Gig review by Zak Edwards with Photography by Bianca Barrett

Brian Wilson

It was the majestic surround of Birmingham’s Symphony Hall and the pure majesty of a certain Mr Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame celebrating the 50 year anniversary of ground breaking album Pet Sounds that awaited us last night and to say there was a palpable excitement by all inside the impressive arena – many of whom were clad in Hawaiian Shirts and floral Leis in honour of the great man.

Brian Wilson

Originally released on May 16th 1966, Pet Sounds, is universally hailed as one of the greatest albums of all time. Inspired by Rubber Soul by the Beatles, with whom Wilson had a constant game of one-upmanship in the 60s – the concept album was a far cry from the traditional Beach Boy sound. Arranged, written and composed almost entirely by Wilson who stayed at home whilst the rest of the band were on tour, its musical direction initially caused friction within the band and is often referred to as a Brian Wilson solo album. It’s one which combines symphonic arrangements intertwined with layer after layer of elaborate vocal harmonies alongside a myriad of weird and wonderful instruments and sound effects, including Coca-Cola cans, Barking dogs and the pheromone which is now synonymous with all things Beach Boys.

Brian Wilson

The influence of the album cannot be underestimated and over the last half century has inspired bands such as Fleet Foxes and Kraftwerk as well as even The Beatles themselves.

Brian Wilson

The band, all 11 of them, made their way on to the stage to offer musical, vocal and physical support to the not too nimble on his feet Wilson. As he ambled towards his piano, part of me and it appeared a large portion of the audience felt an immediate sense of compassion for their ‘fallen hero’ especially after reading reviews like this one. True, comparisons could be drawn with the Lion, once King of the Jungle and now nothing more than a play thing for visitors to poke fun at in a crummy zoo, but then part of me was like ‘f**k it’, he loves making music and performing and has dedicated his life to it – he’s probably having a blast! 

Joined on stage by original Beach Boy Al Jardine and his talented son Matt who was recruited to do all the falsetto bits that Brian can no longer reach, the guys kicked off proceedings as their own support band, playing loads of the old Beach Boy greats including California Girls and I Get Around as well as some of the less popular rock n roll numbers from their 70’s years which signalled the introduction of another one of the band members Blondie Chaplin.

Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson

Then after a short interval, it was the moment the fans had been waiting for, the iconic album Pet Sounds (which pretty much launched experimental pop as we know it today) played in its full wonderous glory. Once more it was sad to see Wilson being helped to his piano and often at ill ease throughout the performance, but it must be remembered that not only is he 73 but has also been through a shed load of shit in his life – including drug abuse, hearing hallucinogenic voices and a misdiagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia due to the malpractice of his psychologist come manager Eugene Landy.

Brian Wilson

Wouldn’t It Be Nice got the ball rolling and then the band moved from song to song at pedestrian pace as opposed to breakneck speed, which is as one would expect for an outfit whose average age had to be 70 or above.

Brian Wilson

A heartfelt rendition of God Only Knows was the obvious fans favourite earning a standing ovation and then before you could say surf board it was the encore including all the obligatory classics from Help me Rhonda, Barbara Ann the gargantuan Good Vibrations – Theremin and all.

Brian Wilson

The fact that Brian and the guys are a little past their sell by date mattered not a jot to the diehard fans in attendance. The mere knowledge that we were in the presence of a man which had written a multitude of ground-breaking songs was simply enough.

Brian Wilson

Leave a Reply