“With Pet Sounds I tried to write a sketch book which represented my whole life” said a 23 year old Brian Wilson on the album’s release in 1966, summarising his intent to create not only a pop masterpiece to rival the Beatles ‘Rubber Soul’ but also his perfect self-portrait.
51 years, and numerous ‘greatest album ever’ awards, later it’s fair to say that, despite his later attempts to realise even higher ambitions (“a teenage symphony to God”), Pet Sounds remains the watershed moment in the career of arguably the greatest pop composer of all time.
Toured intermittently since 2000 Pet Sounds has gained critical acclaim not just for it’s musical content, but also the ability of Wilson and his band to reproduce the albums complicated sounds, instrumentations and vocal harmonies. Brian’s Time Square performance is no exception to this benchmark; his 10 piece band providing an exceptional collective when meeting the challenge of replicating the sounds of original LA session musicians ‘The Wrecking Crew’. An exercise in reductionism this most certainly is not and, as with the album, the Beach Boys harmonies are only able to shine when they are placed onto a precise symphonic background.
Vocally, the performance is led by Brian, conducted by Wondermint Darian Sahanaja, and formed with past Beach Boys Al Jardin and Blondie Chaplin as well as Al’s son Matt who takes the majority of Carl Wilson’s higher vocals. Matt, in particular, is able to provide the required emotion to Tony Asher’s original lyrics by playing with the rhythm and intentionally never always landing on the beat. It’s a master class in vocal ability and a fine tribute to Carl and Tony’s lyrics of emotional trials.
Bookended by Beach Boys classics, Pet Sounds is the highlight of a performance which reminds you of the force pop music can be when it’s left to the experts.