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Concert Reviews:
Brian Wilson delivers fun, fun, fun at the Fox
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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DETROIT -- Could there be a better way to close the Independence Day weekend than with a night full of America's finest pop music?

Brian Wilson, mastermind and architect of the Beach Boys iconic sound as well as his own compelling solo work of the past 27 years, offered up plenty of his old band's hits on Sunday, July 5, at the Fox Theatre, with Beach Boys co-founder Al Jardine and onetime member Blondie Chaplin in tow. But it was, as always, the nine musicians playing behind Wilson who brought he material to genuine life, recreating the 32 songs' sophisticated harmonics from the complex arrangements right down to details such as the Theramin on "Wild Honey" and "Good Vibrations" and the group whistles towards the end of "All Summer Long."

That made the hour-and-45-minute show less of an artist's concert and more of a celebration of a body of work, with the creator (a visibly happy Wilson) front and center but, as he stared into his teleprompter throughout the night, as much a part of the musical tapestry as the reason for it.

The band's versatility allowed Wilson to dig deep into the Beach Boys catalog, tapping 1968's "Friends" album for the Jardine-sung "Wake The World" and the plaintive "Busy Don' Nothin'," 1970's "Sunflower" for "This Whole World" (sung by music director Darian Sahanaja) and 1973's "Holland" for "California Saga: California." The troupe also delivered a spot-on rendition of the 1965 B-side "Girl Don't Tell Me," while having the animated Chaplin in the fold not only allowed "Sail On, Sailor" to be performed by its original singer but also let Chaplin run, well, wild on a lusty, extended version of "Wild Honey," bolstering the tune with a frenetic guitar solo.

There were, of course, songs from Wilson's latest album, "Pier Pressure" (notably "Sail Away" and "The Right Time," which Jardine and Chaplin contributed to on record) as well as nods to Wilson's new biopic, "Love and Mercy" -- whose opening line, "I was sitting in a crummy movie," now feels like a lyrical wink. And the abundance of Beach Boys classics ran through from the 1963 quartet of "Surfin' USA," "Shut Down," "Surfer Girl" and "Little Deuce Coupe," with Jardine's son Matt commanding the high-register lead vocals on "In My Room" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and his father recreating his trademark parts on "Sloop John B," "Help Me Rhonda" and a cover of the Crystals` "Then He Kissed Me" sung Sunday as "Then I Kissed Her").

The damage Wilson has suffered over the years has been well-documented, and certainly informs the "Love and Mercy" film, but on Sunday he reminded the Fox faithful that throughout, and despite, it all, he created music that was built to last.

Detroit troubadour Sixto Rodriguez opened the evening with a shaky but warmly received 35 minutes that was dogged by guitar-tuning problems that wreaked havoc on the set's flow. The top-hatted singer and songwriter gamely talked his way through the delays, however, nothing that Wilson "has the loveliest of audiences" but also causing a ripple of discontent when he mentioned that "It's only when I left Detroit that I realized people smile." Nevertheless, a large guest list and sympathetic hometown crowd was nothing but supportive, ushering Rodriguez on and off with standing ovations.



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