BRIAN WILSON, at Molson Amphitheatre, July 20. Tickets: $29.50-$59.50. Attendance: 5,000. Rating: NNN
There was no earthly way of recapturing the magic of the Pet Sounds album onstage. Many dedicated Beach Boys fans realized that and chose to stay home rather than watch the troubled Brian Wilson try, and fail.
Even with a 50-some-piece symphonic orchestra working from charts said to have been drawn up by Van Dyke Parks, and members of the Beach Boys-schooled Wondermints leading the way, Wilson still had to contend with his own demons and obvious vocal limitations.
Remembering the words wasn't a problem -- teleprompters took care of that -- but singing in key and hitting the high notes was a struggle throughout the show. Hearing Wilson straining on familiar songs was nothing but sad.
While the thrilled Wondermints bounced around the stiff icon seated stage-front behind an electric piano (which he barely touched), the Jumbotron close-ups of Wilson's face showed the furrowed-brow exasperation of a frustrated perfectionist.
No one present seemed to mind when he fumbled a line or coughed mid-phrase. Wilson just had to complete his songs to receive a standing ovation. Yet despite the waves of affection flowing his way, he remained uneasy.
The only time he appeared to enjoy himself was during Sloop John B., when he sang the refrain "This is the worst trip I've ever been on" like he meant it.
Before he could split, he knew he had to deliver a few golden oldies, so Surfer Girl, Fun Fun Fun and California Girls were knocked out in quick succession. Wilson, bundled up in a fleece sweater zipped to his chin, chirped, "Thank you" and skulked offstage before the last note fell.