Brian Wilson: live in Liverpool

Brian Wilson is arguably the greatest American composer of popular music in the rock era.
Brian Wilson is God. Andy Lippincott, Doonesbury

On a night that was decidedly not southern California, went to the Phil with the rain bucketing down to see Brian Wilson perform his greatest hits with S – whose dream is to ‘live inside a Beach Boys song’.  Well, she got the chance – at least for two hours. It was a great show – over two hours of sublime teen hits and rock’n’roll. Though Brian has an awkward stage manner and sits at a keyboard which he hardly seems to play, his vocals were fine, and he gets tremendous support from his band, a bunch of very capable musicians who are able to replicate even tricky studio-crafted originals like Good Vibrations note-perfect.

The show opened with those magical chords that introduce California Girls and the audience were smiling and cheering.  Then Brian and the band got stuck into a sequence of the early rock’n’roll surfing hits from Dance Dance Dance to Surfer Girl – the first song he ever wrote. Brian drew the first half to a close with a sequence that began with one of my favourite later Beach Boys songs, Sail on Sailor, before Marcella and Do It Again wrapped the first set.

After the interval, there wer more oldies as well as a suite from latest album That Lucky Old Sun. Wilson seems happiest with the crowd on their feet, and they were up and whooping for the Pet Sounds classics, Sloop John B, Wouldn’t It Be Nice and God Only Knows. Wilson led the band into the heavenly harmonies of God Only Knows, the inner producer in him orchestrating the voices with waves of his hand. And the set closed with Good Vibrations, Brian Wilson and the band members leaving the stage to a rapturous standing applause.

There was a pleasant surprise when they returned for the first encore with a version of Eight Days A Week – followed by a tribute to Chuck Berry, such a major influence on the early Beach Boys recordings, with Johnny B Goode;  then Surfin’ USA and Fun Fun Fun, with hardly a soul staying in their seats. The band left the stage again, but Brian returned for a final encore of  Love and Mercy.

Set list

California Girls
Girl Don’t Tell
Dance, Dance, Dance
Surfer Girl
In My Room
Salt Lake City
Custom Machine
Soul Searchin’
Desert Drive
Don’t Worry Baby
I Get Around
Sail on Sailor
Do It Again


Then I Kissed Her
Your Imagination
When I Grow Up
All Summer Long
Shut Down
Little Deuce Coupe
Suite from That Lucky Old Sun
Do You Wanna Dance?
Surfin’ USA
Wouldn’t It Be Nice
Sloop John B
God Only Knows
Southern California
Good Vibrations

Eight Days a Week
Johnny B. Goode
Help Me Rhonda
Barbara Ann
Fun Fun Fun
Love and Mercy

Brian Wilson: God Only Knows live

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