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Brian Wilson played ‘Pet Sounds’ & more at McCarren Park (review, pics)

photos by PSquared

The final big outdoor McCarren Park show of the 2016 Northside Festival went down Sunday evening (6/12) with Beach Boy Brian Wilson performing the band’s classic 1966 album Pet Sounds in full for its 50th anniversary, as he’s doing on tour all year. Before Brian and his band (which also includes original Beach Boy Al Jardine) played the album, they did a few other Beach Boys classics, including “California Girls,” “I Get Around,” “Surfer Girl,” and “Don’t Worry Baby.” That last one had lead vocals from Al’s son Matt Jardine, who handled the falsetto all night. He was on point at times, but mostly did a mediocre impression of Brian’s ’60s years. Brian’s voice may be grizzled these days, but it would’ve been nicer to hear him adapt the songs for his current range than give away crucial lead vocal parts. (The harmonies were better when Brian toured as a member of The Beach Boys in 2012.) The band was spot on though, with two drummers, multiple guitarists and keyboard players, horns, and more to really fill out The Beach Boys’ Wall of Sound.

The real treat of the pre-Pet Sounds section was when ’70s-era Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin came out to do lead vocals and lead guitar on two songs. He did a fine rendition of Carl’s soulful vocals on “Wild Honey” (with someone, presumably one of the keyboard players, handling the electro-theremin) and the big 1973 single that he himself recorded vocals for, “Sail On, Sailor.” Then Blondie left the stage (he’d return for some guitar and tambourine later) and the band began Pet Sounds.

The album of course begins with a bang, and this performance of it did too. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” started the most amount of crowd singing/dancing that the Pet Sounds section would have all night (or maybe “Sloop John B” gave it a run for its money). I thought the band could’ve been a little louder, and again, those harmonies could’ve been richer, but it was a real pleasure to see Brian sing these songs. The way his voice currently sounds is charming, even if he’s not hitting all the notes he used to. And his stage banter is too — Brian was really funny between songs. The best parts were the softer songs, where Brian’s voice could really shine. “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder),” performed under deep blue lighting, really showed off how gorgeous his songwriting is. “God Only Knows” and the album’s closing track “Caroline, No” did this too, sounding just about as moving in a 2016 live setting as they do on their 1966 recordings.

After the album it was their post-Pet Sounds single (and best song) “Good Vibrations.” That one finally got the crowd moving more than they were for the Pet Sounds stuff, and Brian still sounds fantastic on those verses. Then he and the band took it back for “Barbara Ann,” “Surfin’ Safari” and “Fun Fun Fun,” all of which were a fun (fun fun) way to end the night.

The show was opened by Hinds and ex-Vampire Weekend member Rostam, whose set included a string section, dancers, and appearances by Wes Miles (Ra Ra Riot), Hamilton Leithauser (The Walkmen) and Deraoodrian. Check out more pictures HERE, and below with Brian’s setlist:

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Brian Wilson @ McCarren Park – 6/12/16 Setlist
California Girls
I Get Around
Surfer Girl
Don’t Worry Baby
Sail On, Sailor
Wild Honey
Wouldn’t It Be Nice
You Still Believe in Me
That’s Not Me
Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)
I’m Waiting for the Day
Let’s Go Away for Awhile
Sloop John B
God Only Knows
I Know There’s an Answer
Here Today
I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times
Pet Sounds
Caroline, No
Good Vibrations
Barbara Ann
Surfin’ U.S.A.
Fun, Fun, Fun

Brian’s Pet Sounds tour returns to NYC in September for a Beacon Theater show.

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