Sunday, April 14, 2024

A Sit-Down Show From a Stand-Up Guy

Brian Wilson took the stage at Hard Rock Live last night in a performance that was at once uplifiting and kind of sad. On the one hand, it was great to

hear a number of songs that never make it into standard Beach Boys sets – that is, the greatest-hits collection played by the Mike Love-fronted incarnation of the Beach Boys. And the full, dynamic sound — which included vibraphone, keyboard, saxophone, three guitars, drums and additional percussion and cameos from theremin, flute and harmonica – provided a close-as-possible replication of the dense, ambitious sound of mid-to-late Beach Boys and Wilson’s subsequent solo career.

The “sad” part of my critique comes in the presence of Wilson himself. He’s nearly 70, so I wasn’t expecting him to jump cartwheels on stage, but, aside from that still-golden voice, he didn’t appear fit to perform. He certainly didn’t exude his own monumental pop-god status. He just looked like a dumpy guy sitting on a stool, barely engaged with his own music, occasionally tapping at his keyboard. His vocals drifted away from the microphone numerous times, and the joy at singing these timeless songs appeared all but gone. This was labor. Even his crowd banter seemed less like spontaneous thoughts shared with the audience and more like a script he was adhering to, word for word.

Luckily, his younger, bouncier onstage cohorts more than made up for Wilson’s lethargy.  Many appeared half Wilson’s age, but all shared a perpetual enthusiasm for the bygone songs. I was especially impressed with guitarist Jeffrey Foskett, who handled Mike Love’s leading vocal parts with stunning accuracy.

Bisected into two halves plus an encore, the set list had a yin-and-yang quality to it. The first half was comprised entirely of early ’60s fan favorites and resembled too much the current Beach Boys band that already tours South Florida with regularity.

To me, it seemed that these were the songs Wilson felt he had to play, whereas the songs after the break were the ones he wanted to play. This is where we got four delectable covers from Wilson’s recent “Reimagines Gershwin” album, a song from the Beach Boys’ rarely played 1970 Sunflower, an obscure early cut, the titular “Pet Sounds” instrumental, an R&B song and a couple of tracks from Wilson’s complex, beautiful, neo-psychedelic “Smile.”Full of surprises, the post-intermission set was worth the ticket price alone. A sedentary, disengaged Brian Wilson is still hipper than a fully mobile Beach Boys any day.

Set list:

  • California Girls
  • A Chuck Berry cover I didn’t know
  • Catch a Wave
  • Little Deuce Coupe
  • Surfer Girl
  • Please Let Me Wonder
  • Don’t Worry, Baby
  • Row Row Row Your Boat
  • Salt Lake City
  • Drive-In
  • Do You Wanna Dance?
  • Darlin’
  • Do It Again
  • I Get Around




  • I Got Plenty of Nuttin’
  • You Can’t Take That Away From Me
  • I Got Rhythm
  • Nothing But Love
  • Add Some Music to Your Day
  • The Little Girl I Once Knew
  • Sail On Sailor
  • Pet Sounds
  • Sloop John B.
  • Wouldn’t It Be Nice
  • God Only Knows
  • Heroes and Villains
  • Good Vibrations




  • Johnny B. Good
  • Help Me Rhonda
  • Barbara Ann
  • Surfin’ U.S.A.
  • Fun Fun Fun

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