Drugs and therapy work!! I saw Brian Wilson perform at Royce Hall at UCLA Wednesday night and am happy to report it was one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever seen. Absolutely electric. And with any Brian Wilson concert there’s the added appreciation of just how far this guy has come from a year in bed to being able to perform in major venues without so much as a sandbox at his feet.
There’s always a price for genius and Brian has not only paid for himself but the whole room. The resulting music, however, is extraordinary. I hear “God Only Knows” and think, I’d be over-the-moon thrilled if just once in my lifetime I could write “Little Deuce Coupe”.
His backup group, the Wondermints, is far better than the Beach Boys ever were. (I guess the “Beach Boys” now play minor league baseball stadiums, County Fairs, and Jiffy Lube openings.) And to make the night extra special Brian was reunited for the first time with original Beach Boy, Al Jardine.
They played for two-and-a-half hours, the highlight being the recreation of the entire “Pet Sounds” album which was absolutely thrilling. Although he didn’t include my favorite Beach Boy songs – In My Room (in German), No-Go Showboat, and All Dressed Up for School – he did feature many of the group’s big hits and was in great voice and spirits. The ecstatic crowd, mostly baby boomers (or as the TV networks call them – “dead for all we care”) was on its feet for much of the show…not easy to do anymore with their knees. A few even bought the Brian Wilson action figure that was being sold in the lobby. Yes, there is an actual Brian Wilson action figure (You can now play “Meet me after the show” with Malibu Barbie).
In addition to the great orchestrations, innovative chords, and lush harmonies I was struck by how evocative the music was of the time and how ambitious it was, even the early stuff. For every song about surfing there was one about teen angst. And they each strike such an emotional chord that even forty years later they still resonate.
It hasn’t been easy for the Pepsi Generation. We survived a war, drugs, civil unrest, Nixon, disco, midlife crises, the economy, raising children, caring for parents, 9-11, and nothing to watch on ABC. And we had it EASY compared to Brian Wilson. But there he was, still going strong, still singing his heart out. Damn it, we can STILL have fun fun fun until daddy takes the T-Bird away!
If you get the chance to see Brian Wilson in concert, do it. Even if you’re grounded. Sneak out.