There is a haunting sadness in Brian Wilson’s eyes that reflects both a lifetime of anguish and childlike innocence, and it even transcends words. Tone, melody and harmony are his true language, and after just a brief encounter, the sweet melancholy of so many songs — “When I Grow Up (To Be A Man),” “In My Room,” “Wouldn't It Be Nice,” “Sail On Sailor,” “Pet Sounds” and too many others to name here — suddenly became all the more affecting.
It’s hard to write about Wilson without attaching some sort of conditional “genius” to his name (see above), but it’s a notion that he laughs off. “I appreciate it when people say that, but I don’t believe that,” he offered over the phone from London on Fri., July 22, just two days after his 69th birthday. “It makes me feel good to hear that, and to know that people like the music enough to say that, but I would never call myself a genius, because I don’t think that I am a genius.”
The set list for the show on Wednesday night spoke for itself. “Surfer Girl,” “Sloop John B,” “Wouldn't It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows,” “Heroes and Villains” and “Good Vibrations” were just a few of the 40 songs that made up the 2-and-a-half-hour long set of mostly ’60-’70s Beach Boys classics. “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Summertime” from Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin came to life as well with evocative new character.
Wilson remained seated behind the piano while his band, which included right-hand man and Beach Boy circa 1980-’90 Jeffrey Foskett (guitar), Darian Sahanaja (keyboards/vibes), Scott Bennett (keyboards/vibes), Nicki Wonder (guitar), Probyn Gregory (guitar, French horn, banjo, Tannerin), Paul Von Mertens (sax, flute, harmonica), Brett Simons (bass), Nelson Bragg (percussion) and Mikey Damico (drums) played spot on renditions of the songs, and everybody sang. “They really are the greatest group of musicians that I’ve ever met in my whole life,” Wilson added over the phone.
With so many people on stage harmonizing on those radiant high notes, “Catch A Wave,” "Dance Dance Dance" and “I Get Around” were on blast while remaining true to the songs’ original forms. Foskett lead the group through a rousing performance of “Don’t Worry Baby,” showing off that not only can he match the original Wilson high-register resonance he’s made it his own.
Wilson himself plunked away on the keyboard with robotic motions, and even picked up a bass during "Surfin.'" But throughout most of the set he allowed his cohorts to take the songs and give them the tasteful and vivacious treatment that they deserve. At 69, Wilson doesn’t quite have the control over his voice that he once did, but his pitch, phrasing and excitement are undeniable. When he sings there is a faint slur to his words, but it doesn’t hinder his performance. If anything the subtle frailties that are part of the Brian Wilson experience now only amplify the songs’ strongest qualities. They were heartbreaking when he wrote and performed them in his twenties. Now, so many years later, the songs are filled with just as much, if not more, emotional substance and imagination, and that’s the mark of truly timeless music.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for the catch!
Tues, Dec 31st. Not 21st.
Innovative & fresh sound !!!
Too many memories. I remember we were smoking meth on the back patio and a…
Awesome memories for sure... Lenny's played such a major role in my music life. My…
I met my 1st husband at Dotties! Carnal Carnival Days!