Live Review: Brian Wilson

30 March 2016 | 3:48 pm | Xavier Rubetzki Noonan

"For a show with Wilson's name all over it, the real stars were his terrific backing band."

Seated at a gorgeous white grand piano (which he hardly seemed to touch), Brian Wilson wasted no time on introductions as he and his band tore into a set of Wilson's greatest hits. Wilson's vocals seemed clipped and shaky whenever the 73-year-old had trouble reaching notes he'd written fifty years earlier, but the unique character of his voice and presence led credibility to the affair.

For a show with Wilson's name all over it, the real stars were his terrific backing band, featuring about a dozen collaborators from various points in Wilson's career. Original Beach Boy Al Jardine was in better form, having probably treated himself slightly better in the intervening decades than Wilson, and shone on lead vocal duty on tracks like Little Deuce Coupe. Jardine also introduced his son Matthew, who, despite looking like he could've been a bricklayer, had a pure and clean falsetto that would rival any of the Beach Boys in their prime.

Also in attendance was Blondie Chaplin, who played with the Beach Boys during the early '70s. Chaplin was game, and provided energy to his part of the set (particularly on the underrated Sail On, Sailor), but one or two too many dull guitar solos stretched out songs the crowd didn't come out to see. It was nice to see the band dipping a little deeper into the back-catalogue, but the inclusion of songs like Honkin' Down The Highway didn't do much for anyone.

During the show's centrepiece, a playthrough of Pet Sounds in its entirety, Wilson's exuberance came in fits and bursts. While the crowd was forgiving and generous, and his band more than capable, Wilson allowed himself to blend into the background, delivering disappointing vocal performances and focusing on his teleprompter. At its worst, though, the show was still the best Beach Boys tribute act around, and closing with a generous encore full of the band's number ones, you had to be a real Grinch to resist getting up and dancing in the aisles.

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