June 26, 2015
With Brian Wilson’s life story currently in movie theaters, it would have made sense for his recent solo tour to stick to the tried and true hits. Instead, Brian and his band played the most diverse career-spanning set I’ve ever seen him perform. Throw in generous vocal support from fellow Beach Boy alums Alan Jardine and Blondie Chaplin, and the evening was a treat for both casual, and deep-cut fans alike.
Searching For Sugar Man star Rodriguez opened with the show with a surprsing amount of covers with his own material. Everything from Sinatra standards like “Nice & Easy”, to songs like “I only Have Eyes For You” that others have covered for more than 80 years. Rodriguez did a good job of making each song his own, and the crowd enjoyed it. The spontaneous audience clapping along to the Peggy Lee song “Fever” indicated how much Rodriguez connected with the audience, whether they knew his backstory, or not.
Brian Wilson has come a long way as a frontman during his recent tours. That being said, there are still times when he gets lost while looking at his teleprompter, or his mind occasionally drifts. It adds an element of unpredictability that you are often aware of as you watch Brian perform. Thankfully, Brian is also aware that his band is the real star of the show, nailing the sound and feel of his songs. And the list of those songs on this night was a revelation, all by itself.
Many of the greatest hits of the Beach Boys? Yes, but let’s also add several songs from Smile, including “Surf’s Up”, "Our Prayer” (the show opener), and “Heroes And Villians”. “Cotton Fields”, sung by Al Jardine, with assistance by son Matt Jardine. “She Knows Me Too Well”. Heck, two songs from Friends (“Busy Doin’ Nothing” and “Wake The World”) were also heard on this night. Four songs from Brian’s new album No Pier Pressure also went over well with the audience.
One of the highlights of the night was the appearance of Blondie Chaplin, who’s time in the Beach Boys during the early 1970s added a different dimension to their sound. Hearing his vocals on “Sail On Sailor” was something that many in the crowd had been looking forward to hear. Another treat was seeing and hearing Chaplin let loose on another Beach Boys chestnut, “Wild Honey”.
While some will always lament that Brian Wilson and longtime Beach Boys frontman Mike Love are touring again as separate entities, I look at it as a way for both to tour as they wish, and present the music as they wish. Brian Wilson’s show, on this night, served again as a reminder of how much great music has emerged from Wilson, and the Beach Boys.