This article originally appeared in the 10.10.13 issue of Metroland
some shows one just does not miss. And if this sounds like an odd pairing,
well, it was. And it was magical in all
sorts of ways.
Brian Wilson, or rather 11 musicians performing a tribute to Brian Wilson with
Brian Wilson in attendance. Opening
softly with an ethereal 10 voice a
version of The Four Freshmen’s “Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring”,
the set made a compelling case that Wilson is in the pantheon of great American
composers / arrangers, along side Copeland, Bernstein, Rodgers, etc. Or would have been had he kept it
together. Which, obvious and famously,
he didn’t. There’s something both disconcerting
and bittersweet about watching this obviously damaged genius be a near
non-participant in his own performance. But no matter, until the orchestral ensemble
(augmented with original Beach Boys Al Jardine and David Marks, who both
sparkled) devolved into running through the thumpy and treacly early Beach Boys
hits to close the set, we were treated to an odd and adventurous set full of
beauty and wonder. The 1-2 punch of
“Heroes and Villains” and “God Only Knows” (which Wilson mumbled was “my
greatest achievement as a songwriter”) was simply devastating.
And then it
was hello Jeff Beck. Yowsa. With monsto-drummer Jonathan Joseph and
former Prince bassist Rhonda Smith in tow, the band opened with Billy Cobham’s
“Stratus” and raged through a set of raw funk fusion that was
jaw-dropping. Do hipsters know about this
kind of music? I think not. Damn.
Beck’s guitar was, as always, totally loud and in yer face, which was
refreshing given that Brian Wilson’s sound mix was, well, shall we say it was
appropriate for a PBS fundraiser? And
the set was loose and Beck was on fire.
Effortless. No one plays with
more humanity, playfulness, or passion. I
can almost forgive him for breaking up the 2nd
Jeff Beck Group back
in ’72. Bastard.
the bands merged. It kind of
worked. First they played what I’m
guessing were tunes from Wilson’s upcoming album, slow bluesy numbers with Beck
soloing furiously and the Wilson camp adding all sorts of 4-5 part harmony oohs
and aahs in the background. The
back-screen showed lots of sun-soaked church windows, which was about
right. Then a gloriously sloppy take on
the Delta blues classic “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”, straight out of one of those 2
AM blues jams in a corner bar back when we all used to drink. What?
Then, Beck’s unnecessary but crowd-pleasing version of “A Day In The
Life”, and a couple more stupid Beach Boys songs (blown up by hysterically
inappropriate Beck solos).
Boy.” Freakin’ Danny Boy. As beautiful as anything you’ve ever heard. Nite.