Brian Wilson – Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith – 01.08.17
When Brian Wilson visited London’s Palladium last year it was part of the last tour where he’d play Pet Sounds in its entirety. He didn’t say when the tour would end though.
The show returned to London last week, with Brian’s band in tow, including billed former Beach Boys Al Jardine (an original member) and Blondie Chaplin (a later addition, and former Rolling Stone too), as well as 9 other musicians, most notably Al’s son Matt Jardine. It cannot be ignored that the drummer bears more than a passing resemblance to Paul Dano as Brian in Love & Mercy. (And the biopic clearly accepted by the team, as it’s mentioed during the set.) Having continued to tour the world with a set spanning Brian’s career (mainly the Beach Boy years), a recent headline slot at Camp Bestival and invitation to play Glastonbury’s annual Abbey Extravaganza meant that more UK dates had to be added.
A mixed bag of tracks open the show, and it’s immediately noticeable that there is attention to detail here, with bike bells and car horns in place, and even a live fade. (A LIVE FADE!) The musicians break the fourth wall of sound, delivering a record-production stalwart in all its live glory, with precision and passion, headed up by Brian, who stays seated behind a baby grand piano throughout the evening, but addresses the audience – who are more than dedicated. Regardless of age or class, when Brian asks “How loud can the boys/girls scream?” the sexes try to outdo one another like Beliebers. These are, after all, the original heirs of pop hysteria. They are Beachlievers. Or, perhaps, Brirectioners.
A surprising high comes from Blondie Chaplin’s time to shine on lesser known numbers Sail On, Sailor and Wild Honey. Looking like a perfect hybrid of Jagger and Richards, and presumably having known a similar diet, he only appears on stage when he’s needed (sometimes when he decides the crowd should be clapping along, sometimes to play the tambourine as if it’s the most important element of the track – like a child with no rhythm during the school recital… Except with rhythm). As the rest of the band provide pitch perfect Beach Boy backing, he growls the lyrics and struts in between, stretching both numbers out and giving the set some edge by doing so. The show doesn’t need it, but it’s a reminder of the diversity The Beach Boys’ back catalogue has for anyone wanting to dig a little deeper.
As promised, Pet Sounds is played in full, and with the band meticulously reproducing the instrumentation, the only difference from the original is Brian’s voice; naturally older, and weathered by a life that’s known more than love and mercy. Therein lies a question many music fans will debate, however; do you see an artist live for the sound quality, or the authenticity? This band could tour without Brian, with Matt delivering God Only Knows at 99% accuracy, but to hear those lyrics delivered by the man who wrote them over half a century ago, and painstakingly ensuring the song sounds as it did inside his head when it first appeared there, is a moment to remember.
It’s likely that this extra run of dates was the actual, final time to hear Pet Sounds live, but hopefully it’s not the last time Brian and his band of brothers grab their percussion and their velvet drapes (the show screams “good old fashioned fun”), and bring the Beach Boys‘ sunshine sounds to the currently, frankly miserable UK.
Photo: Robert Gershinson