Brian Wilson and band bring sunshine to Boston

A review of Brian Wilson at the Orpheum Theatre on November 19

, Contributing Writer

Everyone who didn’t have their tickets in hand for the show had to wait outside in the less than& 25ËšF temperature, hoping Brian Wilson would bring a little of that California sun with him to Boston at the Orpheum Theater on Wednesday night.

All the action was at the end of the night, so let’s take this one in reverse.

For his first encore, Brian Wilson’s band kicked up the energy for the evening, breaking out with spectacular solos on some super-fun tunes. Wilson joined them on the stage and they jumped right into Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” which had band members Scott Bennett wailing on the keyboard and Jeff Foskett playing his guitar behind his head, which was oh-so-crowd-pleasing.

Also during this encore, “Help Me Rhonda” featured a gorgeous sax solo by Paul Mertens. They played the famous cover of “Barbara Ann”, and Wilson strapped on a white guitar that had his name written across it. During “Surfin’ U.S.A” Bennett jumped on his keyboard as if he were actually surfin’ on it.

They ended this segment with “Fun, Fun, Fun” which is exactly what this portion of the show was. The five songs played in the first encore blew the rest of the evening away. The audience was dancing and the band was shining. Too bad they didn’t start with this set and keep the energy up for the entire night.

Before introducing the band, Foskett showed his appreciation to the crowd. “Thank you Boston, Massachusetts, home of Dunkin’ Donuts,” he said before describing how Wilson had spent his afternoon browsing records at Newbury Comics. He said even at sixty-six, the man doesn’t take a day off.

For the second set of the evening Wilson played his entire new album, That Lucky Old Sun. He had a teleprompter handy in case he forgot any lyrics, and was seated behind a keyboard that he really didn’t use much. There are some notably good songs on this album that have some insightful lyrics to Wilson’s life, mixed in with poppy surf rock.

“California Role” is a very cool construction of Wilson & Bennet’s vocal styles. Bennett, who helped write the new album, along with singing and playing the keys, also plays mallets/percussion and deserved his own spotlight on the stage.

There is a lot to be said for the rest of Wilson’s band as well. Most of them played more than one instrument and even helped out on vocals. Nelson Bragg, the band’s singing drummer, hails from Rockport, Massachusetts and started his drumming career at Emerson College. The evening’s string section was supplied by Boston and included local violinist Rohan Gregory.

From the vibrant, mariachi-flavored “Mexican Girl” with its light-hearted lyrics to the words that describe an overcoming of more turbulent times in “Going Home”, the over-all theme in That Lucky Old Sun revolves around finding a happy place, whether it’s truly in sunny California or just a state-of-mind.

Between a few of the album’s songs was a recorded narrative from Wilson that played to a video of a cartoon-illustrated story mixed with photos of Wilson through the years.

For the beginning half of the show, Wilson played a compilation of Beach Boys classics that the audience loved. He appeared detached through most of his music, but when he addressed the audience, was very amiable and cheerful. He must channel a cacophony of emotion to compose these incredibly intricate songs, but appears to remain unaffected when he performs them.

He opened the show with “California Girls”, which was followed by the crowd’s requested participation in “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”. “All Summer Long” got the audience up and clapping and “I Get Around” kept them bopping.

Wanting the crowd to do more than just have fun, Wilson instructed them to pay attention to “Add Some Music to Your Day”. “It’s a song that has really, really good lyrics. If you can’t listen to all of them, please listen to some, because they’re really good,” Wilson said before playing it. All musicians must want their fans to inject their days with music, but the lyrics in this particular tune carry some weight and, perhaps, a personal message from the artist, in the words: “Music…When you’re alone…Is like a companion…For your lonely soul.”

They closed out this first set with Wilson’s masterpiece, “Good Vibrations”. If this was the only song that Wilson ever composed, his fans would probably still bear the cold, cramped seats and $10/beer prices just to pay their respects by showing up and supporting the man who Foscett had aptly introduced as the “Mozart of Rock and Roll.”

The audience was very supportive of everything Wilson said or sang and that the band played. They clapped and swayed and cheered all night, for the band that Wilson gave a humble introduction: “We’re not Aerosmith or the Cars or the Rolling Stones, but we try.”

Leave a Reply