by Julian Spivey
I was thrilled when I found out that Brian Wilson, the brains behind the Beach Boys, was going to be in Nashville during my time there on my honeymoon. It’s not every day you get to see rock ‘n’ roll royalty and my bride, Aprille, and I had hoped to see some music while in town. We initially planned on the Grand Ole Opry, but why spend a lot of money to see a lineup led by Gene Watson (no offense) when you could see a legend for roughly the same price? The Opry, still a dream of mine, would have to wait.
Brian Wilson, along with fellow Beach Boy Al Jardine, appeared at the Carl Black Chevy Woods Amphitheater just outside of Nashville, Tenn. on Saturday, June 27 for a fantastic set that included nearly all of the great Beach Boys’ classics as part of his No Pier Pressure Tour.
Wilson is one of the real musical geniuses and most talented songwriters of the last 50-plus years and his talent was shown off brilliantly on Saturday night as he and his supremely talented band led the audience on a blissful ride of more than 30 performances.
The surf rock of the Beach Boys’ early years was on full display early on during the show with performances of “California Girls,” “Little Deuce Coupe” and “I Get Around,” which had the packed outdoor audience shuffling around on the grass and singing along at full blast.
Wilson being joined on stage all night long by fellow Beach Boy Al Jardine was a true highlight for those in attendance, especially when Jardine took lead vocals on The Crystals’ cover “Then I Kissed Her” and the Leadbelly cover “Cotton Fields.”
My favorite Beach Boys tunes have always been Wilson’s more thoughtful ballads, as opposed to the fun sound of the band’s surf rock hits of their early days. I prefer songs such as “In My Room,” “Surfer Girl” and “God Only Knows.”
When Wilson performed “God Only Knows,” one of my 10 all-time favorite rock tunes, late during his set it was a true concert bucket list moment for me. “God Only Knows” is easily one of the best written and most beautiful love songs ever in any genre of music.
Wilson, who just turned 73 on June 20th, doesn’t have quite the vocal range that he once had and so he greatly utilized band member Matt Jardine, the son of Al Jardine, on songs like “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” which proved to be among the many highlights of the show.
Another great highlight from the night was the addition of Blondie Chaplin on stage. Chaplin was a member of the Beach Boys during the early ‘70s and regaled the audience on lead vocals of “Sail On, Sailor,” as well as with his fantastic guitar playing.
Wilson didn’t just rely on old Beach Boys’ classics all night long, but also entertained the audience with some new solo stuff including the somewhat disco influenced “Runaway Dancer,” which really had people in attendance grooving at their seats.
Among the other fantastic performances of the evening were “Sloop John B” and “Good Vibrations” from the Beach Boys’ most acclaimed album Pet Sounds, which VH1 once named the greatest album of all-time, as well as “Surf’s Up” and “Heroes & Villains.”
After a terrific version of “Good Vibrations,” Wilson and his band rejoined the stage for a fascinating encore that included some of the Beach Boys’ earliest hits like “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Barbara Ann,” “Surfin’ USA” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.”
Wilson then ended the concert with a beautiful vocal on “Love & Mercy,” which is the name of the movie focusing on his life currently in theaters in which Paul Dano and John Cusack both portray Wilson at different points in his life.
Seeing Wilson in person is definitely one of those concerts I’m never going to forget, and I’ve had the great luxury of seeing some of my all-time favorite artists in person. It certainly made the last night of my honeymoon a perfect ending to a perfect week.