Brian Wilson, Al Jardine | Carolina Theatre | Clubs & Concerts | Indy Week
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Brian Wilson, Al Jardine 

When: Thu., Nov. 19, 8 p.m. 2015
Price: $57-$256


CAROLINA THEATRE, DURHAM—Genius, icon, rock's George Gershwin, author of the greatest song ever written: the superlatives reserved for Brian Wilson are impressive even for superlatives. While the musical imagination of the Beach Boys' primary songwriter captivates serious composers, the simple thrills of his songs are a rare point of agreement among the high-minded and not so high-minded.

The Beach Boys' 1966 masterpiece, Pet Sounds, is often held up as the greatest evidence of Wilson's brilliance. But almost from the start, the evidence of a unique talent was clear. After hearing the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and pulling his car to the side of the road because he couldn't believe what he was hearing, Wilson responded with "Don't Worry Baby." In faithfully emulating Phil Spector's signature sound, he demonstrated songwriting and production mastery. But he took the clarion harmonies that were the Beach Boys' trademark and turned them wistful and replaced visions of youthful hedonism with beguiling, almost unbearable intimacy.

Another pre-Pet Sounds moment is telling: In late 1964, the Beach Boys had an unlikely Top 10 hit called "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)." The song represents another musical leap by using many of the unorthodoxies that Wilson would later encode into the pop songbook—dissonance, baroque chord choices, unstylized expressions of youthful anxiety. It also presents a sharp contrast with the other great writers of the moment. As 1965 loomed, Dylan was ready to reinvent himself electrically. The Beatles were on the verge of recording "Ticket to Ride," a giant sonic step away from their early sound. While also making audacious musical progress, Wilson was still more of a kid, yearning to escape the pull of his domineering father.

From this vantage, his evolution in the next two years is even more remarkable. By 1967, he'd written the aforementioned masterpiece, quit touring with the Beach Boys and spent six months painstakingly assembling "Good Vibrations," his "pocket symphony." Then he broke down. The extent of Wilson's well-documented struggles snowballed, derailing him for the better part of two decades and making his eventual recovery that much more redemptive. In a month that has seen the passing of another musical king, Allen Toussaint, Wilson's return reminds us of the gift we have in his continued presence and vitality. 8 p.m. $57–$256, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham, 919-560-3030, —David Klein

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