On Monday 24th September, Brian Wilson completed his mini UK tour with a show at the beautiful Symphony Hall in Birmingham. The term 'living legend' may be over used, but in my opinion, Brian Wilson is definitely one of them!
With a perfect central view of the stage from the balcony (with no-one in the row in front!), I looked forward to seeing this Beach Boys legend for the first time. Soon after 7:30pm, the lights dimmed apart from a blue glow over the stage and the band wandered on to a huge applause. There was one member in particular whose outline I recognised straight away - It was Brian! He took his place at a keyboard set centre stage and welcomed the gathered audience. As with other American artistes I've seen in this city, I love the way they pronounce Birmingham! So different to our, "Burmingum" pronunciation!
The tour had also been billed as the premiere for Brian's new work, 'That Lucky Old Sun (A Narrative)', but the first song of the evening was the Beach Boy's, 'Do It Again'. It was the perfect opener! This was followed by an hour or more of practically every Beach Boys song you could hope to hear live! These included, 'In My Room', 'When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)', 'The Little Girl I Once Knew' (For which Brian dedicated the first two notes to China!), 'Surfer Girl', 'Then I Kissed Her' and 'Dance Dance Dance', which got most of the audience dancing along. The band, which have been with Brian for around 8 years, are flawless. The ten members are not only talented multi-instrumentalists, but their vocals are so tight and of course play an important part in Brian's music. For this tour they were also joined by the Stockholm Strings.
Taking lead and falsetto vocals on some of the songs was Jeffrey Foskett - Most notably on 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' and 'Don't Worry Baby'. They then continued with Brian's favourite Beach Boys song, 'California Girls', 'Sloop John B', 'Sail On Sail On Sailor' and 'Heroes and Villains', which took me by surprise! This was actually one of the highlights of the evening. By now the number of songs played may have filled a concert by any other artist, but the hits continued. They closed the first half with a song Brian describes as the one he's most proud of - The breath taking, 'God Only Knows'. This was then followed by 'Good Vibrations', which had everyone singing and clapping along. You could tell by the smile on Brian's face that he was enjoying himself too!
After a short break, it was time to hear 'That Lucky Old Sun (A Narrative)'. You always wonder what to expect when hearing new songs for the first time, but I wasn't disappointed! The piece lasted just over 30 minutes and comprised of 5 narrative stories and around 10 songs - Many of which are based around the song, 'That Lucky Old Sun'. The piece was also a look back at Brian's life and living in California. To accompany the spoken moments, movies and cartoons were projected onto a backdrop above the stage. Stand out songs included, 'Forever She'll Be My Surfer Girl', which reflected his early Surfing songs of the 60's, with a catchy chorus and distinctive harmonies.
Towards the end, there were a couple of songs, which were obviously based around Brian remembering his brothers, Dennis and Carl. It was quite moving when a great montage of family photos was shared with the audience, along with photos of the siblings as The Beach Boys. I am sure they would be very proud of Brian, who for many years suffered from stage fright, is now touring in his own right and continuing to produce new music. You can also tell that Brian himself is proud of his work and enjoys performing the songs with his band.
The night didn't end there - As Brian put it, "It's time to Rock and Roll'! After much applause, the band returned to the stage and rocked into 'Johnnie B Goode'. This was followed by 'Fun Fun Fun', 'Barbara Ann', 'I Get Around' and one of my favourite's, 'Help Me Rhonda'. For some of these, Brian left his keyboard and played Bass Guitar. I'm a big fan of The Beach Boys' Knebworth concert (which I first saw earlier this year), so it was amazing to hear these songs performed live in person! It was amusing to see the Stockholm Strings return to the stage in their 'Pet Sounds' and Brian Wilson t-shirts with balloons that they let off into the crowd. This was the last night of the tour and everyone was having a party!
As Brian to walked off to another standing ovation, he kissed his wife, Melinda who was sat in the audience at the side of the stage. He came back for one last time and closed the show with 'Love and Mercy'. I had heard that they'd closed the previous shows with a cover of, 'She's Leaving Home', but I was so caught up in this show, I'd completely forgotten about it! It didn't matter though because it was the last night and everyone was having a fantastic time and after rocking out to the Beach Boys' classics, it was only right to close the tour with another of Brian's songs - And 'Love and Mercy' was perfect. One of the best concerts I've ever been to and I really hope that Brian and the band return to the UK soon!