Review: ‘Carl Wilson Foundation Benefit’

Yet another stellar performance from Brian Wilson and his crew topped off an encouraging three-hour tribute to his late brother Carl, the singer and guitarist best known for an angelic voice and a steadying presence in the Beach Boys throughout the act's turbulent run from the late '60s until his death in 1998.

Yet another stellar performance from Brian Wilson and his crew topped off an encouraging three-hour tribute to his late brother Carl, the singer and guitarist best known for an angelic voice and a steadying presence in the Beach Boys throughout the act’s turbulent run from the late ’60s until his death in 1998.

As in years past, family dominated this year’s outing — sons, daughters and even ex-wives alternated between Beach Boys songs and originals; it was up to friends such as Timothy B. Schmit and Dewey Bunnell of America to provide the Carl anecdotes that touched the heart. It was remarked upon from the stage how the lineup reflected well on how Carl Wilson lived his life and the words rang as true as several of the perfs.

The late Carl Wilson’s sons Jonah and Justyn established the foundation to support cancer research and assist cancer victims. This year’s recipients are the Silver Lining Foundation, the City of Hope and the Lester Petrillo Fund for musicians with cancer.

Harmonies, at which Carl specialized in the high end, were on display at every turn at this concert, and the performances fashioned a decades-long throughline in American pop. Were the performances broken down and reassembled chronologically, a most striking collage of the blissfully mellow California style of group singing could be assembled, running from the Backtracks’ a capella rendition of “In My Room” to Carnie and Wendy Wilson singing “God Only Knows” to Brian’s “Heroes and Villains” to Chicago leader Robert Lamm taking on the Chicago/Beach Boy hit from the mid-1970s, “Wishing You Were Here” and finally, Schmidt’s smash with the Eagles’ “I Can’t Tell You Why.” Lamm also performed two tunes from the album “Like a Brother” that he recorded with Carl Wilson and America’s Gerry Beckley that, although recorded in the mid-1990s, wasn’t released until last year.

In Bloom, the band featuring the sons of the late Dennis and Carl Wilson, Jonah and Justyn, performed, oddly enough, the song with the least amount of stylistic debt to their family’s legacy: “Crazy ‘Lil Mouse,” a tune featured in the film “Bandits.” It does, however, have a great little guitar riff that runs between Justyn’s raps.

Brian Wilson ended the evening with a focused hourlong set that emphasized chestnuts (“Desert Drive,” “Please Let Me Wonder,” “Surf’s Up,” “Marcela”) for the cult that follows his every move, saving the bigger hits for the encore. Evening closed with all the performers gathered on Wilson’s solo hit “Love and Mercy.”

Well-attended event included the auctioning of a guitar signed by the artists — purchased by the wife of Beach Boy front man Mike Love.

Carl Wilson Foundation Benefit

El Rey; 770 capacity; $100

Production

Presented by the Carl Wilson Foundation.

Crew

Reviewed Oct. 14, 2001.

Cast

Brian Wilson and band, Carnie and Wendy Wilson, America, the Honeys, In Bloom, Robert Lamm, Timothy B. Schmit, Matt Jardine, David Marks, Backtrack.
House band: Billy Hinsche, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Jeffrey Foskett, Gary Griffin, Bobby Figueroa, Scotty Bennett, Todd Sickerman; emcee, Rick Martin.
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