Another post on a music giant who is very much alive despite what one could have guessed thirty or forty years ago. I had already wrote something on the movie “Love and Mercy” released in 2015 and about two phases in the life of the leader of The Beach Boys but 2016 has also been rich in Brian Wilson’s events.
- Brian Wilson present Pet Sounds, London Palladium, 20th May 2016
I had fantastic memories of the way Brian Wilson and his great band of (mainly) youngsters played live his doomed SMiLE masterpiece in March 2004 and did not want to miss the same concept for The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds”. There are three categories of people in life: those who have never heard about The Beach Boys (no, they do not live in a cave and I have a few of them in my family), those who know a few tracks and consider this is a minor band singing about surf and nice pop songs… and the others who know that digging into The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson’s records is a never-ending reward, especially the period going from 1965 to 1975. “Pet Sounds” is by no way an obscure or underground record as it is regularly ranked amongst the best records of all times by magazines or websites, the most recent being for instance Uncut 200 best records of all times late 2015. This is for sure very personal but really if you love music, you must buy (buy, not stream) this record and at least give it a try.
Having said that, how was the 74-old man doing on stage when one is aware about his life and the constant fights he had against mental illness. Well, if one were to concentrate solely on Brian Wilson, the show would definitely be weird as he does not sing as beautifully as he used to do and as he stays sat down the whole show pretending to play his keyboard once in a while. However, when one looks at the overall picture and the excellence of the band in playing with beauty and fidelity these immense songs, one can only agree that it was a fantastic show. I must say that this is the feedback I had from our prestigious guests from New York, NY who traveled over the Atlantic to experience this show and were delighted.
The band was amazing, first because they played all these traditional but also weird instruments with grace but also because there were two former Beach Boys, namely the legendary Al Jardine but also the amazing South African Blondie Chaplin who played as much in his career with the Beach Boys as with the Rolling Stones…and Brian Wilson was there also with a good presence, introducing his beautiful songs with a mix a humility and naivety (“I was very happy to use a bike bell on that song”). A special reward for Al Jardine’s son Matthew for the way he backed up Brian Wilson and sang the high-pitched voices’ parts. The setlist was tremendous as on top of playing Pet Sounds in its entirety the band also played lots of great other Beach Boys tracks.
- “I am Brian Wilson” written with Ben Greenman
Interviews of Brian Wilson are often a burden for journalists as he rarely says things out of pure material ones, such as “Paul McCartney really liked “God Only Knows”” or “I have a good band and am very happy to play in London” …but who cares to be honest? Having Brian Wilson alive with us today is quite a miracle when one thinks about all his life and his struggles with mental illness and poor health. This is why I was not expecting anything from this book…and I was wrong.
All credit goes to Ben Greenman who succeeded in having Brian Wilson talk simply and openly about everything with no taboo at all and with method and order. I had already read his collaboration with Questlove of the Roots called “Mo’ Meta Blues” and I must say he did again an excellent job with Brian Wilson. For those who saw the movie, you will learn more about the other periods of Brian’s life but also got directly to the source regarding the main events described in the film. For others not that familiar with him, you will discover the life of a man who managed (with a little help from his friends) to get over the voices in his head and build a career and a family. Of course, the style is a bit childish sometimes (Brian likes to describe his food!) and very far from Bruce Springsteen’s style in his biography “Born to Run” but once again this is not what is essential here. On my side, I finally learnt the real reason behind Brian Wilson being deaf from the right ear and can only thank him for all the joy his “working” left ear brought to people like me.