LIVE: BRIAN WILSON – Perth, 7 April, 2016
Riverside Theatre, Perth, Western Australia – Thursday, 7 April, 2016
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
If not for the sounds Brian Wilson heard in his head – gifted, perhaps, by some other-worldly muse – rock and roll would sound so very differently today.
1966’s Pet Sounds – a Beach Boys album in name only, recorded by Wilson and session guys whilst his bandmates were on tour – remains a pivotal entry in the rock ledger, so far ahead of what else was happening at that time that many thought him a madman for trying to capture such ethereal, nuanced beauty on tape.
That he’s still with us, aged 73, to celebrate that album’s fiftieth anniversary is nothing short of a miracle, having survived over-medication both recreational and prescribed, near-imprisonment by his psychiatrist guardian, manic depression and auditory hallucinations brought on by his use of LSD.
Last seen in Perth for a full reunion of surviving Beach Boys members in 2012, Wilson proved that even though the years have left him less than he was, his genius was still intact and burning brightly, and that was also the case with his own band (containing several ex-Beach Boys alumni) last night.
In order to recreate the elaborately layered Pet Sounds there’s a veritable music store’s worth of instruments on stage as the eleven main players take their places, and from the first note of the short vocals-only piece Our Prayer the harmonies were magical.
Of special interest to Beach Boys aficionados is the front-line presence of fellow original Beach Boy Al Jardine, and his extremely talented multi-instrumentalist son Matt. In Jardine’s words, “he’s the one with the golden voice,” and he proves it to rapturous applause time and again.
But Wilson is the primary focus here: these are his songs. He may not talk much, but the good-time singalong of California Girls; the early rock and roll of Dance, Dance, Dance; the surf pop of Little Deuce Coupe; the wondrous harmonies of beautiful ballad In My Room and the near-doo-wop of Surfer Girl; the easy listening laid-back rock of Honkin’ Down The Highway… they’re all sublime. Long-time Rolling Stones touring member, and former Beach Boy from the early ‘70s, South African Blondie Chaplin scores a featured slot at the end of the first set, playing Wild Honey, Funky Pretty and Sail On, Sailor, and his effortless shabby cool, more straight-ahead vocals and raunchy guitar playing lend a real rock edge to this portion of the show.
It was going to take something special to equal, let alone top, that magical hour… something like Pet Sounds played from start to finish, for the last time ever on this tour, if the publicity is to be believed, and it’s an album that has aged better than some of us of the same vintage.
As Wilson leads us on this journey back fifty years through time, we learn that as wonderful as these songs are, his real genius was in the composition and layering of these sound collages. The songs are so nuanced, so sprinkled with integral minutae, that every note matters. It’s a stunning, sublime performance that really couldn’t be achieved without eleven people on stage. The music is so heavenly that stress and pressures simply melt away.
God Only Knows stands out in this ethereal company as possibly the first rock and roll love hymn, and it is magical, moving, and receives a standing ovation from many in the 2500 seat room.
Again Wilson shuffles offstage as soon as his vocal contributions are complete, followed by the band when Caroline, No is finished. After a very short break the band are introduced one by one, culminating in “the man who brings us all together: the heart and soul of this music,” Mister Brian Wilson. Cue another standing ovation (and there will be more)
Where the first set was a great mix of big hits and deeper cuts, the encore is a mini-show of favourites unto itself. With the front of stage opened up to dancers and those who just wanted to get a little closer to these living legends, Good Vibrations was as good as it gets: a hearty, euphoric singalong with 2512 people in great voice.
The band celebrate the last date of the tour by fooling around on stage, extending the party from the crowd to the band as they deliver golden versions of the summertime goodness that is All Summer Long, and the irresistible Help Me Rhonda, Barbara Ann, Surfin’ USA and Fun, Fun, Fun. A proprietorial look from Wilson and the band tone things down for a heartfelt Love And Mercy featuring only keyboards, a little percussion, and more of their stunning harmony vocals. The new song which features on the soundtrack of the John Cusack-starring Brian Wilson biopic of the same name, love And Mercy is a lovely song about cutting yourself some slack and forgiving yourself enough to allow love in. It’s a beautiful way to finish over two hours of some of the best songs ever written, played by some of the best singers and musicians there’s ever been. Those harmonies will dance in our minds for a long time to come.
Heroes and Villains
Dance, Dance, Dance
I Get Around
Shut Down (Lead vocals by Al Jardine)
Little Deuce Coupe (Lead vocals by Al Jardine)
In My Room
Don’t Worry Baby (Lead vocals by Matt Jardine)
Wake the World (Lead vocals by Al Jardine)
Add Some Music to Your Day
Honkin’ Down the Highway (Lead vocals by Al Jardine)
Darlin’ (Lead vocals by Darian Sahanaja)
One Kind of Love
Wild Honey (Lead vocals & guitar jam by Blondie Chaplin)
Funky Pretty (Lead vocals by Blondie Chaplin & Al Jardine)
Sail On, Sailor (Lead vocals by Blondie Chaplin)
Set 2 (Pet Sounds):
Wouldn’t It Be Nice (Lead vocals by Matt Jardine)
You Still Believe in Me (Lead vocals by Brian Wilson and Matt Jardine)
That’s Not Me (Lead vocals by Brian Wilson and Matt Jardine)
Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)
I’m Waiting for the Day
Let’s Go Away for Awhile
Sloop John B (Lead vocals by Al Jardine)
God Only Knows
I Know There’s an Answer (Lead vocals by Brian Wilson & Al Jardine)
I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times (Lead vocals by Brian Wilson, Matt Jardine, Al Jardine)
All Summer Long
Help Me, Rhonda (Lead vocals by Al Jardine)
Fun, Fun, Fun
Love and Mercy
Filed Under: Live Reviews
About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE