Brian Wilson attended The Beatles LOVE party in Las Vegas NV (Jun 2006)
Brian Wilson & Paul McCartney: 2 legends, 1 summer
July 26, 2016
The word "legend" all too often gets tossed around to the point where it can become cliché, but when you talk about Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson, the word is about as apropos as it can get.
It’s no secret that 2016 has not been kind to the music world. We’ve lost Prince, David Bowie and countless others — silenced way too early — so when the opportunity to see both McCartney and Wilson arose, I jumped at the chance.
Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney
(Photo: Argus Leader)
When mentioning both men, you ultimately get into a conversation of the bands that made them famous: The Beach Boys and The Beatles. Both bands dominated the 1960s with hit after hit, seemingly and unknowingly pushing each other to greater heights. Then The Beatles dropped Rubber Soul and the gauntlet had been thrown down. Wilson set out to create an album that would not only top Rubber Soul, but would be the greatest album of all time. That album would become Pet Sounds.
Back in the early part of the year, Wilson announced that he would be touring for the 50th Anniversary of the album, playing it in its entirety. It was an opportunity I could not pass up. He wouldn’t be passing through Sioux Falls, but close enough for a small weekend getaway. Wilson would be playing at the Stir Cove at Harrah's Casino in Council Bluffs. Tickets were purchased the day they went on sale, and just like that I was going to see a legend. My girlfriend was excited about the concert and stopping at the zoo, so we had our summer vacation planned.
— Christopher Dexter (@cdexter99) 17 de julio de 2016
About a month later, there were rumblings that a major concert was coming to Sioux Falls. Our resident Beatle guru, Michael Klinski, pretty much had it figured out that Paul McCartney would be playing a set in the city. True to form, the concert was announced and the event sold out pretty much instantly. My girlfriend had mentioned that she wanted to go to the concert, however I was too slow in getting tickets. Fortunately, my boss, Patrick Lalley, had two tickets up for grabs after his wife told him she would be out of town, so Paul McCartney in May followed by Brian Wilson in July.
Two legends, one summer.
Comparing the two can be tricky since it really depends on your tastes.
In terms of name recognition alone, McCartney wins hands down. He’s never really faded from the collective consciousness with endless projects, public appearances and Super Bowl halftime shows, one I will always remember as pretty epic. Wilson, on the other hand, pretty much disappeared after his album and the response to Sgt. Pepper, Smile was shelved due to band infighting, drug abuse and mental health issues, including being misdiagnosed and being under the control of a corrupt doctor. Smile would later be reassembled in 2004, earning Wilson a Grammy for the album. However, many wonder what would have happened, had Smile dropped back in 1967 and the friendly feud between the Beach Boys and the Beatles continued.
My girlfriend, Tammy and I before the concert. The temperature was 87 degrees but felt like 97 according to my phone. (Photo: Tammy Langholz)
While, he’s a legend in the industry, Wilson’s popularity is limited. This hit home when I would tell people that I would be going to see Brian Wilson perform. Either I would get a blank stare or a “That’s cool,” response knowing full well they had no idea who I was talking about, even though he’s had a critically acclaimed movie made about his life. But in Wilson’s defense, he prefers to remain in the background. After a panic attack aboard an airplane in 1965, he stopped touring with the band and focused on creating music. More specifically, Pet Sounds. He’s not fond of interviews nor is performing in public his favorite thing. I don’t think it’s a stretch to call him a musician rather than an entertainer.
Tammy and I before the Paul McCartney concert in Sioux Falls on May 2. (Photo: Christopher Dexter / Argus Leader)
Performance wise, McCartney takes this category. He was constantly active, talking with the audience, telling stories and cracking jokes. You would never guess that this was a man of 73 (now 74) with how much of a show he put on. You had the pyrotechnics and fireworks, coupled with the lights and unique stage setups, which made for a more visual experience. His voice has pretty much held up through the years, having no trouble belting out memorable lyrics.
View from our seats at the Premier Center for Paul McCartney. (Photo: Christopher Dexter / Argus Leader)
For Pet Sounds, Wilson was a much more stationary character, but not nearly as uninterested as some reviews would lead you to believe. He would greet the crowd and introduce the songs, while mostly behind his grand piano. His voice, sadly, isn't what it used to be. A perfect example of what range he had is best displayed during his studio rehearsal for the track Surf's Up in 1967, but that was mostly handled perfectly by Matt Jardin, founding Beach Boy Al Jardin's son. There were no stories or wild light displays, just the music and watching the band itself, which leads us to…
Our seats for Brian Wilson, were first come, first serve. The tents came down just before the concert started. (Photo: Christopher Dexter / Argus Leader)
This is probably the most debatable depending on your mood at the time and your taste. For me, Wilson’s performance was a musical feast for the ears.
McCartney had the usual four to five guys playing guitar, bass, drums and keyboard. Throughout the concert he moved to organ, then to grand piano. With the stage set up, it made for an enjoyable experience; however, I was not fond of who was running the sound as it was distorted at times.
— Christopher Dexter (@cdexter99) 18 de julio de 2016
To execute Pet Sounds in a live setting and get it remotely close to sounding like they were in a studio, takes musicians, and Wilson had them. Eleven — 12 if you count former Beach Boy guitarist Blondie Chaplin, who performed on a limited basis — were on the stage with at least one instrument they were responsible for, including Al Jardin. You had a piano, flute, french horn, baritone harmonica, saxophone and countless other sounds. Each band member also had a mic in front of them, contributing to the lush harmonies of the album and performance. There were times, however, where Wilson did fumble over some lyrics and was off-key in some spots, but when it mattered the most, he delivered, especially when he sang God Only Knows and the final song of the evening, Love & Mercy which brought me to tears. Maybe it was because it was such a great ending. Maybe it was because, this man, who has endured so much, is still here with us and sharing this album.
Both concerts are something I will always remember and cherish for the rest of my life. Both men changed the music world so much that not mentioning them at the top is a crime.
If you have the chance to see either of them perform, I wouldn’t pass it up. Time goes by so fast and who knows how long these two giants will grace us on Earth.
Wouldn't it be nice if they finally toured together? God only knows...
Photo of Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney... autographed by Paul to Brian.