By Oona Foley
Illustration by Ashton Carless
A sold out crowd of 17,500 nestled into the Hollywood Bowl to see Brian Wilson perform arguably the best rock album of all time, Pet Sounds. The Beach Boys singer played on the night of Sunday, July 10th, in celebration of the album’s 50 year anniversary.
The setlist was a condensed collection of the greatest surf music hits of the sixties. In addition to the entire iconic album Pet Sounds, the band played all of the Beach Boys most popular songs including Surfin’ USA, I Get Around, Good Vibrations, Help Me Rhonda, and Heroes and Villains.
Wilson’s early years were filled with substance abuse and mental illness and have left him in less-than-best performance condition. This was apparent in the occasional skipped lyrics and slightly muddled stage banter. Nevertheless, the performance proved that Wilson is anything but washed up. Though he seemed slightly dazed, he remained present in the music. What he lacked in mental capacity he made up for in his overt enthusiasm and gentle humor. He had a charming and childlike spirit in spite of the 74 years behind him.
During the last song, Love and Mercy, Wilson changed the lyrics from “a lotta people out there hurtin’ and it really scares me” to “a lotta people out there gettin’ shot and it really scares me” as a tribute to the lives recently lost to gun violence. The acknowledgement matched his sweet presence and emotional disposition.
The near familial relationship between Wilson and his 10 piece band created a buoyant ambiance that could be heard in the music. Matt Jardine, son of Beach Boy Al Jardine, served as the band’s secret weapon. He picked up where Wilson lapsed and sang the falsetto harmonies that the singer is no longer capable of hitting. The energy between the two was supportive and loving as the melodies bounced dynamically between them.
The Hawaiian shirt clad crowd was alive with enthusiasm, giving multiple standing ovations. The entire amphitheater resounded with summery and nostalgic harmonization, Wilson’s trademark sound. The audience was grateful to have seen such a beautiful performance by this iconic Californian musician.