I’ve alluded to Brian Wilson before (see Roots Three) and mentioned in my previous post that he was beginning a cross-Canada tour. What I didn’t mention was that his tour began in Kitchener on June 15th (last night) and that we (Jane and Bruce) attended the concert. What follows is a not exactly impartial review of the show.
Setting the mood better…
And that’s how he began the concert… with an invitation to revisit the music of The Beach Boys and of Brian Wilson. The show began promptly at 7:30 and, with only a twenty minute break, the next two and a half hours were solid music (in every sense) with only the most brief of introductions to each song by our guide. The first half of the show consisted of songs from his Beach Boy and solo career, a span of almost fifty years! Some of the songs were the expected big hits- Surfer Girl, Good Vibrations, Wouldn’t It Be Nice and God Only Knows. Several songs were less famous but equally well performed… my fav of those being Please Let Me Wonder. I’m a sucker for vocal harmonies- reason enough to enjoy this concert. And I especially love it when the instruments are pulled back (as in this one) and you hear the vocals alone.
Whether Heroes and Villians or Add Some Music, the blending of voices is the centrepiece of show. That said, the musicianship of the band (eleven plus a five-person string ensemble for portions of the show) is not restricted to vocals. Playing everything from banjo to French horn to saxophone, from theremin to flute to harmonica… with two percussionists, two keyboard players and three (at times four) guitarists, each song has a depth that these video clips (some probably pirated) can’t replicate. In fact, at many points I thought the sound was far richer than the studio versions we all know. Perhaps why Paul McCartney has dubbed Wilson’s band “the best touring band in the world”.
So, let’s move past intermission… the second half of the show (actually second third… to be explained) was a trip through his newest album (the entire album)- his interpretations of the music of George Gershwin. Now if you are a fan of Gershwin and of Wilson, you’ll be in for a treat on this tour. Of course the audience (we staid Canadians) was slow to get to its feet (except for a standing O for God Only Knows and a few brave souls shaking to Dance, Dance, Dance) but when the official show ended the audience rose and clapped the band into an encore performance which, in the end, amounted to another half show (or third… you do the fractional stuff). Most of the audience stood, clapped and danced through this final section of movers like Surfin’ USA and Barbara Ann. Brian ended it all on a reflective note with his Love and Mercy (minus the choir you hear in this performance).
Now I could go on about Brian’s troubled past and his eccentric personality. I’ve read the books and articles. I’ve seen him in his bathrobe on stage (at the CNE ‘way back when). What mattered last night was that I heard one of the best (arguably the best, still ruminating on that one) live demonstrations of the popular music genre (musically if not lyrically) in my experience- and that list includes Dylan, Cohen, JT and Van Morrison. As one audience member was overheard to say- “Now I’m going to have all those songs going through my head for the next few days… but that’s not a bad thing!” Not bad indeed.
p.s. If interested to learn more, drop by BrianWilson.com. There’s lots about him, his band, his tour and such to be discovered there.
p.s.s.(t) Read in the paper that Brian celebrates his birthday (69th) today (June 20th). HB, Brian. And, by the way, for BB purists, here’s a nice sample of that original BB harmony…