Thank you, Brian Wilson. Thank you, and thank you again. Unconditional gratitude is what the 62-year-old former Beach Boy deserves for his majestic and moving performance at the Warner Theatre on Sunday evening. The two-hour sonically dreamy, sun-kissed show reminded fans -- as if they could forget -- that Wilson has created some of the most distinctive, immediately identifiable music of the past century.
For far too long, decades in fact, he had been incapable of performing that music in public. Anxiety, drugs and mental problems all took their toll, preventing any comeback.
Wilson returned to the stage a few years ago, a bit unsteady but game. Now, the return seems complete. That he and the 18 musicians with whom he shared the stage Sunday were able to reclaim and re-create his songs with such joy and obvious pleasure was almost too wonderful to be true. And yet, there it was, a magnificent triumph on the heels of so much misery and madness.
It's appropriate then that this tour celebrates the culmination of "Smile," the near-mythical album that he and the Beach Boys abandoned in the studio in 1967. Wilson has just released a version of that album, newly recorded with his fabulous band of devotees. They and the eight-piece Stockholm Strings and Horns were more than able partners in presenting the "Smile" songs in all of their psychedelic wonder and magical harmonies, from the beautiful "Heroes and Villains" and magnificent "Good Vibrations" to truly trippy snippets like "Barnyard" and "Vega-Tables." Through it all, Wilson sang sitting at a keyboard (that he only plinked once), looking less Beach Boy than Beach Buddha, still an enigma, but one with a twinkle in his eye and an occasional beaming smile.
The opening set and several encores were devoted to the deep catalogue of Wilson gems: a lovely a cappella "Surfer Girl," a passionate "Soul Searchin' " and many slices of pure pop perfection like "California Girls," "Help Me, Rhonda" and "Sloop John B."
Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne, in town for last night's Vote for Change concert, ran onstage to sing backup on "Surfin' USA" and "Fun, Fun, Fun." As Wilson exited, both raised their hands and then bowed in homage to the legendary musician. Like everyone else, they too wanted to say thanks.
-- Joe Heim