Brian Wilson Live Review @ The Sage (Gateshead) - 12 Jul 2009

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Brian Wilson
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Live Review

Folks, this is only bloody Brian Wilson, ingénue, legend, hero, healed survivor - the man who created the soundtrack to a generation and is now rightly recognized, in this late career crest as The Governor. The bad days are behind him and tonight's band is The Wondermints, so talented they make you sick! Guitars, bass, keyboards, xylophone, drums, percussion, and sax...I counted 11 players on stage - and they all sing like angels. Brian says they're the best he's ever worked with, and to Paul McCartney, they're the best touring band in the world - it's nice that they both agree with me!

The heavenly vocal harmony sound that came from Wilson's vision and creativity opens the show and the familiar, loping rhythm of the eternal, forever-young California Girls clippity-clops into life and we are already in rapture, all just so damned pleased for Brian that the feel-good factor here is so tangible, so strong that it is a physical, shared thing that belongs to everyone in Hall One tonight. A new (to me) song Girl Don't Tell Me kinda reminds me of Jackie de Shannon's Every Time That You Walk In The Room - and there's nothing wrong with that - Brian has always openly acknowledged and celebrated other great talents, as this evening will confirm. And here we go - pure hot, sunny summer romance in 7 minutes with the chiming My Little Girl, and all the Hawaiian shirt wearers (they look like an explosion in a paint factory) are in seventh heaven with Dance, Dance, Dance (Chuck Berry with surf) - tonight we're going to dance like its 1965. Surfer Girl, sweet and cool as the gentle Venice Beach sea breeze: In My Room - how could he create something so beautiful, in both conception and execution, from such terrible experiences? Singing their sandals off, Salt Lake City is rock 'n' roll with hydrogen vocals and honking sax, and a whole shitload of girls and cars anthems include Custom Machine, Desert Drive, Little Deuce Coupe, Fun Fun Fun (you know, the one about her daddy taking the T Bird away). Brian Wilson writes a masterpiece in time I take to make a cup of tea.

This is such a slick, gifted band that keeps the pace moving, classic followed by bigger classic, this was an emotional night, hearing The Man perform...read and be amazed by this heritage...heart-stopping Don't Worry Baby (a work of art); I Get Around (a total rhythmic triumph); Sail on Sailor with a screaming Fender Strat solo; Do It Again (slow build up, drums, then bass...I'm running out of superlatives..); And Then I Kissed Her (Phil Spector makes contact with sax heaven); When I Grow Up To Be A Man (a lasting masterpiece ); All Summer Long (paradoxical that a guy that's had such a crap time brightens so many lives with the words 'fun' and 'summer'); Do You Want To Dance (sheer celebration of youth that pisses all over Cliff's Home Counties boy-next-door version); Sloop John B (the whole house singing and rolling). Friends, you would kill me if I didn't tell you all about... Wouldn't It Be Nice (glorious perfection,a masterclass in everything, Brian conducting, as he did all night, from stage front-centre); God Only Knows (a spiritual in all but name, I'm amazed at what these folks can achieve live on stage - this makes a mockery of the instant pop star, just add ignorance, rubbish that pollutes our media).

Of the more reflective newer material, Going Home ("At 25 I turned out the light cos I couldn't handle the glare in my tired eyes") and Southern California come in shades of grey, melancholy operas for modern times - after all, it does sometimes seem it rains in Southern California. The home stretch gave even more treasures - does it get any better than Good Vibrations (that's a rhetorical question and the answer is a loud - 'no, it doesn't', and 'euphoric' is the only word that comes to my feeble mind), Help Me Rhonda sweeps the room like a Mexican wave and with the crazy call-and-response party that is Barbara Ann, they can hear us singing on the other side of the North Sea in Bergen. Fun Fun Fun, just like The Man says.

The encore has Brian and keyboards only, with Love and Mercy comes from the heart of a man that just wasn't made for these times - God bless you Brian Wilson. You can take me now Lord, after tonight, I'm good to go.

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