Brian Wilson performing his 50th Anniversary of The Beach Boys Pet Sounds Album at The Royal Concert Hall on Wednesday 1st May 2016

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

Of course it is a miracle that Brian Wilson is here at all. In the 1960’s the founding Beach Boy composed, arranged and produced some of the most guilelessly lovely and achingly melancholic pop melodies ever written, before taking a thirty year detour into breakdown, depression, mental illness, and drug abuse.

But survived he has and he is back before a packed Royal Concert Hall where this touring show has Pet Sounds at its heart but is also surrounded by an avalanche of other Beach Boys and Brian Wilson numbers, making the tally for the evening somewhere around forty songs.

Wilson was joined on stage by Al Jardine, another founding member of the Beach Boys, as well as a nine piece band that ran gamely through a first half of greatest hits; from California Girls to the silly Monster Mash, via I Get Around, Heroes And Villains and Little Deuce Coupe.

Then I Kissed Her was sung by a 73 year old Al Jardine whose voice has retained all of if its clarity and tone. Close your eyes and you could almost be back in the swinging sixties, singing along to your hearts content.

There was Wilson’s beautiful ballad for his wife, One Kind Of Love before this appreciative audience were treated to the 1965 number Girl Don’t Tell Me, inspired by John Lennon and delivered with jangly Ticket To Ride guitar and Al Jardine’s son Matt on vocals. Jardine junior has a great falsetto, taking on the majority of the high voice work that would have been Wilson’s own.

Finishing the first half with special guest Blondie Chaplin, who upped the raucous stakes, starting with Wild Honey, then Funky Pretty and finishing with Sail On Sailor; showing that he too is strong on those glorious harmonies as well as being nifty with everything from guitar to sax to tambourine.

There was a palpable lift in energy in the Hall as the opening strains of Wouldn’t It Be Nice heralded the start of Pet Sounds, performed in its original order, including God Only Knows and You Still Believe In Me. Finishing the main set with Caroline No, the band, most of whom have been on this journey for sixteen years and have proved their quality over and over again, did not disappoint.

But there was disappointment and that was from Wilson himself. As he sat frozen behind his piano, singing abstractedly from an autocue as his dark eyes roamed worriedly over the auditorium, he looked every inch the survivor that he is. Certainly, anyone who had bought a ticket hoping to recapture their lost youth, as many of the grey topped crowd in Nottingham seemed to have done, then they were likely to have been reminded of their own mortality in the most unsettling of ways.

The evening finished on an absolute high with a seven song encore which included Good Vibrations, Help Me Rhonda, Surfin’ USA and Fun Fun Fun. But this was due in the main to the audience who were determined to pay their own respects to a man who frailties were so obvious. Releasing the tension by dancing in the aisles for this encore which finished with Love And Mercy, it had to be the saddest concert that I have ever seen.