Saturday, September 06, 2008

That Lucky Old Sun


Brian Wilson, in concert, 2007

It's true - I was among the greying but enthusiastic multitudes wearing Hawaiian shirts at last night's Brian Wilson show at Oakland's historic Paramount Theatre, and damn proud of it! I sat in the second row right, jumped up and down, yayed, yelled and whooped loud enough that Brian and his bandmates could definitely hear me.

Yes, it's no accident that I did not become a music critic.



This may have been the best Brian Wilson Band performance, start-to-finish, I've had the pleasure to hear. It was easily the hardest rocking version of a Brian Wilson or Beach Boys band I have heard. There was no filler in the opening set of BB evergreens, performed with a passion and exuberance that breathed vibrant new life into the classic 60's chestnuts. As is his custom, Brian has surrounded himself with talented vocalists, including soprano Taylor Mills, 'CEO of falsetto' Jeffrey Foskett, Scott Bennett and all of the superb L.A. band The Wondermints, who nail those "Four Freshman" harmonies as if they're the proverbial piece o' cake.



My favorite part of the show was the performance of the new album, That Lucky Old Sun (written by Brian, Scott Bennett and Van Dyke Parks) in its entirety.





Part homage to 1950's and 1960's Southern California, part candid autobiography, it's short, sweet and offers that unique blend of happy power pop with poignant, moving interludes. A string section joined the band and, as the cellos and violins do on Pet Sounds and Smile, added yet more gorgeous layers of harmonies to the mix. Here's a short piece about the album, which for me provides a valuable balancing antidote to the snotty cynic within:



Nothing if not brave, Brian directly addresses the personal problems he has survived in sections of That Lucky Old Sun - and relates them to the human experience we all share.
Since I'm a (shudder) 'sensitive guy', this aspect of Brian's music gets me, every time. Alas, the struggle and emergence into the light from a long dark night of the soul is rarely a topic for pop songwriting, especially in the current environment that treats an awful lot of music as a consumer product like french fries or Funyuns, to be marketed primarily to those under 18 years of age.

In short, great show! It rocked the house and, in those reflective passages, achieved something virtually no one other than George Gershwin, Louis Armstrong, Lester Young and Duke Ellington can for me - elicited the good tears.

Thanks, Brian and band - hope to see ya on your next swing through these parts.

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