|photo by K. Gong/OC Register|
They mostly revolved around the landmark 1966 Beach Boys album’s intricate arrangements and multi-part harmonies, which were expertly reproduced live. That was no easy task, considering the “Pet Sounds” creative approach was partially modeled after Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound recording technique.
Many musicians onstage at the Hollywood Bowl already knew the material intimately, having been around when Wilson first started doing the entire LP live in the early 2000s and then occasionally amid subsequent tours. Somehow, I always missed those special local shows and greatly anticipated the chance to finally witness it in person.
The current worldwide jaunt celebrates the album’s 50th Anniversary.
Capitol Records just put out a commemorative multi-disc box set featuring previously unreleased live recordings, outtakes, alternative versions, a hardback book and other assorted bells and whistles.
Since its inception, “Pet Sounds” has influenced various musicians, ranging from Paul McCartney (he has said the sonic experimentation of “Sgt. Pepper” was a direct result) to Sameer Gadhia of Irvine alt-rock band Young the Giant (who recently told Consequence of Sound that it gets “us to believe in the magic of songs and wade beyond the borders that have been set for us”).
A new legion of fans has been turned onto the classic pop music lately, thanks to a highly successful 2012 Beach Boys reunion tour including all surviving members (not to mention the underrated studio album “That’s Why God Made the Radio”). Then there was “Love & Mercy” – last year’s Golden Globe-nominated biopic on Wilson’s life starring John Cusack and Paul Dano. The most fascinating scene involved the recording of “Pet Sounds,” which Wilson later said was very accurate. This fall, a new autobiography, “I Am Brian Wilson,” hits stores.
Backed by a 12-piece band comprising former Beach Boys Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin, Wilson was seated at a white piano toward center stage. He immediately asked how loud the “girls and boys” in the crowd could yell.
The nearly two-hour, sold out show opened with wordless hymn “Our Prayer,” which blended into the upbeat, carnival-like “Heroes and Villains.” A few seconds into a high energy “California Girls,” the audience went wild. Despite a well-publicized history of health issues, Wilson, 74, was mostly lucid, adequate vocally and sporadically played his instrument.
Much of the heavy lifting though came from Al’s son Matt (whose heavenly falsetto is a dead ringer for the late Carl Wilson) and the other younger musicians. “I Get Around” instantly had some people dancing; the harmonies on “Hushabye,” were truly sublime.
Brian Wilson’s song introductions were filled with adolescent wonder. “Don’t Worry Baby” was an early concert highlight. Al Jardine, 73, held his own on self-penned country-tinged shuffle “California Saga: California.” Wilson’s subtle “One Kind of Love” ode to wife Melinda came across nicely; unfortunately, it was the lone selection representing 2015 solo effort “No Pier Pressure” (it’s also on the “Love & Mercy” soundtrack).
Chaplin only appeared on certain songs. He briefly raised the rock quotient with stage strolling electric guitar work (reminiscent of ex-boss Keith Richards) and vocals during an intense “Wild Honey,” yet was a bit shaky for his best-known number, “Sail On, Sailor.”
Diving straight into the complete “Pet Sounds,” the band excelled throughout the original Side 1, especially the glorious “You Still Believe in Me,” an idyllic “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder),” a highly rhythmic “I’m Waiting for the Day” (kudos to exuberant player Nelson Bragg) and later, the dramatic “I Know There’s an Answer.” A standing ovation greeted the end of "God Only Knows."
Old and young fans jubilantly sang along to a strong “Good Vibrations,” which capped the main set. For the party hearty, seven-song encore, “Pet Sounds” co-lyricist Tony Asher came onstage and played tambourine awhile. Al Jardine delivered a satisfying vocal on “Help Me, Rhonda” (propelled by Paul Mertens snazzy sax work).
Several Wilson family members (including daughter Carnie) arrived to help out on “Barbara Ann.” The fun continued with “Surfin’ U.S.A.” Wilson did his usual tender piano ballad “Love and Mercy” to end the concert and inserted a line to reflect the recent nationwide tension of police custody deaths.
|photo by K. Gong/OC Register|
Although enticing new album “More Rain” features a cover of the Beach Boys’ “You’re So Good to Me,” he didn’t play it live (Wilson had done it previous tour stops).
Instead, the Portland-based indie folk singer/guitarist offered such new tunes as the shimmering, reverb-drenched “Confession” and swirling, synth-laden “Girl from Conejo Valley.” Each prominently spotlighted Ward’s burnished vocal purr and vigorous electric guitar style; “I Get Ideas” did too.
Zooey Deschanel, Ward's partner in She & Him, livened things up, thanks to some heavenly harmonizing and tambourine on the peppy “Magic Trick,” “Never Had Nobody Like You” and a stark take on Buddy Holly hit “Rave On” (incidentally, both guested on “No Pier Pressure”).
Other special guests included My Morning Jacket’s Jim James and Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst – Ward’s compatriots on 2009’s “Monsters of Folk” project. They added sprightly guitar and vocals during to the poppy “To Save Me,” the driving “Vincent O’Brien” and strident, synth-driven “Whole Lotta Losing,” where the guys all took turns singing.
Brian Wilson set list
Main set: Our Prayer / Heroes and Villains / River Deep, Mountain High (snippet) / California Girls / Dance Dance Dance / I Get Around / Hushabye / Surfer Girl / Don't Worry Baby /California Saga: California / One Kind of Love / Wild Honey / Sail On, Sailor /Pet Sounds: Wouldn't it Be Nice / You Still Believe in Me / That's Not Me / Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder) / I'm Waiting for the Day / Let's Go Away for Awhile / Sloop John B. / God Only Knows / I Know There's an Answer/ Here Today /I Just Wasn't Made for These Times / Pet Sounds / Caroline No (end of Pet Sounds) / Good Vibrations / Encore: Row Row Row Your Boat (snippet) / All Summer Long / Help Me Rhonda / Barbara Ann / Surfin U.S.A. / Fun Fun Fun / Love and Mercy
My review originally appeared at ocregister.com