Brian Wilson celebrates 50 years of Pet Sounds
For one evening, New Orleans adopted the good vibrations of the West Coast, as Brian Wilson and Al Jardine came to the Saenger Theater for the 50th Anniversary of the Beach Boys album, Pet Sounds. In Hawthorne, California, Brian Wilson founded the Beach Boys with Jardine, his brothers Dennis Wilson & Carl Wilson, and cousin Mike Love in 1961. With Dennis and Carl having passed away before the 2000’s, and Mike Love being an infamous jerk, Al and Brian are really the last remaining members of the Beach Boys. This made for a once-in-a-lifetime event; not to mention, it is most likely the last time Wilson will play Pet Sounds in it’s entirety.
There was no opening act, but two sets were performed by the former Beach Boys and their huge band. To get the night started, they played a series of Beach Boys favorites, the first of which was “California Girls.” The band consisted of twelve musicians, including musical director Paul Von Mertens, part time Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin, and Al Jardine’s son Matthew Jardine. During the first set, after Brian sang lead for a few hits, Matthew Jardine was introduced to the audience and he sang lead for “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Let Him Run Wild.” To the audience’s great surprise and pleasure, his young voice perfectly executed the famous Beach Boys falsetto tones. At 74 years old, Brian Wilson’s vocals have definitely lost something over the years, so it was refreshing to hear Matt support the difficult notes and songs throughout the night.
After a 30-minute intermission, the large group returned to the stage, and without further ado, went into the first track of Pet Sounds, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” sang by Matt Jardine. Matt and Wilson alternated lead vocals for the whole album. Pet Sounds is arguably the most experimental and influential album of its time. For the Beach Boys, it was definitely their most creative album, written mainly by Brian Wilson. Wilson’s goal for the album was to make something totally unique, utilizing a slew of eclectic instruments and harmonies that musicians at the time equated to the hearing range of dogs, hence the title “Pet Sounds.” Since its production, the record has paved the way for musicians all over the world and still continues to make an impact on artists. Popular bands of today like The Shins, Grizzly Bear, and Animal Collective are very obviously influenced by the sound, the latter of which is almost a digital copy of the Beach Boys. At the time of the record’s release, the Beatles even noted Pet Sounds as a massive influence for their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Wilson lead his band of a dozen musicians skillfully, and they carried out the entire album with expertise. The record’s expansive sound was done perfect justice with all the different instruments on stage. Everything was included, down to the french horn in “God Only Knows” and even the bicycle horn in “You Still Believe In Me.” The instrumental tracks especially gave the big band a chance to showcase their talents. After the final track, “Caroline, No,” Wilson and friends came back out to a standing ovation and finished the evening with a six-song encore of their all-time most popular songs: “Good Vibrations”, “Help Me Rhonda”, “Barbara Ann”, “Surfin’ USA”, “Fun Fun Fun”, and the final track of the night was Brian Wilson’s original tune “Love and Mercy.” The crowd took love and mercy home with them as they left the Saenger, hearts full and ears satisfied.
Finn Turnbull is a NOLA-raised photographer and musician that photographs musicians. He graduated from UNO with a degree in Fine Art: Studio Imaging in 2014. He started shooting music shows in 2012 and began writing for Where Y’at Magazine in early 2016. He’s also an official member of the 501st Legion, and a certified nerd. His day job is “professional” pet-stting. He also likes spaghetti, burritos, and dumplings.