Last night, the Sony Centre hosted two musical heavyweights, the Beach Boys leader and acclaimed solo musician Brian Wilson and iconic guitarist Jeff Beck.
Playing to a crowd consisting of mostly seniors, Wilson was flanked by original Beach Boys Al Jardine and David Marks and backed by an 11-piece band that seamlessly rolled from “Americana” favourites like “Old Man River” and “Cotton Fields” to rock n’ roll toe-tappers like “I Get Around” and “Fun Fun Fun”, injecting a fun surf sound similar to that of Wilson’s former bandmates Mike Love and Bruce Johnston in a performance at the CNE this summer. While Wilson played sporadically and had to read some of his most well-known lyrics from a teleprompter, his performance was charming and contained many of the The Beach Boys’ most beloved tracks including “Sloop John B”, “Good Vibrations”, and “God Only Knows”.
Striking psychedelic imagery lined the stage on video panels throughout the 70-minute performance, during which Wilson remained stationary at his white piano. The band delivered beautiful nine-part harmonies acutely similar to the original Beach Boys line-up, with a highlight being the crowd favourite “God Only Knows”, which Wilson said was “the best song I wrote during the ‘60s” as his vocal performance provided the same tenderness that his brother Carl (who died in 1998 from lung cancer) gave to the original 1966 recording.
Jeff Beck, formerly of The Yardbirds and the Jeff Beck Group, took the stage along with an impressive cast of players including drummer Jonathan Joseph, bassist Rhonda Smith, violinist Lizzie Ball and guitarist Nicolas Meier, who provided several stimulating layers onto Beck’s dynamic playing style.
While he was short on words, his Olympic white signature Fender Stratocaster guitar was his voice as he chugged through a 16-song set that took the crowd on a sonic journey that blended genres (from set opener “Eternity’s Breath / Stratus”, which introduced Beck’s world music influences to psychedelic rock and more) and evoked dozens of emotions with every note played.
From his more familiar renditions of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” to the heartfelt, and almost mournful cover of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” that acted as a slow burning flame to finish off his set, to tracks like the more obscure “Big Block” from his 1989 album, Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop, and “You Know, We Know” from 1985’s Flash, the set cemented his status as a legend and compelled those unfamiliar with his work to look him up.
By the end of the show, Wilson and Beck treated fans to a brief joint performance that included “Barbara Ann”, “Surfin’ USA”, “Our Prayer” and show closer “Danny Boy”, with Beck improvising to Wilson’s timeless compositions.
Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck’s performance at the Sony Center proved that good music still exists without creating controversy to elicit headlines in order to be heard.