Review: Brian Wilson live at the Marquee

Brian Wilson (Photo courtesy of Irish Examiner)

Simply sublime from surf's most sensitive soul...

Like an insecure teenager at a school disco still uncertain where to position his/her hands during the slow dance, it's tough to know what to do at a Brian Wilson show. Is it ok to enjoy it? Or are we merely peeping toms preying on an elderly man, struggling to cope with modern times, just for our own private pleasures. A childhood patterned by physical abuse, a later life numbed by numerous nervous breakdowns and years of full throttle rock 'n' roll living has blatantly taken its toll on the great beach boy. Half the time you're not sure if the magician behind 1966's sand opus Pet Sounds even knows he's here, or even where "here" is.

Initial pitch problems and sound gremlins aggravate this troubling feeling at first but things begin to pick up when Al Jardine is introduced to the crowd, the original Beach Boy's exuberance cranking the current up a click when taking lead vocals on Catch A Wave. The eyes now sparkling a little brighter, his old pal's presence seems to wake the great man from his slumber. Syrupy shoe-shufflers Surfer Girl and In My Room set the crowd in sway as the hits begin to swish and swirl with Al's son Matt taking lead on crowd-pleasers such as Don't Worry Baby and Do You Wanna Dance?, phenomenal falsettos seemingly the chlorine in the Jardine family gene pool.

Seated centre-stage at his trusty piano throughout, Wilson appeared to draw both energy and confidence from his long-time confidante, growing increasingly eager to introduce songs here and provide snippets of insight there (although he left formal band introductions to Al) as the final wave began to build. And then it hit. As the dark clouds of guilt (or at least uncertainty) felt previously parted, the sun appeared. A sun solely comprised of songs, so many surf-soaked songs that the epiphany strikes. Most bands or artists score music for films or television commercials. From Brian Wilson's wonderful brain came not just a soundtrack for an entire city (California) but a score for a season. Who doesn't hear Surfin' USA and I Get Around when they see clear skies and blue oceans? Who doesn't hum Good Vibrations and Wouldn't It Be Nice when their wheels hit hot tarmac? As the collective surf-sweet sounds of all of these sandy songs wash over me, (not to mention the goosebump inducing masterpiece, and Paul McCartney's favourite song of all time, God Only Knows) the great man reminds me why I came here in the first place. The Beach Boys are California. Brian Wilson is Summer. In the end, for all my doubts, it was simply sublime from surf's most sensitive soul.

For more on Brian Wilson visit:

- Brian Wilson played Live at the Marquee, Cork on Friday 4th July 2014

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