Monday, August 15, 2005

You had to be there

My parents tell me I was conceived to Side 2 of the Beach Boys "Pet Sounds" album, which is so much more than I ever really wanted to know. Of course it makes sense to start getting cozy to "God Only Knows," but it gives a whole new meaning to "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times."

That's how I got to be named Brian -- and yes, you have now guessed what the "W" stands for. And it helps explain why "Smile" has become my favorite album of all time. But you don't have to be named after Brian Wilson to know how great that music is.

Wilson brought his band to the Garden State Arts Center (I will not call it the PNC Center, thank you) Friday night, Aug. 12. Good thing they project him up on those big screens; I wasn't exactly sitting near the front. But the visual was not the main reason for being there; the music was. An hour of great old Beach Boys tunes, an intermission, and then it was time for the live performance we've been waiting for my whole lifetime.

The lyrics often don't make sense -- Mike Love was right, WTF does "columnated ruins domino" mean? -- but the music, the music ... the beautiful harmonies of the opening "Prayer," the echoes of "Good Vibrations" in "Song for Children" and of "Heroes and Villains" in "I'm In Great Shape" and of "Roll Plymouth Rock" in "On a Holiday," and the way Brian and the band just can't stop smiling ...!

So many people and writers have said that if the Beach Boys' "Smile" had come out before "Sgt. Pepper" as it was supposed to, then the Beatles album would not have been as groundbreaking. I don't know. Back in '67 the Beach Boys were a little confused and resistant to the flow of "Smile." I wonder if they would have been able to pull it off after all. Maybe this had to percolate in Brian's troubled mind for 37 years, and maybe the music had to wait until he had a band that not only loves Brian but loves "Smile." And there's no doubt they do.

Three encores -- they must have loved the crowd as much as the crowd loved them. After all these years, it is so great to see Brian Wilson's vision of a "teenage symphony to God" redeemed so triumphantly.

You owe it to yourself to get hold of "Smile." I never like live albums better than studio projects, but I make an exception for this one: The performance of "Smile" on the DVD is freer and even more soaring than on the original CD, and you get the bonus of the fabulous documentary "Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of 'Smile.'"


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