You Can Still Believe In Pet Sounds and Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson's 50th anniversary tour behind Pet Sounds celebrates a musical landmark and the driving force behind it.
Brian Wilson's 50th anniversary tour behind Pet Sounds celebrates a musical landmark and the driving force behind it.
Photo by Violeta Alvarez

Brian Wilson
Revention Music Center
May 12, 2017

Pet Sounds, like its architect Brian Wilson, has been around. It will always be around. As long as there are people who enjoy music, there will be people whose brains are temporarily broken as the first few seconds of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” wash over them and they start to realize that The Beach Boys were more than songs about cars and surfing. Entire books are dedicated to it, but even now it feels like entire books could be written about individual moments of the album: the vocal melody at the end of “You Still Believe in Me”; the French Horn in “God Only Knows”; the line “I once had a dream so I packed up and split for the city.”

This tour centered around the 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds isn’t a victory lap or a triumph; it is simply a celebration of a musical landmark and the driving force behind it. Brian Wilson turns 75 next month, and these shows are the final times he’s playing the record front to back. If this is his final tour altogether, it would not exactly be a surprise.

One can’t ignore that Brian Wilson, for better or worse, looks and sounds his age. While it never feels like he’s phoning in any of his performance, many of the songs where he’s the lead vocalist become more spoken-word than singalong. It works, largely because the base songs are so well-written; “Don’t Cry (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)” is a stunner no matter how the vocals are delivered.

If Al Jardine (near right) has lost a step, he hides it well.
If Al Jardine (near right) has lost a step, he hides it well.
Photo by Violeta Alvarez

If fellow Beach Boy Al Jardine has lost a step, he’s hiding it well. With a killer grin and a voice that still manages to find the excitement behind “Help Me, Rhonda,” Jardine was a charmer all night. Former Beach Boy and occasional Rolling Stones backup player Blondie Chaplin was the free spirit of the night. Whether he was banging a tambourine against his chest or strutting the stage as he shredded on “Wild Honey” and “Sail On, Sailor,” you couldn’t pull your eyes away from him. His presence added some needed energy to the end of set one.

Beyond Pet Sounds, Wilson and company nailed the Beach Boys favorites at the end and beginning of the show. The band was more than capable of pulling off the harmonies, with Matt Jardine in particular standing out as the one nailing for the high parts that make so many of those early tracks memorable.

The Revention crowd was all smiles when the band broke into "Help Me Rhonda."
The Revention crowd was all smiles when the band broke into "Help Me Rhonda."
Photo by Violeta Alvarez

There are those out there in other cities who have written about how sad they thought this tour was. While I certainly don’t think Brian Wilson, especially in 2017, is incapable of a bad show and I understand where other reviews are coming from, on this night at least I didn’t see it. Yes, his strongest days as a performer are behind him, and yes his banter is more great-grandfather than rock icon, but none of this is a surprise to anyone taking a seat to see him.

What I’m saying is this: any night you get to hear Brian Wilson and Al Jardine sing “God Only Knows” — which got a legit standing ovation from the crowd — is a good one. There will never be anything sad about that, if for no other reason than we’re alive and living in a world where that song exists. Some things are eternal. Pet Sounds is one of them.

Wilson and company nailed the Beach Boys favorites at the end and beginning of the show.
Wilson and company nailed the Beach Boys favorites at the end and beginning of the show.
Photo by Violeta Alvarez

Personal Bias: While my respect for Brian Wilson is endless, Dennis Wilson is my favorite Beach Boy. Go listen to Pacific Ocean Blue. Make time to watch Two-Lane Blacktop.

The Crowd: They may not have been quite as loud as, say, a crowd for Bring Me the Horizon or Coheed and Cambria, but the passion and smiles as they belted out “Help Me, Rhonda” was a joy to watch.

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Overheard In the Crowd: “I’m coming, this door is just hard to open,” said the tiny voice. He has a point: the restroom doors at Revention might look nice but they aren’t the most user-friendly.

Random Notebook Dump: Is there a better song that is more out of place on the record that it appears than “Sloop John B”?


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