As I sat six rows back at Paul Paul Theater at The Big Fresno Fair on Thursday night watching Brian Wilson, the co-founder and innovator behind The Beach Boys, all I could think about was how lucky I was to see this music legend perform despite his obvious fragility at age 75.
This man is arguably one of the greatest songwriters of all time. His “Pet Sounds” album still influences artists today. Need proof? Listen to the Foo Fighter’s new album “Concrete and Gold.”
Was it the most exciting concert I have ever seen? Or the greatest? No.
The effects of Wilson’s life, which have included mental illness and drug use, are apparent. He stayed seated center stage behind a Yamaha keyboard and a microphone in a button-down greenish shirt and tan pants, offering such minimal banter that it produced a few laughs from his longtime fans.
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His singing voice has changed, and it is not as strong as it once was. At times it was more talk-sing than the soaring sounds of his youth. But he surrounds himself with a tight, talented band of younger and older performers, including Beach Boys member Al Jardine and Jardine’s son Matthew (whose high voice is incredible). They buoy the show and deliver the layered, textured harmonies that make these songs so special.
I’m glad I was the one who came to this show and not one of my colleagues. I think there are times when the bigger picture can get overlooked because a show doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that today’s superstar performers pack into a live concert. There was no crazy Janet Jackson ponytail or Twenty One Pilots crowd-surfing drummer here.
“This is not rock-n-roll, this is art,” Brian Wilson quipped to the crowd at one point while playing the entire “Pet Sounds” album, which is the theme of this tour.
And that’s true. This music matters. It has influenced. Young people today should be listening and learning. More should appreciate this sound.
See, I’ve known about Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys since I was a toddler running around my family’s backyard in San Diego. I loved the music so much that my brother nicknamed me “Little Surfer Girl.” To me, The Beach Boys were THE best band of the 1960s. I didn’t learn about The Beatles until I was teenager. And even then, I felt The Beach Boys offered something different.
To this day, hearing The Beach Boys takes me back to different times in my life and wraps me in a blanket of warmth. The song “Barbara Ann” makes me think about my mom. Just a few bars of “Sloop John B” and my husband’s face flashes before my eyes.
This music is timeless.
So even as I noticed the cracks, it didn’t matter. I just wanted to “keep those lovin’ good vibrations a-happenin.’ ”
Kathy Mahan: @km_squared