Brian Wilson at the Hollywood Bowl: ‘Pet Sounds’ Still Rings True 50 Years After Release




Brian Wilson and band at Hollywood Bowl - Photo by Craig Hammons
Brian Wilson and band at Hollywood Bowl - Photo by Craig Hammons
Brian Wilson at Hollywood Bowl - Photo by Craig Hammons
Brian Wilson at Hollywood Bowl – Photo by Craig Hammons

‘Good Vibrations’

By CRAIG HAMMONS

Good vibrations were in the air at the Hollywood Bowl on a cool summer night.

Brian Wilson along with his ‘boys,’ Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin, with a 12-piece band full of woodwinds, keyboards, guitars and percussion, brought us the 50th Anniversary of Pet Sounds and a dozen or more timeless classic hits.

‘Our Prayer’ as the Opener

The magic and celebration began with the beautiful vocal harmonies of “Our Prayer” a wordless hymn released in its proper form from Brian’s 2004 GRAMMY Award-winning album “Smile.”

This opened the door for 1967’s “Heroes and Villains” and soon the hits would just kept on coming. It didn’t take long for the capacity crowd to get up on their feet dancing to “California Girls,” “I Get Around” and “Dance, Dance, Dance.” Not long into the set it was evident just how many of these songs were the soundtrack to our lives. These All American tunes about cars, girls and surfing brought back many memories as we all sung along and still knew every word.

The music slowed a bit with such classics as “Surfer Girl,” “Hushabye,” “Don’t Worry Baby” and the beautiful song “One Kind of Love” from Brian’s 11th solo album “No Pier Pressure.” Brian was up front and center sitting behind a white grand piano. He seemed cool and calm.  His vocals may be a bit worn by time, but are still solid for a 74-year-old who seem happy to be playing the songs he wrote for a whole generation.

‘Wild Honey’

Brian Wilson and his band at The Hollywood Bowl - Photo by Craig Hammons
Brian Wilson and his band at The Hollywood Bowl – Photo by Craig Hammons

Just before going into Pet Sounds the band played the single “Wild Honey,” from 1967.  Back then, the tune had a unique new sound and during the Hollywood Bowl rendition, the song earned a round of applause for sax player Paul Mertens’ solo.

Brian brought out his long-time buddy and collaborator Blondie Chaplin to sing and play guitar on “Sail On, Sailor.” Blondie’s vocals seemed a bit weak, but he made up for it in his guitar playing.

‘Pet Sounds’

With the opening chorus of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” we knew it was time for the musical wizardry of Pet Sounds to be done in its entirety. Pet Sounds was recorded over a half a century ago in an extensive recording session just down the street from the Hollywood Bowl. The band was bringing life back to these songs showing just how much Brian’s music was changing at that time.

The five- and six-part vocal harmonies were amazing with Al Jardine’s son, Matt Jardine, nailing the high notes. There were couples dancing in the aisles during “Don’t Talk Put Your Head on My Shoulder” and “I’m Waiting for the Day.”

‘Sloop John B’ Gets the People to their Feet

Brian Wilson at the Hollywood Bowl - Photo by Craig Hammons
Brian Wilson at the Hollywood Bowl – Photo by Craig Hammons

Once they got into “Sloop John B,” everyone was singing again. Next was an emotional rendition of “God Only Knows,” one of the best songs ever written. We were all on our feet in admiration and Brian requested we all have a seat during the slower and more obscure tracks like “I Know There’s an Answer” and “Here Today.” Ending the set with “Good Vibrations” put us all in our way back machine to a better time of going steady, the beach and hanging out with our best friends.

At the end of Pet Sounds, Brian thanked the crowd and slowly walked off the stage to thunderous applause. More than 17,000 strong came to see the man who got out of his sandbox to regain the crown of musical genius.

‘”All Summer Long” Brought Tears to The Lady Next to Me’

Brian came back out and sat down at his piano and introduced each band member one by one before they would launch into some of the Beach Boys greatest hits. An upbeat “All Summer Long” brought tears to the eyes of the lady next to me because she said she felt “so happy.” Then it was “Help Me Rhonda,” and now everyone was rocking out and singing enthusiastically. Without stopping they went right into “Barbara Ann,” “Surfin’ USA,” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.”

They ended with “Love and Mercy,” a song that rings true to the times we’re living in today. Brian said: “There’s a lot of people getting shot out there and it really scares me; Love and Mercy is what we need tonight.” The evening ended with the final chorus “Love and Mercy to you and All your Friends Tonight.” We felt it as we all exited the Bowl knowing that we all saw musically history made this evening by the man who first played the Hollywood with his brothers, cousins and band mates, the Beach Boys, back in 1966.