Review: ‘Brian Wilson’

Brian Wilson returned to his "spiritual home," London's Royal Festival Hall, to preem the commissioned song-suite "That Lucky Old Sun," which marked the venue's re-opening. Work is a complex song-cycle by Wilson and "Smile" lyricist Van Dyke Parks.

Brian Wilson returned to his “spiritual home,” London’s Royal Festival Hall, to preem the commissioned song-suite “That Lucky Old Sun,” which marked the venue’s re-opening. Work is a complex song-cycle by Wilson and “Smile” lyricist Van Dyke Parks. And it contains at least one new bona fide Brian Wilson classic, the bittersweet and heartfelt “Midnight’s Another Day,” and — whisper it softly — the work may be overall a match for “Smile.”

While there’s nothing this eclectic, complex and ambitious work to equal the majestic “Surf’s Up,” Wilson is, against the odds, finding fresh inspiration by revisiting favorite topics and fashioning the swelling melody lines that induce goose bumps.

A seamless 10-song suite with five narrative sections — reminiscent of the Beach Boys’ 1973 album “Holland” — it embraces familiar Wilson Californian terrain by romanticizing Los Angeles and its pleasure-seeking denizens.

The song, “That Lucky Old Sun,” was composed in 1949 by Beasley Smith and Haven Gillespie; Wilson used Louis Armstrong’s version as a starting point for the piece.

A much-deserved standing ovation greeted the conclusion of “That Lucky Old Sun” a sense of relief filling the audience that Wilson’s new work had delivered so much.

Opening set was devoted to Beach Boys classics (“In My Room,” “California Girls,” “Good Vibrations”)”and overlooked gems such as “Girl Don’t Tell Me.”

For a surprise in the encore, Wilson perform the Lennon-McCartney orchestral tearjerker “She’s Leaving Home.” Taken too fast, the band’s gorgeous harmonies saved the song from taking a wrong turn.

Brian Wilson

Royal Festival Hall, London: 2,780 seats: £55 $110 top

Cast

Band: Brian Wilson, Jeff Foskett, Darian Sahanaja, Scott Bennett, Probyn Gregory, Jim Hines, Nelson Bragg, Nick Walusko, Paul Mertens, Taylor Mills, Stockholm strings and horns
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