Brian Wilson @ Hollywood Bowl 9/12/08
It’s an LA tradition to send out summer with a fireworks spectacular at the Hollywood Bowl and this year, they may have found their most ideal co-host and honoree in Brian Wilson. As leader of the Beach Boys, he created the closest thing we have to an Original Soundtrack for the city, and last night, we got to see it played out in front of us, complete with fireworks.
While he’s never been a natural performer, Wilson’s live shows have evolved considerably since his return to the road in 1999. He seemed frightened and uncomfortable during those first few years, but the good will of an audience that was just pleased to see him around floated him through the rough spots, and his immaculate band of singing sidemen was always right there to jump in and plug the dyke if his voice was flagging. By the early 2000s he looked a lot better, more relaxed and emotive, actually having some fun up there. At the Bowl on Friday, he seemed to be having the time of his life, and sang as well as I’ve ever heard him in those ten years of shows.
He was set up by perhaps the most impressive opening act for a rock show I’ve ever encountered – the LA Philharmonic, playing some of Brian’s favorite orchestral pieces. An astute Wilsonite could sit there and play “spot the influence” as the Phil performed the Stokowski orchestration of Bach’s Toccata And Fugue In D Minor, and the overtures to Mozart’s Marriage Of Figaro and Gershwin’s Girl Crazy. Conductor John Morris Russell dedicated the Bach piece to the “hill people” in the nosebleed seats, reminiscing about his days as a USC student, watching concerts from the tippy-top of the Bowl’s benches.