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Brian Wilson Brings Pet Sounds In The Round at Phoenix’s Celebrity Theatre (SHOW REVIEW)

There aren’t many left of them thats for sure. That being artists like Brian Wilson; those who have suffered numerous close calls but still manage to persevere. With the recent passing of Gregg Allman it leaves a few remaining original rock icons including the last living Beach Boys member whose last name is Wilson.

When it was announced in 2016 that Brian Wilson would be performing a very lengthy 50th Anniversary Pet Sounds tour, one had to imagine how he would make it to the end of the tour? Then how about adding another year to the route and it’s becoming a never ending Pet Sounds tour of its own. Credit due goes to the top notch eleven piece band Wilson has had behind him for the better part of the past 13 years.

Widely considered amongst the top five albums of all time, Pet Sounds is a pop symphony to the highest degree and signified Wilson’s ability to channel the music in his head to a realized opus. The album steered away from the typical cars, girls and surfing themes of earlier Beach Boys songs and to the chagrin of his cousin and then bandmate Mike Love, explored pastoral themes of detaching your ego and adolescence isolation. In turn, the artistic leap started a split in the Beach Boys camps that has lasted to this day with Love favoring the beach and cars side of the band.

Love still owns and tours under the Beach Boys name and even most recently nabbed “vice principal” Jeff Foskett from Wilson’s touring ensemble. But Wilson has his own weapons including fellow Beach Boy original Al Jardine, short lived Beach Boy member Blondie Chaplin and Jardine’s son Matt on vocals.
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Saying the 74 years old Wilson looked good and sounded good would be stretching it. But if anyone deserves a free pass then it’s this guy. With the ailments that Wilson faces every day including the voices in his head; the gift of music he’s given the past 55 years far outweighs any flubs in his live presentation.

His keyboard playing is inaudible in the mix and his vocals are given a spotter on each note. But yes, we are just glad he’s here. As with every other show on the Pet Sounds tour, the shows were composed of two lengthy sets and a generous encore.

The first set at the in the round Celebrity Theater on May 22nd was a mixed bag of early Beach Boys material that ran the gamut from pedestrian to energetic.While Wilson’s lead vocals were t lethargic on “California Girls,” “I Get Around” and “Surfer Girl,” Al Jardine delivered on “Help Me. Rhonda” and “Little Deuce Coop” with the nostalgic flavor of oldies radio. But it was Jardine’s son Matt that power housed the first set holding down the high “Beach Boys’ harmonies on almost every song including “Don’t Worry Baby.”

Blondie Chaplin sparked the end of the first set with some guitar heroics as “Feel Flows” and “Wild Honey” both featured squalling leads, as he later meandered into the crowd to play rock star. While his presence doesn’t make total sense, since he only appeared on a handful of the evening’s songs, the South African’s small contributions were quality over quantity. “Now it’s time for your Pet Sounds album,” said Wilson very matter of factly after the quick intermission ended.

While the first set was crowded with too many musicians, everyone on stage made sense during Pet Sounds. From Gary Griffin and Darian Sahanaja’s keyboards and sound manipulations to Nelson Bragg’s spot on percussion work to Probyn Gregory’s theremin, each member gave the original Wrecking Crew band a run for its talents. Band leader Paul Von Mertens held down the revolving stage with his horns and overall delightful stage demeanor. While Wilson could have turned many of the lead vocals over to Matt Jardine, he still took on some of the most meaningful Pet Sounds songs including “God Only Knows” that his late brother Carl originally sang. “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” got the Wilson talk singing treatment, though although far from perfect carried a melancholy significance.

Al Jardine crushed “Sloop John “while Matt’s vocals let “I know There’s An Answer” and “Caroline, No” soar. The instrumentals “Let’s Go Away for Awhile” and “Pet Sounds” were the evening’s most compelling as they played right out of a 1966 James Bond exotica soundtrack. As Wilson was led off the stage following a touching “Love and Mercy” as the encore closer to the last of five standing ovations, the pink elephant is always this is probably one’s final time seeing Brian Wilson.

If so, Pets Sounds speaks forever of the legacy of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys – more so than California Girls and Little Hondas.

Brian Wilson Setlist Celebrity Theatre, Phoenix, AZ, USA 2017, Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary World Tour: With Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin

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