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Aren’t Grown-Up gigs nice? So much more civilised than the usual masses of sweat and bottles of wee that are usually found at big gigs, so much more refined than these ‘mosh-pits’ that the kidz insist on flinging themselves around in, an action generally accompanied by said sweating and wee-bottles – yes, I think that the Grown-Up gig may be the way forward.
A concert by former Beach Boy Brian Wilson certainly counts as one for the Grown-Ups – those who were but sprightly youths when the band first started rhapsodising about the joys of surfing and oogling the girlies are now, by a sad fact of nature, at least middle-aged. They no longer want to trample in mud and frantically elbow their way to the front of a gig (and I apologise to the less-young people out there who at this moment are feeling indignant at being swept up in this generalisation – of course I think you look 'cool' and 'with-it' in your baseball cap. Yes). Hence the all-seating arrangement at gigs such as these, each arm-rest providing a welcome barrier between a Grown-Up and the sweat of the person next to them.
Still, the passion that the less-young have for Mr Wilson is evident – heck, some were even willing to splash out £151 for the VIP tickets. And with the kind of performances he is still capable of pulling out of his admittedly aging bag, it’s easy to see why. Sure, this isn’t the kind of place where you’d find the manic, squashed pogo-ing and flailing limbs in the heady atmosphere down the front that, for most people, just makes a gig. And frankly, it would be slightly surreal, not to mention downright daft, if people tried to recreate that atmosphere at a Grown-Up gig (although there should be a special mention here for the one girl who valiantly tried, even – wait for it – leaving her seat at one point for some limbs-flailing action that any indie kid would be proud of).
No, this wasn’t the place to be for any kind of energetic dance-moves - apart from Flailing Girl, the only kind of movement from the audience was what can only be described as bopping to the upbeat numbers (‘Fun Fun Fun’, ‘I Get Around’ etc). Yet for a display of beautiful, beautiful musicianship, this was the place to be. Wilson hand-picked his 10-piece band from the finest in America and oh does it show – his voice may be cracking, tentative, almost fearful at times, but the gentle support of the lovely Taylor Mills on vocals and of guitarist Jeffrey, giving the trademark harmonies the warmth and depth that they deserve. In all honesty, Wilson isn’t the musical key to the concerts he headlines – the keyboard he sat behind remained untouched throughout, more a security blanket than an instrument. He is the icon, the visual focus, more than the musician on the stage, backed up strongly by his more than capable band (a band with two drumkits - how decadent!).
His setlist read as a well-chosen and crowd-pleasing Beach Boys Greatest Hits, including the apparently obligatory Beatles cover of every band that plays Liverpool (it may have been an original idea once, but when the support act had pulled the same gimmick 20 minutes before a feeling of vague déjà vu sets in). The crowd roared (well, clapped politely) at the introduction of the songs from ‘_Pet Sounds’ – every chime from the album, every little bell and vocal nuance was perfectly recreated, no doubt due to the size of the band allowing a faithful reproduction – leading to a somewhat strange climax. ‘Sloop John B’, a plaintive little ditty on record, became a stadium-filling, up-beat sing-a-long for the entire audience, sounding even jollier than ‘Little Saint Nick’, the Beach Boys’ Christmas song, which made a surprise appearance earlier in the set. Despite it being the middle-getting-on-to-the-end-of June, the sleigh bells fitted perfectly with the harmonies and tambourines that accented the gig, the Beach Boys being the only band that can make Christmas sound like summer and still sound spot on. The original surfer dude may be getting on a bit, but the sheer quality of his songs, especially when given to such a class band that can do justice to their many musical layers, means they can stand on their own regardless of season.
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