Entering the main performance hall of The Opera House, there was an immediate buzz in the air, although slightly more hesitant than that of the crowd at D’Angelo’s Opera House show only a week prior. Perhaps there’s more of a connection on an emotional level to The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds; a feeling of unbridled love. Whilst the members of the D’Angelo audience never once warmed their seats, carelessly dancing well into his hour and a half delay, the Beach Boys crowd were slightly more reserved, patiently sitting, awaiting the 11-piece band to take the stage.
Co-founders Brian Wilson and Al Jardine, accompanied by their musical back-ups, took to the stage without a moment’s delay. Opening with Our Prayer, the night kicked off with the vocal harmonisation of all the singers on stage. It was a settling moment, allowing the crowd to get comfortable and giving a taste of what was to come. Instead of the youthful, choir-like sentiment of the original song, the group of men emanated the vibe of a barbershop quartet. While this was not a bad thing, ticket-holders expecting the same vigour of The Beach Boys circa ‘60s could wind up craving something more. While it quickly became apparent that certain notes couldn’t be met and timings were sometimes short of hitting the mark, once acknowledged, these slight inaccuracies became inconsequential and, at times, endearing. It would be unfair to not forgive The Beach Boys, one of the most celebrated and iconic bands in the world who are celebrating over 50 years of existence, for not mirroring their younger selves.
Following with Heroes and Villains, the band seemed to find their feet and eased into the rest of the set. Once the set list kicked into gear, the true power and flair of the musicians became apparent. The arrangements were tight and the energy was surprisingly vibrant. Age quickly became irrelevant as the members bounced around stage, giving it their all as the spotlight gave each of them their time to shine, both literally and figuratively.
Brian Wilson remained glued to his piano seat for the entirety of the set, his wavering voice making an appearance not often enough. At times it was uncomfortable to witness his now-limited vocal range, particularly highlighted when his section of the God Only Knows canon was left unfinished. When he did nail his notes, however, it was empowering to watch. His band members looked at him with respect and confidence, as would the crowd. We were in the company of greatness and the almost-flawless musical arrangements of the night, combined with the history and nostalgia, made up for any slight misgivings the set would bring.
The troupe saved the Pet Sounds tracklist until the latter portion of the set, coursing through favourites like Don’t Worry Baby and Surfer Girl. It was inspiring to watch Jardine’s son Matt taking on the role of the soaring falsetto in Don’t Worry Baby; a gentle nod to his predecessors. While slightly dissimilar from the original, he did the song justice, providing the necessary high notes and honey-smooth tone that the classic so deserved.
Former Beach Boys and Rolling Stones tour member Blondie Chaplin made several appearances with his electric guitar, including on Wild Honey and Sail On, Sailor, providing a kick of rock prior to the long-awaited delivery of Pet Sounds. A rather humorous and sobering moment occurred when Brian Wilson experienced a slight lapse in memory, forgetting Chaplin’s name as he was introducing his long-time friend to the audience.
The first half of the night was highly enjoyable but the second portion of the night was when the fun really began. The members on the stage let loose a bit more, evident when the brass player kneeled at the very edge of the stage, blasting his saxophone with passion and vigour, and Chaplin traipsed across the stage, playing to the crowd with rockstar confidence.
Capping off the set (minus the encore) with Good Vibrations, the room was filled with the same feeling as the song title. Brian Wilson raced off the stage almost too quickly as the band finalised the song, leaving the audience hoping that he would return with the same level of urgency.
They shortly returned to the stage, launching straight into the definite highlight of the night; a medley of All Summer Long, Help Me Rhonda, Barbara Ann, Surfin’ U.S.A. and Fun, Fun, Fun. The songs blended beautifully together, creating an unforgettable crescendo of highs. For the first time in the night (apart from the pre-encore standing ovation), the audience rose to their feet, clapping in time and singing along carelessly. At that one moment, everyone in the room was united, celebrating one of the most iconic and influential bands of all time. Age turned merely into a number; older people were shimmying as if they were teenagers again and younger people (who didn’t even exist in The Beach Boy’s heyday) were culprits of daggy ‘parent dancing’. The final song of the night, Love And Mercy was a perfect closer; allowing everyone to catch their breath for the final moments. Following the last note of the night, Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Blondie Chaplin and the rest of the band joined hands and bowed to the audience, as if performers in a play.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older,” The Beach Boys sang in Wouldn’t It Be Nice. Well, now they are. And even in his twilight years, Wilson still looks content with the songs he created decades ago. His voice may be fading and his energy less but he’s created history and now gets to watch every performance the legacy he’s made. Nice, indeed.