November 1, 2004
For some, the chance to see Brian Wilson Sunday night was akin to witnessing the second coming.
“It's gonna be like seeing Jesus Christ,” said Sean Gens, 32, drummer for Tempe's power pop combo Sugar High, before the show. “He is the number one musician. He is ‘the one.’ ”
For others who stayed home, the lure of dressing up for Halloween and chasing down fun-sized Snickers bars must have been more enticing than seeing the Beach Boys’ founding genius, as the Dodge Theatre was absurdly only three-quarters full to see a man who is responsible for some of pop music's greatest treasures.
Those lucky enough to be in attendance witnessed what only two years ago would have been deemed a miracle — Brian Wilson performing his 37 years-in-the-making magnum opus, “SMiLE,” in its entirety, bracketed by two sets of his Beach Boys' classic hits.
Beginning the show with his ten piece band in a loose circle, Wilson, dressed casually in black jeans and a bright Aloha shirt, led a jovial acoustic sing-along of “Surfer Girl,” followed by a few more unplugged Beach Boys classics before the band went electric for “Sloop John B” and other crowd pleasers such as “California Girls“ and the rock hymn “God Only Knows” before taking a break.
While Wilson has played his Beach Boys tunes since his return to performing in recent years after a lengthy hiatus, many in the crowd were waiting to hear what “SMiLE” — abandoned in 1967 and finally recorded with his new band and released in September — would be like in a live setting.
“The classics are great,” said Bob Hoag, owner of Mesa's Flying Blanket recording studio, “but I'm waiting for ‘SMiLE.’ ”
Returning to the stage with a 20-piece band that included the Stockholm Strings and Horns, Wilson proceeded to play the glorious “SMiLE” from start to finish with nary a bad note. It was like witnessing Beethoven himself lead an orchestra through his Fifth Symphony — Wilson was in complete command of the difficult, harmony-layered music from the opening a capella notes of the exquisite “Our Prayer” to the closer “Good Vibrations.”
The enraptured crowd gave Wilson and his band a standing ovation that lasted through two encores of Beach Boys’ classics and the composer's solo material before he wrapped up the show with the aching “Love and Mercy,” written for his late brother and Beach Boys bandmate Carl Wilson.
Wilson then cheerily wished the crowd a safe drive home and with a wave walked off stage, leaving the audience buzzing about what they'd just seen.
“It was amazing to see that wide-eyed childhood innocence in Brian Wilson,” said Brett Hinders, 40, singer/guitarist for local band Tulane Blacktop. “He still has that innocence about him.”
Some had trouble even putting the experience into words.
“It was like going to church,” was all Tempe musician Terry Garvin, 38, could say after the show. “It was Brian Wilson — it was just like going to church.”
Add Some Music To Your Day
Good To My Baby
Please Let Me Wonder
Sloop John B
Dance, Dance, Dance
Gettin’ In Over My Head
God Only Knows
The Little Girl I Once Knew
Sail On Sailor
— intermission —
Our Prayer/ Gee
Heroes and Villains
Roll Plymouth Rock
Old Master Painter/ You Are My Sunshine
Song For Children
Child Is The Father Of The Man
I'm In Great Shape/ I Wanna Be Around/ Workshop
On A Holiday
Mrs. O'Leary's Cow
In Blue Hawaii
Do It Again
I Get Around
Help Me Rhonda
Fun Fun Fun
Love And Mercy