My wife and I had missed Brian Wilson at Levitation Austin last year when the entire festival (and thus his performance) was cancelled due to bad weather. I learned he and his band were touring the world and performing many Beach Boys tracks as well as all of their masterpiece, Pet Sounds. I was determined to catch this tour and to hear such an important record played by the man who wrote it. Luckily for me, Mr. Wilson brought his show to a theatre less than an hour’s drive from my house.
He had a killer backing band that included one of the founding Beach Boys – Al Jardine – and another Beach Boys guitarist – Blondie Chapman, and they opened with the the classic “California Girls.”
Other treats included Wilson having a fun time singing “I Get Around,” a lovely rendition of “In My Room,” and Al Jardine’s son doing a great job on the vocals for “Don’t Worry, Baby.”
The highlight of the night, of course, was hearing Pet Sounds played from beginning to end. I’d been humming “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” all day leading up to the show and the band nailed it right out of the gate to open the second half. “Sloop John B” was a crowd favorite, and I forgot about the two fine instrumentals on the record.
Wilson got a standing ovation for “God Only Knows,” and “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” seems rather relevant today. The encore started with “Good Vibrations.” When Wilson asked, “Did you come here for bad vibrations?” I briefly hoped the Black Angels would come on stage, but it was fun to hear the best psych-surf ever written live.
Other hits like “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” and “Surfin’ USA” followed, but Wilson ended the show, which he dedicated to his wife (It was her birthday that day.), the victims of the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay shooting, and Tom Petty, with the heartfelt “Love and Mercy.”
It was a lovely, fun show. Wilson’s songs are so ingrained into American culture that you can sometimes forget how good and fun they are. See this tour if you get the chance. Wilson is getting up there in age, and sometimes needed a steadying hand to walk him to his piano. He’s claimed this is the final time he’ll perform Pet Sounds, so don’t wait.
Keep your mind open.