Brian Wilson at Southend Cliffs Pavilion
Brian Wilson played Southend's Cliffs Pavilion to a sell-out crowd as part of his 'Pet Sounds' tour built around the 1966 album. With no support act, he and his ten-piece band hit the stage right on time and headed straight into a brace of Beach Boys classics from 'California Girls' and 'I Get Around' to 'Shut Down' and 'Little Deuce Coupe', all keeping faithfully close to the original recordings in terms of sound and feel. Key band members included original Beach Boys' singer-guitarist Al Jardine who, standing alongside Wilson who was seated at the piano, played a crucial role up front, both vocally and keeping a watchful eye on everything, while Al's son Matt filled in for any vocal gaps and carried off the high-end falsetto sequences which were part of the group's trademark sound.
Despite whatever personal problems he may have experienced over the years, Wilson seemed in reasonably good form this evening with his vocals and some piano figures coming through well. Matt sang 'Don't Worry Baby', and early '70s member Blondie Chaplin sang 'Wild Honey' and 'Sail On, Sailor', his own 1973 recording with the group, before the main part of the evening, focusing on Wilson and the band's performance of all the tracks from the 'Pet Sounds' album. This included familiar numbers such as 'Wouldn't It Be Nice', 'Sloop John B', 'God Only Knows', sung by Wilson, and 'Caroline, No', plus the two instrumental tracks on the album, though Wilson did quip when introducing one of the instrumentals: 'no voices, no singing, just instruments!' Although the audience didn't appear at times to be as fully engrossed by some of the album tracks, the songs generally came across well with, for example, Wilson's handling of 'I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times' seeming particularly poignant and moving.
Having worked through the album, it was back to what Wilson termed 'rock 'n' roll' and more familiar territory with hits including 'Good Vibrations', 'Help Me, Rhonda', 'Barbara Ann', 'Surfin' U.S.A.' and 'Fun, Fun, Fun', all enthusiastically received by the audience, before he ended the evening on the mid-tempo 'Love And Mercy' from 1988.
Maybe the last tour of this type, maybe not - who knows? - but a highly enjoyable and memorable show featuring a number of strong performances with excellent playing and vocal harmonies: I'm glad I was able to make it.
Here is Al Jardine.