On paper, it seems like at odd pairing for a joint tour: Brian Wilson, Head Beach Boy and pop-music chronicler of sunny California life, with Jeff Beck, fiery and restless hard-rock English guitarist whose work helped lay the groundwork for heavy metal. Not to mention inspire Nigel Tufnel's haircut for This is Spinal Tap.
But according to Wilson and former Beach Boy Al Jardine -- who will be joining Wilson and his solo band, along with original Beach Boy David Marks, onstage for Wilson's current tour -- there's more common ground than many would imagine. The tandem tour comes to Houston tomorrow at Bayou Music Center.
"It is unusual, I have to admit," Jardine laughs. "I had questions as well! But after having met Jeff and then understanding his love for the Beach Boys catalogue -- in particular, the car songs -- it makes sense. He probably has the biggest collection of little Deuce Coupes in the world. Plus, he does his own restoration!"
In a separate interview, Wilson says he called Beck into the studio about four months ago to contribute to a solo record he's currently recording (actually, one of three current new studio projects, according to Rolling Stone).
"I remember that he played good guitar. He played on four of my songs, and blew my mind!" Wilson enthuses. "He can play anything on that guitar!"
The structure of the show will also allow plenty of time for both men to play together. After opening the show together, Wilson and his band will play Beach Boys classics and deeper cuts, followed by a set from Beck and his band with his best-known material and specially chosen covers, and concluding both headliners back on stage. Expect a car song or two or three.
Although if Wilson and Jardine had their druthers, they would still be in the midst of the Beach Boys' 50th anniversary tour. That hugely successful jaunt -- featuring nearly three-hour shows that reunited all surviving original or classic lineup members for 73 gigs around the world last year, including the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in June 2012 -- could have easily gone on.
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But Mike Love, who owns the rights to the band's name, booked later shows with his version of the group (which also includes Bruce Johnston). So far, he doesn't seem interested in extending the life of the reunion tour lineup, despite obvious commercial and artistic benefits.
And though publicists for Wilson and Jardine gently warn that they cannot answer questions about Love "due to pending litigation" (or, more accurately, the latest litigation among Wilson/Love/Jardine), Jardine opens up a bit on his own and unprodded.
"I kept telling everybody the [reunion tour] would happen, and it did," Jardine offers. "All the naysayers from Mike and Brian's camps got together, because it was such a great tour. But I was...disappointed... when Mike decided to pull up stakes and leave."
Interview continues on the next page.
But clearly buzzed by the experience, Wilson, Jardine, and Marks saw no reason not to continue the beach party.
"What's in a name?" Jardine asks. "It's the integrity of the music that matters."
Ironically, the Love/Johnston "Beach Boys" bring their versions of many of the same songs locally to Galveston's Grand 1894 Opera House five days after Wilson and Beck pass through, on October 6. But for Wilson, that tour -- like this one -- gives him a chance to dig a bit deeper into his expansive catalogue.
"We do all the classics like 'Good Vibrations' and 'California Girls,' but I also loved doing 'Sail on Sailor.' That was never a hit," Wilson says. "And I am more comfortable onstage today. But I like performing my own show as opposed to being one of the Beach Boys. I like going out as Brian Wilson."
Buoying the vibe is the fact that Wilson's extremely sympathetic and talented backing group, with an uncanny ability to simulate Beach Boys records, has been with him for years.
"We had a kicking band in the '70s and '80s, but I think this one is a new benchmark," Jardine says, to which Wilson concurs.
"We've had a lot of practice, touring and stuff," he affirms. "And each tour they're a little better. They are very good musicians!"
Coming up Tuesday: Wilson and Jardine discuss the massive new Beach Boys box set, the upcoming Wilson biopic, how the group's family dynamic sometimes produced family brawls, and what curious distinction Houston has in Beach Boys lore.
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