Review & Set List: Brian Wilson Plays "Pet Sounds" @ New York State Fair, Syracuse, NY

by Roger Wink, VVN Music

Brian Wilson brought his band to the Chevy Court at the New York State Fair on Monday night with his Pet Sounds 50th anniversary show.

We'll get the bad out of the way first. This was really no place for this show. The Chevy Court is a large, open air, stage that is free to all fair goers. Over the years, it has grown from relatively minor artists to the current year's lineup that includes free shows by Wilson, Culture Club, Toto, Chicago, Flo Rida and many more.

The problem is that the crowds that attend are less familiar with deep catalog. They may only know a few of the artist's best known songs and are are looking to hear them and be entertained unlike someone who actively pays for a ticket to see the artist and is more invested in their material. While Pet Sounds is one of the greatest albums ever made, it is unfamiliar to the majority of people in the crowd except for the three hits (Wouldn't It Be Nice, God Only Knows, Sloop John B). Even Wilson seemed aware of the problem as twice, early in the playing of the album, he said "Don't worry. We'll be back to the rock and roll in about half an hour." You really shouldn't have to apologize for playing what Rolling Stone calls the second greatest album ever recorded.

Second, being free and at the end of a long, hot day, there were many concert goers, especially under-30's, who were tired and may have been drinking heavily. They were rude, talking during songs and yelling.  Pet Sounds is, in many spots, such a delicate and beautiful album that such antics can ruin the enjoyment of songs like I Believe in You, God Only Knows and Caroline No.

Finally, the state fair is invested in entertaining the crowd and keeping them moving to the hundreds of food vendors and the midway.  Most shows at the Empire Court are limited to one to one-and-a-half hours. That meant that Wilson had to cut half of the first portion of the show to keep it within time limits, including songs like Heroes and Villains, Surfer Girl, You're So Good to Me and, the biggest loss, Don't Worry Baby.

The first portion of the show included a number of Beach Boys hits along with a few highlighting other members of the band. Original Beach Boy member Al Jardine is in amazing voice, sounding exactly the same as he did fifty years ago on Little Deuce Coupe and California Saga: California.

Blondie Chaplin, a member during the 70's, did more screaming on Wild Honey but toned it down for his biggest contribution to the Beach Boys' legacy, Sail On, Sailor.

Then there is Wilson. His problems over the years are well known and they have taken their toll but, let's face it, this is one of the most important songwriters of the last sixty years and a little loss in voice and memory (he complained early on that his teleprompter wasn't working) can be overlooked to hear these superb songs performed by their originator.

The real find of the show, though, was Al Jardine's son, Matt, who took on all the falsetto vocals along with the sweet higher register songs that pepper Pet Sounds. If he were to somehow take over the legacy of the Beach Boys', it would be a wonderful way for future generations to be able to revel in that glorious sound.

It was unfortunate that the crowd did not sit back and just bask in the glorious music of Pet Sounds. Outside of the three hits, there are such superb compositions as You Still Believe in Me, Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulders), I Just Wasn't Made for These Times and Caroline, No that deserve as much attention as all those well known songs.

The concert finished with a five song run of Beach Boys hits that brought the crowd back alive.

If Wilson comes to your town for what he is calling his final tour playing this album, run to get tickets. It will be a fantastic evening when presented in the environment of a theater.

The set list:
  • California Girls (from Summer Days and Summer Nights, 1965)
  • I Get Around (from All Summer Long, 1964)
  • Shut Down (from Surfin’ USA, 1963)
  • Little Deuce Coupe (from Surfer Girl, 1963)
  • California Saga: California (from Holland, 1973)
  • Wild Honey (from Wild Honey, 1967)
  • Sail On, Sailor (from Holland, 1973)
  • Wouldn’t It Be Nice (from Pet Sounds, 1966)
  • You Still Believe In Me (from Pet Sounds, 1966)
  • That’s Not Me (from Pet Sounds, 1966)
  • Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder) (from Pet Sounds, 1966)
  • I’m Waiting For The Day (from Pet Sounds, 1966)
  • Let’s Go Away For Awhile (from Pet Sounds, 1966)
  • Sloop John B (from Pet Sounds, 1966)
  • God Only Knows (from Pet Sounds, 1966)
  • I Know There’s An Answer (from Pet Sounds, 1966)
  • Here Today (from Pet Sounds, 1966)
  • I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times (from Pet Sounds, 1966)
  • Pet Sounds (from Pet Sounds, 1966)
  • Caroline No (from Pet Sounds, 1966)
  • Good Vibrations (from Smiley Smile, 1967)
  • Help Me Ronda (from Summer Days and Summer Nights, 1965)
  • Barbara Ann (single, 1965)
  • Surfin’ USA (from Surfin’ USA, 1963)
  • Fun Fun Fun (from Shut Down Vol 2, 1964)

1 comment

Matt Canino said...

I was at this show and I agree that the venue was not ideal - free, open air, prone to attracting the wrong crowd - but I didn't see any examples of people being disrespectful to Brian or the band while they performed. I'm pretty familiar with the Beach Boys' catalog, in particular Pet Sounds, as were a lot of the people around me who got there early to get a seat. The guy two rows behind me spent most of the hour before the band came out telling anyone who'd listen about what an amazing, historic performance we were going to see! And yeah, I would've liked them to play even deeper into the catalog (although I'm not sure it was the Fair's fault for limiting Brian to only 90 minutes). All in all, a fantastic show! So fortunate to see it.


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