LENOX — Should there be any doubt about Brian Wilson's place in the upper pantheon of American songwriters of the 1960s, Sunday's show at Tanglewood put those doubts to bed.
Wilson and his amazing band submitted a stunning, 36-song, two-hour, thirty-minute set before a sellout crowd in the Shed that was howling his name at its completion.
This of course, included the entire "Pet Sounds" album, which was played during the second set. This is the 50th anniversary of the release of this seminal album.
And let it be known: I understand completely why, when the rest of the band returned from touring Japan and heard the "Pet Sounds" demo, they had concerns.
Wilson led off Sunday afternoon's set with a heavy dose of early Beach Boys classics: "California Girls," "Dance, Dance, Dance," "Add Some Music (To Your Day)," "I Get Around" and "Surfer Girl," among others.
Following intermission, the band launched into "Pet Sounds." Gone were songs about surfing, cars, girls and parties. Instead, the album focused on love, loss, pain, relationships and aging.
It was a stark illustration of what Wilson was trying to do. And hey, in the music business, especially in the music business of the sixties, the mantra was, "If it ain't broke, for God's sake, don't try to fix it!"
And, not to get too deep here, but the realization came to me that this kind of experimentation in popular music was unprecedented. And would soon be followed by albums such as "Sgt. Pepper" by the Beatles and "Their Satanic Majesties Request" by the Rolling Stones.
Okay, back to the show. A big part of its success was that Wilson and original member Al Jardine have figured out the harmony issue. Both those fellows can no longer get to those high notes that was the signature sound of the band. Enter Matthew Jardine, Al's son, who was terrific.
Matt Jardine was featured on "In My Room," "Don't Worry Baby," and most of the numbers on "Pet Sounds," such as "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "You Still Believe In Me" and "God Only Knows."
And, wow, what a band! Rolling Stones touring guitarist Blondie Chaplin, drummer Mike D'Amico, percussionist Nelson Bragg, both Jardines, among others. In addition, keyboard whiz Billy Hinsche is on board. Hinsche is recalled (probably by only a few) as the most talented and least known member of the '60s band, Dino, Desi and Billy. Dino being Dean Martin, Jr. and Desi being Desi Arnaz, Jr.
In addition, there was the man whom Bragg described as "our secret weapon": Probyn Gregory, a versatile L.A. session musician who played trumpet, trombone, French horn, guitar, keyboards and the tannerin. A tannerin is an electronic slide version of a Theremin, which meant that we heard "Good Vibrations," "I Just Wasn't Meant For These Times" and the instrumental, "Let's Go Away For Awhile."
The encore was another flurry of fabulous Beach Boys numbers that included "Barbara Ann," "All Summer Long," "Help Me Rhonda" and "Surfin' USA."
Wilson ended the show with a really lovely version of "Love and Mercy." A great, great show.
Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.