Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Brian Wilson @ Talking Stick Resort

Some background... I hold the work of Brian Wilson in very high regard. "Pet Sounds" and "Smile" are two albums that I put in my top five albums of all time. I think they are basically perfect albums, and albums that should be enjoyed in their entirety.

Having shot live concerts for four years now, there is still the core group of my major musical influences I have yet to cover. Brian Wilson was one of the big ones. So of course I jumped at the chance. I'd never even seen him in concert before. I was too young when he left the Beach Boys, and I hadn't had the opportunity to make it to any of his solo gigs. So this was a real treat for me.

I was told I wouldn't have a ticket for the show, which is normal for photographers... but when I showed up to the Talking Stick Resort I met the entertainment director, who was also a big Wilson fan, and after chatting about Brian for a while, he said to just grab any open seat and watch the show. Sadly, there were a lot of seats to pick from. I don't know if it was lack of promotion, or just bad timing... but the 1600 seat ballroom at the resort was only about 3/4 full.

When Brian came on, everyone stood up and cheered... Brian was his normal cheery, if slightly awkward, and shouty self on stage... "THANK you ladies and gentlemen, THANK you!" I'd never seen him live before, so hearing him talk to the audience between songs was a real treat... and to be honest, really made me laugh. I couldn't tell if it was on purpose, but he was very goofy with the song titles and the banter, at one point he announced "This is a song... about a guy... who gets around! It's called, I get around!" When the band had finished the final chords, he shouted "That's the end of the song!"

The set list for the evening was a little bizarre, not exactly what I expected. Only a couple solo tracks... one track from Smile (Good Vibrations)... and a lot of the surf and car tunes. A particularly odd track for me was "Salt Lake City, USA". It just wasn't what I expected to hear that night, but I had an enjoyable time singing along none the less.

When introducing "God Only Knows" Brian got very quiet and said "For this song, I'm gonna shrink down to about five foot four, and use some femininity in my voice". His voice became very small, his face very serious, and it was apparent that he was nervous about attempting this song. While he was hitting all the notes, his voice just wasn't there for this song. His falsetto has diminished, which is a shame... but that aside, it was great to hear him perform this amazing song.

Brian's presence on stage was very endearing to me. Stuck seated behind a keyboard, obviously not as active as he once was, and his voice not what it used to be... I still looked on him as the man responsible for some of my favorite music. And I had a great time seated 20 or so rows back with my camera put away, just listening. I am too young to have had a chance to see him in his prime, but watching him in person, hearing his music beautifully recreated by his amazing band was a great experience. One that, tragically, I will never share with my very favorite artist of all time, Freddie Mercury, but maybe that fact made me appreciate the Brian Wilson show all the more.

Brian closed the evening with a kind farewell message, followed by a quiet and moving rendition of "Love and Mercy" from his solo work. I thought it was a great ending to the show, and I could tell that Brian hoped people would listen to the message. If you aren't familiar with the song, it's worth a download.

No comments: