Review: Brian Wilson ends Summer Sessions with a ‘greatest hits’ performance

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys perform as part of the Summer Sessions concerts during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018. The tour coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the album Pet Sounds. Wilson was joined on stage by his Beach Boys bandmate Al Jardine.
Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys perform as part of the Summer Sessions concerts during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018. The tour coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the album Pet Sounds. Wilson was joined on stage by his Beach Boys bandmate Al Jardine.
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So, the inaugural Edinburgh Summer Sessions came to a close on Sunday night and with respect to the other five acts, this gig could have been the high point of the whole event.

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Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys perform as part of the Summer Sessions concerts during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018.

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys perform as part of the Summer Sessions concerts during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018.

(4 out of 7 stars)

The legend that is Brian Wilson returned to the capital after only two years away and rather than play the Ross Bandstand like the others, he’s transferred to the Playhouse.

Presumably for capacity reasons or maybe the Californian native didn’t fancy the great Scottish outdoors. And if that’s the case, hats off to Nostradamus Wilson as it was not a nice night.

He comes backed with a ten piece act and to be blunt, they do the heavy lifting tonight, vocally and musically but at his vintage, we’re hardly expecting cartwheels.

The initial segment of the evening was a bit of a greatest hits event, kicking off with California Girls, Dance, Dance, Dance and I Get Around then through a varied mix of oldies, but we all know what we were leading up to.

To state that Pet Sounds frequently makes the top 5 (or the top 1) in most music polls’ best of lists is a lazy journalistic cliché but it is a stunning piece of work and tonight it’s played here in full.

Sitting behind his piano for the whole evening, Wilson only seemed to come to life when they started the masterpiece, barely cracking a smile until Wouldn’t It Be Nice and it wasn’t until the copper-bottomed classic God Only Knows that he effectively took over on lead vocals.

Here Today, with Al Jardine on vocal duties was hastily stopped as he missed his cue, earning a “$50 fine” from the band, but they were back on track pretty swiftly and polished off the album in no time. A one minute curtain and then the crowd finally got involved as Good Vibrations kicked in.

Seemingly unburdened by playing the classic, the band rattled through Help Me Rhonda and Barbara Ann among others with a massively renewed vigour and ended proceedings with Love And Mercy, with Wilson back on lead vocals.

The band finished the night with a great photo-op for the throng by crowding around the main man at his piano. The rumour is that this is the last time we’ll see Wilson on the road and if the smile on his face at the end is anything to go by, he’ll retire happy. And quite rightly.