Brian Wilson – Pet Sounds live
By David Beard
On Friday, Nov. 9 I traveled with my friend Jez Graham from Stone Mountain, GA to the Bell Auditorium in Augusta, GA to see Brian Wilson in concert. On this particular night Brian was going to be performing Pet Sounds in its entirety. By now, I had seen Pet Sounds performed (roughly) 10 times. The best show (for me) was the first show I attended at Chastain Amphitheatre in Atlanta, GA in 1999. It was at that 1999 show that I sat front and center with Melinda Wilson. I have vivid memories of the sheer delight of hearing the train and dogs barking at the end of the show … on my feet giving Brian his well-deserved standing ovation. It was also on that evening that I interviewed Brian after the show for his Break Away newsletter and Endless Summer Quarterly magazine. It was an unforgettable night!
As you know, Brian recently had back surgery. And yet, despite not being completely rehabilitated, he’s touring – making up for previously cancelled dates – and preparing for his upcoming Brian Wilson Presents The Christmas Album Live! tour. For most any human being, the sheer idea of performing after any kind of surgery would be secondary, and full recovery first. But Brian loves us that much. He wants to perform for his fans.
We arrived a few hours early to catch the rehearsal. We were greeted with the sound of Blondie Chaplin’s voice echoing through the empty theater singing, “Oh Holy Night” (for the holiday-themed shows). Beautiful.
After rehearsal, Gary Griffin and Probyn Gregory made their way out to catch up and talk family and music with Jez and me. Rob Bonfiglio and Jim Laspesa also made their way out. It was great meeting Rob face to face and getting to know him (having recently interviewed him for Episode #26 of the Good Vibrations Program). And Jim could not have been nicer.
Once the show began Rob and Jim took the stage with the other members (Gary, Probyn, Darian Sahanaja, Mike D’Amico, Bob Lizik, Paul Von Mertens and Nicky “Wonder” Walusko). The stage felt a bit different without Matt Jardine (who has been touring with Wilson for a few years); it was warm nonetheless. Rob is a stylistically different singer than Matt. His voice is rich in its tempered flexibility. If you’ve heard his new solo album Trouble Again, you’ll understand. Jim? He was executing the music flawlessly.
As you might imagine, Brian’s co-star, Al Jardine, was a welcomed sight. For the most part, Al plays the role of lead singer throughout the show, and his voice continues to warm any venue. Like Brian and his other (surviving) bandmates Mike Love, David Marks and Bruce Johnston, Al’s stage presence and vocals are a really great reminder of why we love the music of The Beach Boys.
The show had several highlights; Darian’s performance of “Darlin’,” Rob’s singing on “Don’t Worry Baby” and Al’s performance of “California Saga.” Still, my favorite moment was when Blondie joined the band onstage and performed “Feel Flows” (from 1971’s Surf’s Up album). Blondie’s presence gives off a very rhythm & blues/Rolling Stones vibe, and he merges so beautifully with The Beach Boys sound. It was Carl Wilson who was the most closely linked to rhythm & blues – bringing Blondie and Ricky Fataar (of The Flame) into The Beach Boys in 1971. It’s natural that Blondie would sing “Feel Flows” and “Sail On Sailor”; he is soul.
During the show it appeared as though two of Brian’s favorite moments were when the audience joined him in listening to “Let’s Go Away For Awhile” and “Pet Sounds.” The two instrumentals draped the auditorium in a warm blanket of music. It was really settling and comforting, just like the album. Special.
Pet Sounds will go down in history as one of the best (if not THE best) albums of all time, but I think it’s time we let Brian rest on his laurels. When Brian began performing Pet Sounds in 1999 it was special for him because he was seeing how much everyone loved him for creating and performing it. Almost 20 years later Brian knows … He gets it.And in recent years it appears at times that his heart doesn’t always seem to be in his performance. Brian’s heart is his music … His expression. I don’t want Brian to lose the love he has for his own work.
Now Brian is embarking on his Brian Wilson Presents The Christmas Album Live! tour where he’ll be performing The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album in its entirety. Al and Blondie will be joining Brian, and the show is said to include some material from Brian’s 2005 release, What I Really Want For Christmas. This should be cool.
©2018 David Beard/ All Rights Reserved