
The night began with me driving up to Oakland feeling burnt and a little hung over from the night before, thinking WHY exactly am I seeing Brian Wilson again, and AGAIN when the night was over I was totally blown away by the music, the songs, the band and Brian Wilson himself; an American icon, a brilliant songwriter and a legendary FREAK!
I'm 46, so as a little kid in the 60's and as a teen in the 70's the Beach Boys were always around me, but I ALWAYS thought they were mindless bubblegum music compared to what I was into (Dead, Yes, Allmans, Pink Floyd, etc). But I have now come to fully realize that Brian Wilsons music is AMAZING and much deeper and groovier than what is on the surface.
The beautiful Paramount Theater is a perfect venue for this type of show, it's absolutely glorious, and Wilson & his great band began the show with an hour long set of many of his great songs (Surfer Girl, Dance, Dance, Dance, Sail On Sailor, In My Room, California Girls & Good Vibrations to name just a few). About 15 minutes into the show he brought out Al Jardine (an original Beach Boy) which made things even better, adding his classic voice to the mix.
I've seen Wilson live 6 times now (although this was the first time I've seen him as the true headliner) and the thing that always gets me is how SYMPHONIC the music is without feeling stodgy, how classic it is while still being Pop, how FUN it is while also having a serious edge.
ALL his songs are classic so it really falls on his group to make it work, and they really do. They NAIL the harmonies, which at times had 8 people singing, and they really hit the groove of the songs as well; not over-playing them or "lushing" them up so they still rocked.
The 2nd set was Pet Sounds played straight through, which I was not overly excited about going in as I have never really been hip to the album, I just know the hits, and in general I don't care for the "shtick" of a group playing an entire album, but my attitude QUICKLY changed when they broke into the opener "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and I realized how great the whole thing SOUNDED! I was once again swept away by the complex mix of amazing harmonies and the groovy interplay of the band, closing my eyes and really listening.
I didn't recognize a few of the songs in the middle (not knowing the album) but they were all extremely well played. But then they broke into "Sloop John B." and WOW, A LINE DRIVE OVER THE CENTER FIELD WALL!! (Please excuse the baseball reference) What a GREAT SONG, and they DIALED it!! Again, I kept thinking that the sound was SYMPHONIC; the crowd was totally into it and the whole thing just kicked in!
After a HUGE ovation Brian said that Paul McCartney once told him that the next song was Pauls favorite ever, and they played "God Only Knows". It's such an amazing song and it's easy to hear how it influenced the Beatles, which is another thing that makes seeing Wilson so powerful; as you're listening to this great music in 2007 you realize that these tunes INFLUENCED THE BEATLES!! The music is 40 years old but there is a fresh, timeless quality to it all.
The other real highlight of the Pet Sounds set was "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" that ended with Brian and Al J. trading the title line back and forth. Brilliant.
Then of course, with the encore came THE HITS!!! (As if the first two hours of songs were just toss-offs!) Johnny B. Goode; Fun, Fun, Fun; Help Me Rhonda; Barbara Ann; I Get Around; Surfin' USA ("Inside, Outside, USA!!!") and then finally a beautiful, quiet song I recognized but don't know the name. They rocked every one and EVERY one was a HOME RUN, each bringing the HOUSE DOWN!!!
As for Wilson himself, well, I think it's fair to say that he is ONE TRIPPY DUDE! I think most everyone knows his story, and there were times during the show that he seemed to lose his focus, and as usual he was stiff as a board, but especially during the 2nd set he seemed to relax a bit and his singing was almost always right on. At one point during a song he motioned for his female singer who was right behind him to scratch his back, and it clearly calmed him. He always seems to be hanging by a thread.
Some friends of mine saw the show on Friday in San Diego and said at one point he walked off the stage in the middle of a song. That's part of the deal with this guy, but that's also part of what makes seeing him so special. He has truly been THROUGH THE WRINGER and he's come out the other side. It's unbelievable that 40 years after he RULED the music world, lost his mind and then found it again that he is still onstage playing his music, playing it WELL, and that we get the privilege of enjoying it.
Did I mention it was a great show?
I thought about checking this show out as he's been getting nothing but great reviews but alas, the bay bridge is a big hurdle.
After seeing Wilson's set at the Bridge Benefit this year, I felt how big the Beach Boys and their music really is, a packed house at shoreline was on it's feet singing along. At the same time though, I felt like the music was much much bigger than one person, any one beach boy. The older generation really took offense to that, they didn't like the separation of music and musician, they all felt very strongly about Brian Wilson and making sure he was given his due, that it's impossible to separate Wilson from the music because he's had such a troubled past and it's directly related to the music. Whatever it is, people love the guy.
great review thanks
Great review! The first show in awhile that i waited til the last minute srewed up and could not get a ticket!
I highly recomend checking out the DVD of Smile....the disc that has "Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of Smile" is great. I remember my Dad explaining about Smile to me when I was a kid, so it has a special place for me, but this DVD is great for everyone. How Smile was lost, and then one day at a social gathering Brian played Heroes and Villians for the first time in years and everyone FREAKED. Then he agrees to perform it, and you see just how complex that music is. He apparently wrote it all as little tiny individual snippets that he later formed into songs, a line here, a bridge there. WHOA!!!! Then as vocal rehearsals begin, Brian freaks out and can't deal, but manages to hang in. Its very precarious. The big day comes, Paul McCartney is all excited. Fans fly in from all over. Brian losing it, almost cancels, then decides he can't inconvenience the promoter. Show is a SMASH. Paul McCartney claps and cheers like mad. Van Dyke Parks cries.
Read the Beach Boys bio Heroes and Villians for the ugly side of white trash suburbia. A bunch of petty racist fucks.
Hear dad Murray explaining to Brian that "Help Me Rhonda" needs more sincopation. Fuckin wack.
I've seen every Brian Wilson show since he went back on the road with the "Imagination" tour in 1999. It's amazing how far he's come since then, when he had the "deer in the headlights" look. The last 3 shows I've seen BW do including the Pet Sounds show of last October were nothing short of spectacular. It's great seeing Al Jardine Back with Brian, too. His vocals haven't lost anything over the years.
Thnaks for the great review, Lance. It's a GREAT time to be a Brian Wilson fan.
Saw Brian opening for Paul Simon back in 2001 (?), and saw the "Smile" show the night the Red Sox won the World Series (one of the "orchestra" players held up a "Red Sox win" sign in the middle of the show).
Glad to see he's doing "Pet Sounds" again. Hope he comes through Denver. I'll go see him again in a second, and definitely if he has Al Jardine with him for some songs.
It is indeed a great time to be a Brian Wilson fan. Seems like it's a great time to be Brian Wilson too. Good for him, he deserves it.
Here's a link to a great article about the Oakland show, and some cool pictures. It may be better to cut & paste the link into your browser to avoid registering, even though that is free : http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/enterta inment/music/16573536.htm
This is a great review. I kinda feel like I missed out a great show!