Once The Beach Boys’ experimental opus “Pet Sounds” turned 50 in 2016, Brian Wilson hit the road hard, starting locally with a headlining appearance at the Pitchfork Music Festival, moving indoors to the Chicago Theatre and finally giving the suburbs a chance at the Rosemont Theatre. However, the latest run of slightly refurbished shows promises to be the final performances of the work in its entirety forever, though considering the singer/songwriter/producer/arranger had three-dozen tunes on the card, it was a mere fraction of the two-and-a-half-hour evening.
And it wound up being quite a finale too thanks to the back-to-back barrage of “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Barbara Ann,” “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “Fun, Fun, Fun,” which again brought everyone to their feet in immense awe of just how many timeless smashes Brian Wilson was behind.
Along with original Beach Boy Al Jardine, some quirky but colorful cameos from ‘70s member (and eventual Rolling Stones accompanist) Blondie Chaplin, plus nine other gifted players, Wilson split the front half with hits and rarities. “California Girls,” “Dance, Dance, Dance” and “I Get Around” was a joyous way to start, not only sparking the first block of several sing-a-longs, but also bringing everyone back to simpler times of fun in the sun.
Although The Beach Boys will always be most commonly associated with summer, surfing and revving up those engines, Wilson continues to make the average seem extraordinary, while always seeking to evolve the group’s sound beyond the basics. Take for instance the soulfully psychedelic “Wild Honey” album, which just tipped towards its fifth decade as well and was given significant airtime, along with the lushly layered instrumentation and building harmonies of the pre-intermission closer “Sail On, Sailor.”
“We’re gonna do something artistic…” proclaimed Wilson once fans returned from the concessions, re-introducing Al’s son Matt on lead for the gleeful “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” who then volleyed with Brian across “You Still Believe In Me.” Other points of interest included the percussion-saturated “I’m Waiting For The Day,” the dreamy, instrumental escapism of “Let’s Go Away For Awhile,” plus the kaleidoscope of bells and whistles “Sloop John B.”
Al described the majestic “God Only Knows” as “one of the best in all of the 20th century,” which couldn’t have been more accurate, though the lyrics to “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” was by far the most pertinent explanation of Wilson’s artistic soul. Maybe that’s why all these years later “Pet Sounds” continues to be dissected and devoured by listeners of any age, who further echoed their praise with a standing ovation following “Caroline, No.”
Throughout it all, Wilson’s involvement was a mixture of pleasant and passive with his voice sounding noticeably older and lower, while conversations with the crowd were occasionally endearing but mostly stiff. Even so, both Jardines and all the supporting players knew exactly where to fill in the blanks, kept the train on track during any distractions and successfully carried him over the finish line.
And it wound up being quite a finale too thanks to the back-to-back barrage of “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Barbara Ann,” “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “Fun, Fun, Fun,” which again brought everyone to their feet in immense awe of just how many timeless smashes their hero was behind. At 75-years-old with so many struggles behind him, the fact that Wilson is able to still get on a stage is reason enough for celebration and the body of work presented within the framework of this particular night only supported his place right towards the top of all-time musical geniuses.
For additional information on Brian Wilson, visit BrianWilson.com.
Upcoming concert highlights at the Rosemont Theatre include MercyMe (Oct. 15); Kenny Rogers: “The Gambler’s Last Deal” (Oct. 28); Niall Horan (Nov. 15); Jerry Seinfeld (Nov. 17); Ana Gabriel (Nov. 19); Johnny Mathis (Dec. 1) and Mannheim Steamroller Christmas (Dec. 15). For additional details, visit Rosemont.com/Theatre/.