The L.A. Philharmonic closed out its summer at the Hollywood Bowl by taking a most jubilant weekend cruise along the Pacific Ocean with Brian Wilson and a Beach Boys hit parade. Within the collection of songs concerning girls and the surf, Wilson unveiled the three most compelling songs from his latest album, “That Lucky Old Sun,” a meditation on Southern California and its lost innocence, which will be performed in its entirety in most of his concerts in the near future.
All three are ballads rich in major chords and wordless harmonies, reminiscences about his late siblings, romance and his hometown — yet all share characteristics with only a single tune that makes it into the 19-song hit parade, “Heroes and Villains.” The material aligns musically with “Smile” and gave the evening a bit of gravitas, keeping it from being a solid outing by one of the world’s most proficient cover bands.
“Midnight’s Another Day,” performed with the L.A. Phil, and “Southern California,” the evening’s encore, are among the most biographical tunes Wilson has ever written (keyboardist Scott Bennett was his co-writer), and both allow Wilson to revel in the glory of his recovery over the past 10 years with a look over his shoulder at a troubled life. “Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl,” is a simple tip of the cap to his first wife.
Appearance of the new material falls in line with the goal of the leader of the Wilson band, Darian Sahanaja: Provide an opportunity for Wilson to re-create his Beach Boys recordings onstage as they sounded on the album. Particularly effective Friday was “Dance, Dance, Dance,” a slightly sped-up “Heroes and Villains” and “Sail on, Sailor.” Wilson, seated at a keyboard he never uses, is quite well-supported; whenever he slips off-key or fades vocally, the group covers up for him admirably.
Orchestra, conducted by John Morris Russell, performed pieces by composers Wilson adores — Mozart, Bach and Gershwin — before backing him on “God Only Knows” and two of the new pieces.