Monday, September 25, 2017

Brian Wilson Makes 'Pet Sounds' at Radio City Music Hall

As mentioned, I went to see Brian Wilson perform the Beach Boys' classic 1966 album, "Pet Sounds," in its entirety Saturday night at Radio City Music Hall. My friend Lynn and I arrived right at show time -- 8 o'clock -- and Brian & Friends (including band co-founder Al Jardine!) wasted no time coming out and breaking into a raucous "California Girls" at 8:05 p.m. (This was the early-bird-special crowd, after all!) 

All I really have to say about the show is that it was fun-fun-fun! Brian cannot really sing anymore -- he's 75 and sounds like he's had a stroke, so just kind of talks his way through his parts, never getting up from his piano (that may or may not actually be working). But live performances of Beach Boys songs never really relied on the troubled musical genius who composed them. In fact, he stopped touring with the band in its heyday, after his first breakdown in 1965. Instead, Al Jardine -- who's also 75 -- sang like a day hadn't gone by since they were going to Surf City. Dennis Wilson died in 1998, so to help with the high notes, Al's son (Matt Jardine) filled in, bringing all of the same joy and enthusiasm to the band's classic material.

The first set was an hour of greatest hits -- and great they were. ("Don't Worry Baby" was a favorite for me.) Because they are also promoting an album of 1967 outtakes, they performed "Darlin'" and the title track from which its culled, "Wild Honey," which were minor hits that might actually be two of their finest. After a short intermission, the band returned to perform the famed "Pet Sounds," the album so good it inspired the Beatles(!) to do better, leading to their "Revolver" masterpiece. And if you don't already know it, "Pet Sounds" is the LP with "Wouldn't It Be Nice" (the most perfect single of all time?), "Sloop John B," "Caroline, No" and "God Only Knows." ("Here, There and Everywhere" was the Beatles' answer to the latter.) It also contains the nine lushest and most beautiful album tracks you'll ever hear. 

As these photos hint, however, the biggest issue we had at the concert -- and of course it had to be a doozy -- was that a male-female couple seated a few rows in front of us intermittently decided to stand during the concert, which because people don't know how to act in society anymore led to unnecessary unpleasantness. The guy directly in front of me politely asked them if they would please sit down, to which the man suggested the "complainer" stand up instead -- you know, why shouldn't 6,013 people (of a certain age) inconvenience themselves to accommodate two? -- while he girlfriend flipped him off. Further attempts at politeness led to more screaming. ("Fuck you. I paid as much for my seat [that I'm not using] as you paid for yours!") 

And the kicker? The entire audience stood up during the encore -- the one-two-three-four-five punch of "Good Vibrations," "Help Me, Rhonda," "Barbara Ann," "Surfin' U.S.A." and "Fun, Fun, Fun" was just too much for even people with walkers to stay seated. So what did this rude couple do? THAT's when they decided to move out of everyone's way and into the aisle, so they could full-on (swing?) dance, which disturbed no one. (I'm not even going to bring up the fact that a guy behind me sang LOUDER than the people on the stage -- when he wasn't talking nonstop -- or that his friend was kicking my chair the entire night.) The older woman on my right told me she was glad she was "on her way out" because society as she knew it was "over." (Everyone now thinks the world is their living room, I concurred.) I told her I wanted to come with her, because as Brian puts it so eloquently, I guess I just wasn't made for these times, either.

Usually "final" means it will be back again. But I got the feeling this one was for real. So catch him while you can.

With my old New York Times colleague Lynn

My favorite Brian Wilson story: Daughter Carnie, who says she didn't have much of a relationship with Brian because of his mental illness, drug use, work schedule and Eugene Landy, remembers being a little girl and running into Dad in the kitchen in the middle of the night when they were both looking for a snack. She chose Raisin Bran, which Dad explained to her tasted so much better when you used half and half instead of milk. 

Full set list HERE.

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