The crowd at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday (Oct. 9) came to hear Brian Wilson perform his album ‘Pet Sounds’ in its entirety, but also to pay homage to the 74-year-old pop star.
Pretty much everyone at the Paramount Theatre for the “Pet Sounds” concert Saturday came to celebrate a 50-year-old album. But they also came to celebrate, applaud — and maybe even see for the last time — 74-year-old Brian Wilson, the creator of some of the most important pop music ever.
“I came because of respect for Brian,” said Marlow Harris, one of many fans who had seen Wilson repeatedly over the years, “and because ‘Pet Sounds,’ for me, was the album.”
That was pretty much true for all 3,000 people at the sold-out show.
Wilson and his 11-piece band played the entire album in order, sandwiched between sets of Beach Boy hits.
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Wilson’s masterpiece — considered one of the first true thematic albums — is a complex recording to re-create. The band, anchored by fellow Beach Boy Al Jardine, did an admirable job, with Jardine’s son Matt handling the falsettos.
Wilson was center stage on keyboards all night. He seemed to bask in the applause from the crowd. As he fed off them, they fed off him.
Wilson wrote many songs that were bigger hits than the tracks that made up “Pet Sounds.” And the band played many of those hits in the opening and closing sets, with Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin singing most of them. Their voices have aged better than Wilson’s.
But Wilson did something those men — and few others — ever did, which was to take his own insecurities about love and existence and write them into the soundtrack of pop music.
So it was no surprise that the highlight of the night didn’t come with a populist hit like “California Girls” or “Good Vibrations” but with “God Only Knows” a song that usually appears in the upper reaches, if not the very top, of any critic’s list of all-time greatest songs.
Wilson struggled to hit the notes he first sang a half-century ago. That battle, and perhaps all of Wilson’s battles — even with sanity, at times — made the song and the moment feel even more vulnerable. It was a flawed performance of a flawless song.
It earned the first, but not the last, standing ovation of the night. The ovation was as much for Wilson’s very act of creation as for anything that happened on stage.
He ended the night to another wild ovation as he sang “Love and Mercy.” It was the perfect ending for a night of great songs, and a night of respect.