Young, Alan Hardy, Mary Payne
and Chris Payne review this landmark concert!
It really was the most wonderful evening. I'm sure everyone who saw the show will savour the memory for the rest of their lives. Brian didn't put a foot wrong and the whole concert was immaculate. I don't think I've ever seen such adulation and reverence directed at a performer, it was quite remarkable. It must have been a first for an artist to perform an entire album (Pet Sounds) on stage, sticking to the original running order throughout. Here Today was the highlight of many highlights for me. Don't Worry Baby was an omission on the night I attended, but apparently Brian had included this tune in his first show on Monday. I read a review in 'The Times' that said he'd been struggling to reach the high notes on this number, so maybe he'd read this and taken it to heart. Shame!
I wish I could have gone again.
Brian Wilson performing live was something I'd never thought I'd see. He gave up performing regularly with the Beach Boys before he'd even recorded Pet Sounds. After that, his much-documented personal problems throughout the late sixties through to the mid-eighties made it difficult to contemplate how his creativity could ever see the light of day again. Even ten years ago, there was doubt over his capabilities.
Then, in 1999 Brian started performing in public again. In April 2000 he recorded a concert in Los Angeles (now released in the UK, Live At The Roxy Theatre) and began touring. There was a rumour that he would be coming to Europe. Two years later, he arrived! He'd embarked on a short European tour, playing four nights in London his first solo performance ever in the UK. I'd heard the Roxy CD and was pleasantly surprised, even though Brian wasn't always note perfect. But what would his show at the Royal Festival Hall be like? How would he come across on stage? How close to his records would the music be?
Newspaper reviews of the first night suggested good things. But I didn't read them, wanting to take in the experience in whatever form it came.
The show was one of the best I had ever seen. Yes, the Royal Festival Hall was packed to the gunwales with 3,000 adoring fans, many of them giving a standing ovation to every song; but I have rarely experienced a concert where the complete audience applauded, roared, cheered and thoroughly enjoyed a show from beginning to end. Brian had no support act, performing two 70-minute sets with his own 10-piece band. The band and vocalists (the Wondermints) have been with him touring for the last two years - and it showed. They were immaculate. (It was also great to see Brian's long time supporter, co-writer and co-producer Andy Paley on percussion.) I reckon Brian's show now is better than having seen the Beach Boys in their heyday. Of course, Carl's no longer around for the lead vocals, but other than that, the harmonies were so good, it could have been the original band! Keyboards and top-flight musicians allow 'live' reproduction of what he worked so hard to create in the studio and Brian now has the faculties to ensure a tight and professional show.
I slightly preferred the first half, covering familiar Beach Boy favourites like Do It Again and a superb California Girls, but pleasingly he included lesser-known hits like a superb version of Friends, album tracks such as the lovely Forever and some songs from his two solo albums, like Your Imagination and Lay Down Burden.
The second half was an experience in itself - the full Pet Sounds album, followed by Good Vibrations and ending with a rocking selection of 'early greats' including Help Me Rhonda, Fun Fun Fun, Surfin' USA, Barbara-Ann and more. The show ended with Brian's anthem from his first solo album Love and Mercy. My highlights? An astounding version of Heroes and Villains followed by Surf's Up, Friends and a cracking rendition of the Pet Sounds instrumental track. Oddly, I personally felt that God Only Knows was one of the least-well performed. But it's virtually impossible to choose.
No one could have
asked for more, or better, or be more pleasantly surprised! Brian's back! Congratulations.
Chris and I have seen the Beach Boys perform twice in England without Brian, of course. The first was in 1975, when they stole the show from Elton John at Wembley. The second was the Capital Knebworth concert in the early Eighties, where they imparted the sad impression that the Beach Boys were 'past it'.
Now we have Brian Wilson, the survivor against all odds, using a different set of musicians to bring his incredible harmonies to life in a way that the Beach Boys apparently failed to do without his input.
If Brian ever had any doubts concerning his popularity in Europe, they must surely have been dispelled the moment he stepped on stage at the Royal Festival Hall, to the grandest welcome I have ever witnessed. It was Beatlemania without the hysteria. The former Beach Boy seated himself behind a keyboard at front centre-stage emanating the essence of his musical magic to the others on the stage. Brian appeared touched, perhaps overwhelmed by the audience reaction to him and his harmonious creations. He said little and seldom played the instrument in front of him, which seemed as if it might have been there mainly in the role of security blanket.
