Brian Wilson

Pet Sounds Live

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In early 2002, during his first solo tour of Europe and England, Brian Wilson included complete performances of his masterpiece Pet Sounds which attempted to re-create, in a live setting, one of the greatest feats of studio wizardry in rock history. He recorded the music heard on Pet Sounds Live over four nights at London's Royal Festival Hall before a crowd packed with luminaries (simply read the liners for a lengthy who's-who list of intelligent pop musicians in attendance). Though he has trouble taking some of the leads he or brother Carl originally sang some 35 years earlier, the backing harmonies are surprisingly good (even in comparison to the nonpareil Beach Boys), and the ten-piece band is marvelous at summoning the necessary range of emotions, following the arrangements closely ("Let's Go Away for Awhile" alone must have taken days to perfect), and adding innumerable little touches for the benefit of those possessing a near-total familiarity with the original. To all this praise, however, must be added the considerable caveat: Wilson's stage presence is still problematic, if not completely bizarre. He still sounds tentative and forced when pressed to live performance, at one point interjecting "Hooray for the audience!" into a blank void; later, it's difficult to tell whether he's joking when he twice announces, "Here's an instrumental, with no voices, okay?" Those who've seen a Wilson concert before won't be surprised at the push-and-pull between clever musicianship and embarrassing showmanship, while curious Pet Sounds fans will find only scattered bits to intrigue them.

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