Brian Wilson, The Point Depot, Dublin, 1st February 2002
The audience here could be divided into two distinct categories: Middle aged couples who came to hear the great man playing 'Surfin' USA', and Trendy Young Things who, upon hearing "Pet Sounds", realised that all other contemporary pop is heavily derived from it. As it turned out, both camps left feeling that the rather hefty ticket price was more or less justified.
Brian Wilson cuts a strange figure onstage. Equal parts nutty professor and conductor in polka dot, he sits behind a Yamaha which rather than playing (most of the time), he waves his arms about. Sometimes, he makes gestures that go with the lyrics, sometimes raises his arms in the air. Given the unfortunate choice of The Point as a venue (for any concert), us people sitting towards the back were unable to see his face; a pity, because I'd love to have known if he was smiling or simply blank though out.
While he sounds the same as in 1964 with his chirpy "thank you so much" at the end of each song, it feels like the voice doesn't go with the face. And given the nature of his life, beatings from his father, genius he couldn't physically cope with, drug addiction, social phobias and death of his beloved brothers (he dedicates a song to both Carl and Dennis tonight), this man is far from happy. Still, he knows about entertainment and even attempts humour on a few occasions. Surrounded by a 10- piece band who replicate the distinctive Beach Boys sound perfectly, Wilson seems content.
The first part of show is the least crowd- pleasing. Here, he takes the opportunity to play lots of later solo material and, while some of this is decent, most of it pales in comparison to the body of work he wrote before he turned 24. Still, there are some good moments thrown in. A low key 'In my Room' sounds exquisite and he does 'California Girls' to liven things up. But it's only after the interval that this show really becomes something special.
In an unorthodox fashion, he proceeds to play the entire "Pet Sounds" album from the opening strains of 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' to the chugging train which draws it to a close. It's a brave thing to do: Before this tour, many of these songs hadn't ever been performed live, mostly because of the album's commercial failure and the fact that the other Beach Boys hated it. As well as that, it's many people's favourite album and therefore expectations are high.
But Wilson doesn't disappoint. Not only do he and his group perform each song perfectly, they give it something extra. Many of the tunes have been rearranged such as the title instrumental, which he accidentally introduces as a pretty little song; here it sounds much fuller than the album version with saxophones and electric guitars belting out. Hell, it practically rocks.
'Sloop John B', a song I've never particularly liked, sounds great live and all the more because you know what's coming next. The Beach Boys often introduced it with the same intro: "Y'know, this was the first song ever to have the word God in the title." He added that it was Paul McCartney's favourite song. It's a lot of people's favourite song. With its layers of sublime harmony, intricate construction and honest lyrics, the only imperfection with 'God Only Knows' is that it's much too short. It gets the biggest applause of the night. Pockets of people are springing up around the audience clapping in the air (remember Irish audiences don't stand up easily). You can almost hear them silently thanking him for writing this spiritual, spine-tingling masterpiece. If Wilson is humbled by this, he doesn't show it.
'Here Today' sounds fantastic with its stomping, brass-led refrain: "Keep in mind love is here/today and it's gone/tomorrow is here and gone so fast," while the more tender 'Caroline No' and fiercely autobiographical 'I Just Wasn't Made For These Times' display vulnerability in their creator. It doesn't matter how many times you've listened to "Pet Sounds"; Friday night felt like 1966 and the first unveiling of something that would change pop music forever.
The remainder of the night was especially for the Best Of faction. The hits came back to back: 'Fun Fun Fun', 'Surfin USA', 'Help Me Rhona' (more than a nod towards his once nemesis/idol Phil Spector), 'I Get Around', 'Good Vibrations'-surely one of the greatest songs ever written. Wilson tossed these off effortlessly and one must wonder how this makes him feel now that he's afflicted with writer's block.
The Godfather of Pop turns sixty this year, yet most of his fans are in their twenties and thirties. That says it all.