The sounds of the 1960s were in full groove Memorial Day weekend at the Santa Barbara Bowl with the Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Tour. Wilson took the audience down a beach-vibes memory lane, backed by an impressive band that included fellow Beach Boys Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin (who recorded with the Beach Boys in the early ’70s). The band performed some of the Beach Boys’ earlier music — songs about fast cars, pretty girls, and summer vacation at the beach — as well as Wilson’s masterwork album, Pet Sounds, in its entirety. They closed the show with fan favorites that had several generations of concertgoers dancing in their seats.
While Wilson has led a troubled life, his presence onstage radiates real pleasure at being able to make the crowd smile with his unforgettable, unmistakable sound. And while he could easily nest in the laurels of Pet Sounds for the rest of his life, Wilson has continued to make music. The band closed the show with “Love and Mercy,” a song penned by Wilson in later years. From songs about surfing to Pet Sounds (an album about cautiously finding footing in adulthood) to “Love and Mercy” (a song from a wiser man who longs for the gifts of love and mercy amid the chaos of life), the Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Tour gave a beautiful and comprehensive look at the life and times of an American musical icon.