The musicians and singers were superb, but a special mention should go to the individual responsible for the sound-mixing. It is sadly often forgotten that the sound engineer is as integral to the success of any concert as those on stage. We could see the man with the power to make or break a show, way below us, working away at his massive mixing desk.
I agree with Alan that it would be hard to pick a favourite song or a favourite performance. Caroline No? The Warmth of the Sun? Here Today? Friends? Good Vibrations? It was long believed that, with the length of complex studio recording and editing involved in creating Good Vibrations, the song would always be impossible to recreate live. Brian proved that it was perfectly feasible, my only disappointment being that he did not employ a real Theremin. The song I missed most? Everything that Brian had ever written would have been impossible to include, but I would have loved to have heard a live performance of In My Room.
Having sung in the Royal Festival Hall as a schoolboy, I can now proudly say that Brian Wilson and I have gigged in the same venue!
When he came on stage, after the initial applause (which it's no exaggeration to say lasted for several minutes) had died down, it wouldn't have mattered if Brian had started reading a Californian telephone directory out loud. I don't think I've ever attended a concert where the sheer emotion of being in the presence of someone you've admired for so many years was quite so overwhelming. Crowd emotion at its ultimate! I think each person there was someone who felt sadness and sympathy for Brian during what has been a very harrowing, and at times, desperate life. I'm sure that to appear on stage now is Brian's way of saying, "I'm back and thankyou for loving my music as much as I do."
As someone who is very interested in musical composition, there is no doubt in my mind that Brian Wilson is as talented a composer as any of the classical greats. Followers of popular music are entitled to have their heroes elevated to such heights, and Brian is definitely up there. His distinctive sound and chord structure was reputed to be ahead of its time in the sixties. Being ahead of his time was at the root of some of Brian's problems. Hearing it now, confirms to me that there is nothing in his music that sounds particularly 'old' or even rooted in our childhood. It most definitely stands the test of time. Children of the sixties have now heard so many types of music over their lives that, certainly for me at least, the earliest musical favourites are being rediscovered and listened-to with a different 'ear'. Taking time to listen just slightly closer to old Beach Boys material is quite an experience!
Kenny Everett was an enormous fan of the Beach Boys. He would have loved the concert to bits, and would have said, "Fabaroony!!" I like to think that he did.
Steve Garlick from Grocer Boy to Beach Boy?
PY, Alan and Mary.
Offshore enthusiasts waiting for 'Sail On Sailor'.
described the January 29th Brian Wilson concert as 'the best ever', Chris, Alan
Hardy, Peter Young and I hardly expected to be attending an even better one
by the man, less than six months later.
The reason for the improvement is perhaps best summed up by paraphrasing a comment made by Tony Rivers:
In January, the fans didn't know what to expect from Brian, and he had no idea what reception he would receive from a British audience. This time both parties knew what was in store, and the atmosphere was much more relaxed. Brian too, was clearly more at home, and was able to enjoy a greater repartee with his audience.
The event was not a sell-out this time, but this was probably a reflection of the elevated ticket prices, perhaps exacerbated by the shortness of the time-gap since the January concert. Thanks to Alan, we had great seats in the middle of the front row of the balcony.
Brian had clearly been studying the above Radio London website reviews, as he ensured that the set featured In My Room and Don't Worry Baby - missing from the January concert. When the time arrived to play the Pet Sounds album, Brian introduced a surprise guest. The audience was surprised and pleased to discover that his co-writer, Tony Asher, was seated amongst them.
Thanks to Brian for another wonderful evening, which prompted Roger Day to send a knee-mail to everyone in the world, proclaiming, "Brian Wilson is God!"
Brian's live performances have been captured on DVD. Click on the photos of the sleeves for full purchasing info from Amazon
'Brian Wilson Performs Pet Sounds Live in London' is a Fourteen-track DVD recording of one of his Royal Festival Hall performances. It incorporates extras:
Pet Stories the ultimate inside look at the making of the original album, through new interviews with Brian, lyricist Tony Asher and others.
Brian Wilson Discography complete details on every release in Brian Wilson's solo career.
Pet Sounds Live Photo Gallery - a collection of photographs of Brian and the band taken during the production of this DVD.
'Brian Wilson Performs Pet Sounds Live ' (bottom left) is a Sixteen-track Japanese import DVD, with tracks differing from those on 'Live in London'
'Brian Wilson On Tour' is a 24-track DVD following Brian through the U.S. and Japan on his first-ever solo tour, with guest appearances including Roger Daltrey and Ronnie Spector
'Brian Wilson Live at the Roxy Theatre' (right) is a thirty-track audio DVD.
Photos are © Chris Payne