Brian Wilson review – frail Beach Boy isn’t made for these times

Hammersmith Apollo, London
The band are fantastic, the songs often euphoric – but Brian Wilson is a diminished and troubling presence at the heart of this Beach Boys revue

It is a sobering thought that there are people in tonight’s audience who clearly weren’t born when Brian Wilson started playing Pet Sounds in concert, let alone when the Beach Boys released their legendary 1966 album. It was 15 years ago that Wilson first performed Pet Sounds live in London, at a Royal Festival Hall show received with a kind of boggling, delighted incredulity by an audience who couldn’t quite believe that, after decades of mental illness and drug abuse, Wilson’s health was apparently restored enough to helm a note-perfect live rendition of his complex, nuanced masterpiece.

And yet, here we are, a decade and a half on, ostensibly gathered to hear the final London airing of Pet Sounds in its entirety. A cynical voice might point out that was supposed to happen last year, when Wilson sold out three nights at the London Palladium and one at the Royal Albert Hall on the grounds that he was retiring live performances of the album on the occasion of its 50th birthday.

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