If you’re going to see legendary musician Brian Wilson in concert, be prepared for a night of fun, fun, fun. Also, be prepared for a night tinged with sadness. You saw both Saturday night when he played at Waukegan’s Genesee Theater.
When it comes to musical artists, the word genius is overused. But, it certainly fits the leader of the original Beach Boys. Wilson’s visions took the band from songs about surfing, cars and girls, to the complex structure of “Good Vibrations”, to one of the greatest albums of all time, “Pet Sounds.”
When you see a Wilson show, you’ll hear it all. The setlist is twenty-nine songs that are mostly the greatest hits. It begins with “California Girls”, “Dance, Dance, Dance” and “I Get Around.” Ninety minutes later you get an encore foursome which includes “Barbara Ann” and “Love and Mercy.”
The music itself is terrific. The twelve-piece band includes another original Beach Boy Al Jardine, his son Matt and Blondie Chaplin, who played with the Beach Boys in the early 1970s. There’s enough happening that everyone gets to shine and show off their musical chops.
The tough part is watching Wilson himself. Wilson’s vocals also aren’t very strong. It’s more of talking through the lyrics than singing. At age seventy-nine, his vocal issues aren’t surprising. More shocking is how he sits at the front of the stage behind a piano. It becomes obvious that he isn’t playing the instrument. It’s used more of a prop to hide him.
There’s a lot of covering for Wilson. Occasionally, he’ll forget a lyric or his voice can’t hit a note. A band member will step in and handle what Brian can’t do anymore.
Other times you’ll see someone come over to whisper something to him or just give him a pat on the back in encouragement. It’s obvious the love and respect they have for him. Everyone wants to make him look good and be as comfortable as possible.
It’s well known about Wilson’s history of mental health issues. Now you had to wonder what physical issues are ailing him.
It made for a complicated evening of music. But in the end, the music of our youth trumped whatever was going on with Brian Wilson. It really was fun, fun, fun and daddy didn’t take the t-bird away.