Sunday 22 May 2016

A Final Hurrah For Pet Sounds

BRIAN WILSON at the London Palladium
celebrating 50 years of Pet Sounds

Saturday 21st May 2016

In what is possibly going to be Brian Wilson's last ever UK tour, and certainly the final hurrah for Pet Sounds being performed in it's entirety, the evening brought mixed feelings and emotions for me. Disappointed that I probably won't get another opportunity to see this musical genius close up and personal on a stage performing his tremendous back catalogue of work. Relieved that at 73 he may be able to finally start to consider enjoying a well earned rest and retirement without the strain and pressures that being on tour can bring onto someone so fragile in body and mind. Happy that after years of expectation I was lucky enough to finally get to see and hear the majestic Pet Sounds and the long awaited and hidden jewel that is SMiLE being performed live on a stage in my home country (three times for each actually).

To start on a positive note this concert was hugely enjoyable and the Pet Sounds set was simply breathtaking and glorious. The sad news is that Brian Wilson's voice is not what it once was, however he does get very ably supported vocally by his superb band. You know those high notes he used to be able to sing like an angel at the end of Surfer Girl and Caroline No? Well he can't get reach those notes any more but Matt Jardine, Al's boy, certainly can. Brian's vocals were clipped and slightly clumsy at times and he does have a rather unfortunate awkward stage presence that relies a little too much on autocue to get him through a show. Given his age and past experiences in dabbling with mind changing substances and his subsequent mental health issues and insecurity related to his drug use then I guess it's no surprise that this 73 year old is now vocally past his best. No question. It saddens me somewhat to be this honest, I kind of feel rather disloyal, however let's get that little bit of bad news out of the way first so that I can move on to the good news. And there's lots of it.

The good news is the music, those songs, the harmonies and the note perfect band. They are sublime. If you're a big BW fan like me you do not necessarily go to a Brian Wilson concert to hear his voice, you go to listen to his songs and appreciate the musical arrangements, hear those elaborate four part harmonies and the musicianship from a backing band that is second to none. They know this music, these songs, inside out. With former Beach Boy Al Jardine, who remarkably does still have a voice that stands the test of time, taking the lead vocal on some of the songs and his son Matt expertly singing all the high falsetto parts that Brian used to be able to sing, this show works really well. It works because of those songs and those clever intricate harmonies that Brian Wilson created and gave to his Beach Boys all those years ago.

The show opened with the acapella My Prayer which showed from the get go just how strong vocally the band are and Matt Jardine's lead vocal on the wonderful Don't Worry Baby was pitch perfect. My personal favourite in the first set was In My Room, a song that captured my imagination when as a thirteen year old I first heard it on my Dansette. It influenced my musical taste forever, I was a Beach Boys fan from that moment on. That first set comprising the hits plus some rarities was rapturously received by a sold out Palladium audience.  

The second set commenced with the complete Pet Sounds album being performed in it's entirety track by beautiful track. Pet Sounds as a piece of work is magnificent, sublime, melancholic, exquisite, beautiful music created by a 23 year old musical genius and is quite rightly recognised as one of the greatest albums of all time. Period. It's simply stunning, even today 50 years on it truly stands the test of time. My only tiny little criticism of Pet Sounds as a whole is that Sloop John B seems a little out of place, it would have been a better fit on the Summer Days Summer Nights album with perhaps She Knows Me Too Well from the Today album taking it's place on Pet Sounds. Just an opinion I have that won't mean anything to anyone unless you're a Beach Boys anorak like me. 

The huge standing ovation at the end of God Only Knows during the Pet Sounds set was a huge celebratory thank you to Brian Wilson for writing and producing what is one of the best and most beautiful songs of all time. Layer upon layer of voices mixed with a melody that is unforgettable. Pure genius. The second half set finished, as it usually does, with a medley of sixties Beach Boy hits and went down a storm. 

My only concern is that those seeing Brian Wilson perform on stage for the first time won't listen beyond the limited vocal range he now has. That because of this they won't hear the music, the songs, the melodies. They might be too preoccupied with the man sitting awkwardly on stage, sometimes looking and sounding a little confused or uncertain. He may sometimes trip over or even forget a lyric, this can be distracting unless you look and listen beyond what you see. Understand that Brian Wilson is a seventy three year old survivor who has scars but is also the creator of some of the best pop songs you will ever hear. His legacy will be his music. Brian Wilson gave us Pet Sounds so please listen to it, really listen to it then maybe, just maybe, like me you'll get it.

The set list is here if you want to see what we were listening to at the London Palladium.


  1. I really hope that's not last ever UK tour and not last ever tour, so I hope to see him again just in case if I can't go this time. I just recently bought tickets to another concert and can't be sure. Don't you want to go with me? If you want, you can find All Time Low tour dates right here, choose a good place for you and go to enjoy this show together!

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  3. A Final Hurrah For Pet Sounds. ... To start on a positive note this concert was hugely enjoyable and the ptcl speed test Pet Sound set was simply breathtaking and glorious. The sad news is that Brian Wilson's voice is not what it once was, however he does get very ably supported vocally by his superb band.