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Nothing but love for Brian Wilson

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/6/2011 (3063 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/6/2011 (3063 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

One of music’s most troubled geniuses brought some good vibrations to Winnipeg Wednesday.

Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson stopped at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre last night for a surprisingly small crowd of 1,100 as part of a Canadian tour in support of his 2010 tribute album, Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin, but was sure to include most of the 1960s hits that made him one of music’s most legendary figures.

Beach Boy Brian Wilson performs at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre in Winnipeg Wednesday evening as part of Jazz Fest.

PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

Beach Boy Brian Wilson performs at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre in Winnipeg Wednesday evening as part of Jazz Fest.

Wilson isn’t the most exciting entertainer to watch, but there was a time it appeared he would never perform on stage again due to a combination of mental illness and stage fright, so seeing him seated behind a keyboard with his hands in his lap Wednesday was a thrill in itself, even if Wilson the performer doesn’t have many thrills left.

His music has stood the test of time, though.

The night was divided into two parts, with rearranged songs by George and Ira Gershwin covering the first 45 minutes and the timeless music of the Beach Boys during the second portion, which differed from previous stops on the tour when Beach Boys material opened and closed the show.

The jazzy Gershwin songs were all rearranged to sound like they could have come from the pen of Wilson himself. He was backed by a 14-piece band — including a five-piece string section, three guitarists and two percussionists — who offered up impeccable harmonies on songs like Summertime and Someone to Watch Over Me.

"This next one don’t have any words at all, it’s an instrumental called I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’," Wilson said before the band launched into the celebratory tune that served as one of the highlights of the first 45 minutes.

They Can’t Take That Away from Me was equally joyful, as was I Got Rhythm, which Wilson called the Gershwin’s happiest song, but proved to be a vocal challenge for the singer because he hit a few bum notes during the well-known number.

He didn’t hit any weak spots during a surreal crowd participation number, Row Row Row Your Boat, which he called a "game" he wanted the audience help him play with he and the crowd switching off verses.

"You can’t hear it out there, but we can hear it up here: you guys are good singers," Wilson said.

The crowd got to sing again when it spontaneously broke out into a version of Happy Birthday — Wilson turned 69 on Monday — near the end of the first set when a technical malfunction involving one of the keyboards and a monitor had to be fixed during Nothing But Love.

Wilson, dressed in a pink button up shirt and black track pants, was fairly static during the show as he sat behind his keyboard — which he rarely touched — and read lyrics off a Teleprompter. Occasionally he would clap his hands, snap his fingers or wave his hands in the air when the feeling struck.

He was surprisingly chatty – you could have played a drinking game with the amount of times he said "rock ‘n’ roll" – and introduced many of the songs. His voice sounded strong, and he only sounded off-key a few times, although he let guitarist Jeffrey Foskett and keyboardist Darian Sahanaja handle some of the heavy vocal lifting during the most challenging Beach Boys material that came during the second set.

And what a set. Almost every classic number, including his cerebral pop tunes, surf singles and deep album cuts, were pulled out with favourites like Surfin’, Surfer Girl, Don’t Worry Baby, I Get Around, California Girls, the instrumental Pet Sounds, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, Sloop John B., God Only Knows (which Wilson called the best song he ever wrote), Good Vibrations, Barbara Ann – with Wilson leaving the confines of his keyboard to play bass – and Surfin' U.S.A. performed over the next 95-minutes, which proved to be more fun, fun, fun and satisfying than the last time I saw the Mike Love version of the Beach Boys in 2006.

Some good vibrations, indeed.

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History

Updated on Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 9:47 AM CDT: Corrected misc. typos

July 31, 2011 at 3:11 PM: Corrected typo

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