CONCERT REVIEW: Wilkes-Barre still believes in Brian Wilson as he delivers final ‘Pet Sounds’ performances
At the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday, May 2, one of the greatest albums of all time was recreated note for glorious note on stage by its composer and a stellar band of musicians and singers.
The legendary Brian Wilson took his “Pet Sounds: The Final Performances” tour celebrating the 1966 recording to a nearly sold-out crowd at the Wilkes-Barre theater. The founding member of the Beach Boys brought fellow founding member Al Jardine and Beach Boys alum Blondie Chaplin along for the ride.
“Pet Sounds,” the 11th studio album by the Beach Boys, was produced and arranged by Wilson, who also composed almost all of its music, working with lyricist Tony Asher. Now over 50 years old, the Top 10 album was originally released on May 16, 1966 and was added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2004. The album has been ranked No. 1 on four all-time lists, and it came in second on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time,” trailing only “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles.
The first half of the concert was a nice mixture of the Beach Boys’ early surfing and hot-rod classics and the group’s late-1960s album tracks and minor hits. Wilson and his band took the stage to a standing ovation and promptly rewarded the crowd with one of the Beach Boys’ most famous songs, 1965’s “California Girls.”
The group moved quickly through the Top 10 hit “Dance, Dance, Dance” and the chart-topper “I Get Around.” Jardine took over on lead vocals for “Shut Down” and “Little Deuce Coupe,” then Wilson was back for “Little Honda.”
Just as he did on the No. 1 hit from 1965, Jardine sang lead on “Help Me, Rhonda,” still sounding pretty much the same more than 50 years after the recording.
Except for a brief detour for 1963’s Top 10 “Surfer Girl,” it was time for the lesser-known tunes as the band played “Salt Lake City” from 1965’s “Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!),” “Wake the World” from 1968’s “Friends” album, and “Add Some Music to Your Day,” a minor hit from 1970.
Following “California Saga: California,” Jardine’s son Matthew sang a spectacular version of “Don’t Worry Baby,” with the younger Jardine flawlessly recreating the falsetto vocals originally sung by Wilson.
Chaplin, who was with the group for three albums in the early-1970s, filled in for the late Carl Wilson on “Feel Flows” and “Wild Honey,” then sang lead on the minor hit “Sail On, Sailor” (just as he had in 1973), adding some wild if somewhat out of place guitar solos to each.
Following an intermission, “Pet Sounds” was meticulously reproduced in order and in its entirety, beginning with the hit single “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” followed by “You Still Believe in Me” and “That’s Not Me.”
As “Pet Sounds” is sometimes regarded as more of a Brian Wilson solo album than a Beach Boys record, Wilson sang lead on most of its songs in concert. At 74, his voice isn’t what it used to be, but he is smart enough to surround himself with impeccable musicians and singers such as musical director Paul Von Mertens (saxophone, clarinet, flute), guitarist Nicky Wonder, Gary Griffin (keyboards, vibes), and Probyn Gregory (guitar, theremin, trombone). The songs absolutely soared with as many as 10 men singing the intricate harmonies.
Al Jardine sang lead on the hit single “Sloop John B” to finish up side one.
“Now it’s time to flip the record over,” he joked. “Cut one, side two – one of the most beautiful songs ever written.”
Wilson then sang the song Paul McCartney has often cited as his favorite of all time, “God Only Knows.” While Wilson’s voice was no match for his late brother Carl’s on the song, it still garnered a standing ovation.
After more standout performances on tunes such as “I Know There’s an Answer,” “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times,” and the instrumental title track, the album and concert proper came to a close with “Caroline, No.”
Wilson and company returned for an encore full of Top 5 hits, including 1966’s “Good Vibrations,” 1965’s “Barbara Ann,” 1963’s “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” and 1964’s “Fun, Fun, Fun.”
The evening ended with Wilson serenading the crowd with his tender “Love and Mercy” as he and his band received one more well-deserved standing ovation.
Photos by Jason Riedmiller Photography