40 Hours of Television

The class is over, but the discussion continues. Does the media shape reality, or does reality shape the media? Art can imitate life...and life can imitate art. "40 Hours of TV" will explore the media and its impact on us all.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Brian Wilson Smiles in Portland

I guess reviewers are supposed to be objective, so I should warn you right now that I'm not going to be objective. Instead, I'll take the awed concert-goer approach.

Brian Wilson's "Smile" tour came to Portland, OR on Aug. 31, playing at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

It was an amazing experience. Not only to actually see Brian Wilson perform, but to enjoy his terrific band. Along for the tour is a small string and horn section from Sweden.

In attendance at the show were a very diverse mixture of people, from aging baby boomers to teenagers and everyone else in between. And it was clear that everyone loved Brian. I think Brian's audiences are a bit protective of him, knowing how he's struggled with mental illness for so many years, and knowing how hard it can be for Brian to tour. So, the crowd embraced Brian (and his band) and roared its approval after every song.

The first part of the show was a trip down memory lane, as Brian and his band performed a string of Beach Boys hits, from early classics like "Surfin' USA" to the Pet Sounds era "Wouldn't It Be Nice."

Brian's voice isn't what it used to be, but he sounded fine, better than he did when the Smile tour began in 2004. Seated at a keyboard, Brian isn't very animated, but his band is, as they run around the stage, some going from station to station, playing different instruments at each.
A standout for me was "Sloop John B." Wow. Band and Brian were amazing.

After an intermission, the band returned to perform Smile, the "lost" recording from the late 1960s. Brian was unable to finish the record, and shelved the project. He was inspired to finish Smile in 2003, enlisting the help of his original Smile collaborator, Van Dyke Parks. Brian has called this album a "teenage symphony to God." From the opening vocal harmonies of "Our Song/Gee" to the famous end-piece, "Good Vibrations," it was a thrilling performance. I think it's probably a bit of a challenge to sit through if you've never heard Smile, because of how the album is arranged. The band played it through nearly without a pause, and the crowd was wanting to applaud every number.

Brian and his band returned for an encore, playing hits like "Barbara Ann" and even "Johnny B. Goode."

It was an exciting night, and thrilling -- and inspiring -- to see Brian perform. It was even more thrilling to see Brian animated, smiling, waving his arms around, and even talking to the crowd, something he didn't do in early performances in 2004. And while it wasn't a sell-out crowd, it was nearly a packed house, and when someone would shout out "We love you, Brian!" it was a sentiment shared by all.
edited: ME

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