He’s a birth­day pres­ence

It’s an as­sertive Brian Wil­son who marks a mile­stone at the Greek Theatre.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Randy Lewis randy.lewis@latimes.com

Brian Wil­son’s con­cert Satur­day at the Greek Theatre in L. A. co­in­cided with his 73rd birth­day, and for the oc­ca­sion sev­eral of his chil­dren wheeled an over­sized cake on­stage, a boun­teous bou­quet of bal­loons ( cour­tesy of ac­tor John Cu­sack) f loated at the back of the stage and the Beach Boys’ cre­ative leader de­liv­ered a set with mu­si­cal sur­prises.

There were no presents per se for the birth­day boy to un­wrap, but there was one im­por­tant gift that Wil­son tac­itly gave to nearly 6,200 fans packed into the theater: quite pos­si­bly the most en­gaged, vo­cally as­sertive and present per­son he’s dis­played since f it­fully re­turn­ing to live per­for­mance more than a decade and a half ago.

Wil­son came across dur­ing the 1- hour, 45- minute show as happy to be where he was, which hasn’t al­ways been the case in his con­certs. Some­times he ap­peared to be ful­fill­ing an obli­ga­tion or even a ther­a­peu­tic ne­ces­sity — some­thing like a trip to the den­tist — to help ex­or­cise some of the de­mons he bat­tled: the emo­tional and phys­i­cal abuse from his fa­ther, Murry Wil­son, his own ner­vous break­down, drug abuse and more psy­cho­log­i­cal tor­ment dur­ing the years he was un­der the care of con­tro­ver­sial psy­chother­a­pist Dr. Eu­gene Landy.

On Satur­day, how­ever, Wil­son led pro­ceed­ings from a bench at a white grand pi­ano — in place of the elec­tronic key­board he’s of­ten used in con­cert — which im­me­di­ately tele­graphed that he was mu­si­cally home again.

For this tour, the Brian Wil­son Band that’s been back­ing him since 1999 in­cludes Beach Boys found­ing mem­ber Al Jar­dine, who sounded strong and en­er­getic as ever when he took lead vo­cals on “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Sloop John B” and a few oth­ers.

Wil­son also shared the spotlight in sev­eral songs with South African gui­tarist, singer and song­writer Blondie Chap­lin, who joined the Beach Boys for a time in the early 1970s and re­mains best known for his mus­cu­lar lead vo­cal on the group’s 1973 hit “Sail On Sailor.”

There was also a cross­gen­er­a­tional guest spot for Cap­i­tal Cities singer Sebu Si­mo­nian, who sings on Wil­son’s latest solo al­bum, “No Pier Pres­sure.”

It was some­what sur­pris­ing and brief ly dis­tract­ing when Si­mo­nian was be­queathed the lead vo­cal for “Don’t Worry Baby” and through­out the song had to look at the teleprompter at his feet. What self- re­spect­ing pop geek would sit in at a Brian Wil­son con­cert and not have that lyric etched in his brain?

Step­ping into the band to han­dle the strato­spheric high har­monies that once were Wil­son’s do­main and that in re­cent years had been han­dled by singer- gui­tarist Jeffrey Fos­kett came Jar­dine’s son, Matt, to ex­tend the fam­ily feel­ing that in­fused the pro­ceed­ings.

Wil­son opened with his glo­ri­ous a cap­pella mas­ter­piece “Our Prayer” from the fa­bled “Smile” al­bum and then went into “He­roes and Vil­lains” ( just as he does on the al­bum he be­lat­edly com­pleted in 2004, 37 years af­ter shelv­ing “Smile”).

From there the show held a plethora of Beach Boys corner­stone songs — “Cal­i­for­nia Girls,” “Good Vi­bra­tions,” “Lit­tle Deuce Coupe,” “In My Room,” “Surfer Girl,” “Surfin’ U. S. A.,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows.” The set also in­cluded some deeper tracks such as “She Knows Me Too Well,” which gave Matt Jar­dine one of a cou­ple of mo­ments in the spotlight, and “This Whole World,” which gen­er­ously shifted the lead vo­cal to long­time Brian Wil­son Band key­boardistsinger Dar­ian Sa­hanaja.

Be­yond the mu­si­cians on stage, the show also sub­tly paid trib­ute to the Los An­ge­les stu­dio mu­si­cians who even­tu­ally came to be called the Wreck­ing Crew.

The Brian Wil­son Band’s ac­com­plished de­liv­ery of so many inspired in­stru­men­tal touches those ses­sion pros added to the group’s record­ings high­lighted the de­li­ciously melodic and propul­sive bass line Carol Kaye cre­ated for “Sloop John B,” the rhyth­mi­cally inspired drum part Hal Blaine brought to the same song and so many other con­tri­bu­tions that el­e­vated each record and helped to ex­pand the bound­aries of what rock mu­sic could sound like a half- cen­tury ago.

Of course there was no short­age of the vo­cal har­monies that were and con­tinue to be Wil­son’s gift to mu­sic.

As he usu­ally does these days, he closed the show with “Love and Mercy,” the song from his 1988 de­but solo al­bum that pro­vided the ti­tle for di­rec­tor Bill Pohlad’s new biopic about Wil­son. The movie has re­ceived both raves and pans, but the song re­mains a thing of beauty, cap­tur­ing the child­like won­der that’s at the heart of so much of Wil­son’s mu­sic. (“Love & Mercy” costar Cu­sack was in Chicago but sent the bal­loons as well as a gi­ant birth­day card po­si­tioned to the side of the band that read, “Brian Happy Birth­day — Love Ya Brother — Johnny Cu­sack.”)

Who else could sing a line like “Oh the lone­li­ness in this world, well it’s just not fair” and sound ut­terly con­vinc­ing?

Another frag­ile pop mu­sic sur­vivor opened the show: Detroit mu­si­cian Sixto Ro­driguez, whose ca­reer was re­ju­ve­nated by the 2012 Academy Award- win­ning doc­u­men­tary “Search­ing for Sugar Man.”

Though he was more the stuff of cof­fee­houses than am­phithe­aters, Ro­driguez of­fered a hum­ble per­son­al­ity, en­gag­ing and some­times pointed song­writ­ing and an ar­rest­ing out­fit, cre­at­ing an en­dear­ing stage per­sona — even sug­gest­ing what gui­tarist Slash might have be­come had he taken the fork in the road to­ward folkie singer- song­writer rather than hard rocker.

Michael Robin­son Chávez Los An­ge­les Times

BRIAN WIL­SON leads pro­ceed­ings at a show that had an abun­dance of corner­stone Beach Boys tunes.

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