SAN FRANCISCO — Brian Wilson wanted fans to have fun, fun, fun at Thursday’s show at The Masonic in San Francisco, but not too much.
“Please be seated,” he said for the first of two times as the crowd rose to its feet after a rousing “Do it Again” and later after “I’m Waiting for the Day.”
The Beach Boys lead singer and chief songwriter is on tour celebrating the 50th anniversary of group’s landmark Pet Sounds LP. Thursday’s 2.5-hour show saw a complete reading of the record along with other favorites, hits and songs from throughout the band’s catalog.
Pet Sounds has endured because of its ground breaking on multiple frontiers. It was a profound melancholy cloaked in happy pop songs, a record about growth and maturity that left behind The Beach Boys’ kids-having-fun-on-the-beach image. It experimented with song structures, time signatures and multi-track recording. In daring to be something bold and different, it forged a new path.
In tow were fellow founding Beach Boy Al Jardine, who shared center stage with Wilson and played guitar, as well as sporadic appearances from Blondie Chaplin, who was in the Beach Boys for a cup of coffee in the early ’70s. Rounding out the band were nine other musicians, including Jardine’s son, Matt, who was often called on to reach the upper-register notes the elder Beach Men no longer can.
The number of musicians helped to recreate the communal sound of The Beach Boys, capturing the group’s distinct vocal harmonies. “In My Room” and “Surfer Girl” both used soft, cool lightning to go along with the blended harmonies, coaxing the crowd into the show.
Hearing Pet Sounds carried out in succession and in its entirety offered a feeling akin to seeing a beloved movie at a midnight screening, where the element of surprise is gone between performer and audience, but it allows both to celebrate the work.
“Time to flip the record over,” Al Jardine said as the group prepped “God Only Knows,” one of the most beloved songs in the Beach Boys’ catalog.
In the first set, Chaplin stole the show, particularly on “Wild Honey,” when Wilson said, “We’re gonna blow the roof off this place.” Chaplin strutted from one end of the stage to the other, fingers flying across his gold-colored guitar. It was the most animated most of the performers got throughout the night, including Wilson, who stayed anchored to his post, seated behind a Yamaha keyboard. If he was playing the instrument, it was hard to tell.
By the time the night wound to a close, Wilson, the Jardines, Chaplin and company rattled off a stretch of stone classics in the encore: “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Barbara Ann,” “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.” Whether an eager crowd swaying and singing along, it provided the jovial feeling to match The Beach Boys’ music, if not some of the themes of Pet Sounds.
Dance Dance Dance
I Get Around
Little Deuce Coupe
In My Room
Don’t Worry Baby
Please Let Me Wonder if I’m the One You Love
Wake the World
Add Some Music to Your Day
Do it Again
Sail on Sailor
Set Two: Pet Sounds
Wouldn’t it Be Nice
You Still Believe in Me
That’s Not Me
Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)
I’m Waiting for the Day
Let’s Go Away for Awhile
Sloop John B
God Only Knows
I Know There’s an Answer
I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times
Help Me, Rhonda
Fun, Fun, Fun
Love and Mercy