This evening, one of the truly serendipitous events of my life happened.
To summarise: we’re wandering around Washington – which is nice and all – but, not to put too fine a point on it, we’re bored. We’ve no shows booked for tonight, none for any other night, and right now we’re having a tough time finding a restaurant. Maybe it’s just been a long walk in the cold, but there just isn’t much happening.
New York withdrawal symptoms.
We walk around the corner onto 13th street and note with interest that Brian Wilson is performing here. That’s interesting. Tonight. Very interesting. Pet Sounds. Hmmm. Well, I knew he was playing in New York the previous week so this isn’t a huge surprise and we simply assume it’s sold out – it’s a nice coincidence, but little else.
A restaurant opposite has an attractive early bird menu – with some intriguing soups – which is fine for dinner. During the meal, we toy with the idea of calling across to the box office and looking for spares. It’s right across the street and since there’s no queue outside, maybe it’s worth a try.
Finally, at 7.45, we call to the box office. There’s tickets – jackpot! They’re $55 apiece and in a good spot on the balcony – super mega triple jackpot!!!
I’d seen Brian in Vicar Street (€105), so had some idea of what to expect. He would sing during the concert, seated at a piano which he would not play. The band – who played on “Smile” – would be rather good. Tonight, he has some extra support: Al Jardine is sitting in, accompanying Brian on just four concerts for the first time in about twenty five years.
The first half consists of Beach Boy favourites: “In My Room”, “Hawaii”, “I Get Around”, “When I Grow Up To Be A Man”. However, this is just warm up because the second half is what we’re all here for: Pet Sounds, performed live, sung by the composer and accompanied by another fellow Beach Boy.
There’s no point over-analysing: the band was excellent, playing most of the original instruments live – including vibraphone, trumpet and flute – and the singing from Brian is fine. Basically, it’s the album. The best album there ever was? Well, my favourite at least.
The first few songs segue into one another; after the fourth (“Don’t Talk/Put Your Head On My Shoulder”) Brian starts to talk between songs; he introduces “God Only Knows” as:
My finest achievement in song writing.
(I don’t disagree – but at this point I can’t resist mentioning that, for what it’s worth, his favourite song on Smile is “Surf’s Up”; he told me so himself)
Highlight of the entire night for me is during this song, the part when the title is repeated over and over again, passing around from Beach Boy to Beach Boy. It’s probably my favourite moment from the album, too – and this time we are privileged to hear it passing between two of the three surviving Beach Boys; Brian and Al, Al sounding just like he did on the original record.
The performance takes a little longer than the album’s 35 minutes. After this, the band launch into a long string of rock and roll favourites.
Did I say super mega triple jackpot?