GIG: Brian Wilson
DATE: Thursday September 3rd 2009
VENUE: The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, Camden, London, NW1 8EG
COST: £35 standing
RATING: Blake's 7 (out of this world!)

Brian Wilson was back in the UK, on a mini tour this week, taking in Glasgow, Liverpool and London - all in 3 days. The Roundhouse in Camden was the venue for the London show, and when the doors opened at 7pm, there was a sizeable queue around the block. There was no delay in getting into the venue and we made our way into the standing area, not far from the front of the stage.

This was billed as a Greatest Hits show; the “hits” were mainly from the era up to and including Pet Sounds but there were many songs included in the set which might not be recognisable to the casual Beach Boys fan; tracks from Brian’s solo work, “Imagination”, “Getting In Over My Head” and his most recent release “That Lucky Old Sun”.

Brian and his band appeared on stage promptly at 8pm, and started the 1st set with “Do It Again”. This being our umpteenth time of seeing the legend live on stage, the opening number was very apt! Straight away, the audience standing near us were clapping along, dancing on the spot (no room to dance other than the spot you were on) which made a great atmosphere.

The set took us through the energetic, “Dance, Dance, Dance” through the teenage angst of the Beach Boys most obvious nod to The Beatles with “Girl Don’t Tell Me” (that Brian dedicated to John Lennon) to the hopeful, “Then I Kissed Her” (in honour of co-writer Ellie Greenwich who sadly passed away last week) and the solitary “In My Room.” These were followed by a couple of songs you wouldn’t usually find on a hits compilation - “Salt Lake City” and “Custom Machine” rounded off the first of the early era “hits”. Brian delivered a storming performance of “Soul Searching” which also included a front of the stage sax solo from Paul Mertens, and “Desert Drive”; songs that appeared on his 2007 solo release, “Getting In Over My Head”.

Next up was “Please Let Me Wonder”, usually a luscious, harmony-filled song but tonight, it was lacking something (maybe the backing vocals of the “missing in action” musical director Darian Sahanaja who was unable to join the tour this time due to previous commitments?) and it fell a bit flat. Jeffrey Foskett took the lead on “Don’t Worry Baby”, another song that hits the highs in terms of harmonies, His vocals were great but we feel the sound engineer could have upped the microphone level as the level was really on a par with a backing vocal rather than a lead.

A soft vocal introduction from Taylor Mills, the only gal in the band, which would send goosebumps down the spine of any testosterone-laden male, led into the rocky “Marcella” which really raised the level of the concert. It is very obvious that the band love playing this song, and Scott Bennett delivered a stellar guitar solo during it. The first half of the show culminated in a short burst of “Rolling Around Heaven” segueing into the timeless classic “California Girls” and as the final bars were being played, Brian got up from behind his keyboard, and left the stage for the interval………

The interval seemed to be very short (or the queue for the bar to get a couple of bottles of water was very long and slow!) and before we knew it, the band was coming back onto stage and Brian was encouraging the audience to sing along with “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream….”.

We couldn’t fight our way through the masses of people to take up the same place we held during the 1st half, so had to be content with a space towards the back of the venue while Brian took us on a ride telling us about the “Little Girl I Once Knew”, singing about “All Summer Long”, and his “Little Deuce Coupe”. Next up was “Add Some Music” which is (in our opinion) the highlight of the 1970 album “Sunflower”. This song just touches every part of your body, from the hair on the back of your neck right through to your little toe. Whilst we prefer this song being performed as part of an “acoustic set” Brian has included in past shows, with the full instrumentation it still delivered.

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” seemed to go down very well with the crowd, getting a rapturous applause, but that could not top the reaction given to the heavenly “God Only Knows” which followed. Brian asked everyone to stand up for this one (he’s a funny guy!) and just about everyone sang along to the chorus. The applause afterwards died down only when Brian started the next sequence of songs which were from his latest album, ”That Lucky Old Sun”, beginning with “Midnight’s Another Day” leading in to “Going Home” an upbeat groovy song which had heads nodding, and closing with “Southern California” a softer, more laid back number which creates images of a hot, dry summer in, you’ve guessed it, Southern California, with the waves washing in from the Pacific Ocean.

And then, the last song of the set…. the ever popular “Good Vibrations” which had the audience dancing again. Brian headed off the stage as the song was coming to an end, leaving the band to deliver the final beat of the drums, clash of the cymbals (Nelson Bragg the percussionist has boundless energy in performing his bits for this song) and twangs of guitar as the applause from the very appreciative audience resounded around the Roundhouse.

Calls for more were responded to, with Jeffrey Foskett appearing back on stage, taking up his spot on the right hand side. One by one, he introduced the band members…… Mike D’Amico on drums, Nelson Bragg on percussion, Gary Griffin on keyboards, Scott Bennett on keyboards, Nick “Wonder” Walusko on guitar, Probyn Gregory on guitar (and theramin and French horn and trumpet among others!), Paul Mertens on Sax and flute, Taylor Mills on backing vocals (with some percussion), Brett Simons on bass and then the main man himself was introduced to thunderous applause.

The encore began with a song Brian introduced as being the first song he had written, “Surfer Girl” and then upped the pace with a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode”, straight into timeless Beach Boys classics, “Help Me Rhonda”, “Barbara Ann”, “Surfin’ USA” and finishing with lots of “Fun, Fun, Fun”. Brian released himself from the sanctuary of the keyboard, and played his bass during the encore songs. Everyone around us was dancing and singing along throughout.

Brian and the band left the stage, only to re-appear for the final time. With just keyboards as backing, Brian, with his band adding fantastic harmonies, sent us all home with “Love & Mercy” a song from his first solo album from 1988 that has become the traditional end of the show song over the years.

So another Brian Wilson gig drew to a close. We must admit, we had some reservations ahead of the show, after reading a few “reviews” from the Glasgow and Liverpool concerts where the sound quality had come under fire. Was this the best Brian Wilson concert we have been to in terms of quality & sound? No, it wasn’t but we really, really enjoyed this one.
The atmosphere was great, enhanced no doubt by the fact the Roundhouse is a standing venue and when you get Brian Wilson fans so closely packed together, the atmosphere ripples through the room and infects your hands and feet, encouraging them to clap and tap along, and before you know what you are doing, you find yourself singing along to the chorus of the ageless classics from the pen (whether wholly or in part) of Brian Wilson. You just can’t help yourself. We feel that the fans who really got the best out this gig were the ones right in the throng of the audience.

This show has had its criticisms on fans’ message boards, with some comments made about the band not really being up for it. What we write in our blog is our opinion, and in our opinion, that comment could not be further from the truth. Indeed, to pick out just a few observations, Scott Bennett really got into it, jumping around the stage and at one point “surfed” his keyboard, Brett Simons was grooving alongside Taylor Mills to the tunes and was even singing along, despite not having a mic most of the time! Jeffrey Foskett was engaging the fans in front (and to the side) of him, Nelson even took time out from behind his multitude of percussion instruments to bang on a few objects alongside Jeff, and Paul Mertens and his Saxophone traversed the whole stage.

The night ended in the Circle bar, mingling with other fans and some of the band members who kindly gave autographs, posed for photos and chatted to everyone. Highlight of the night for the Beeb was bumping into the artist Peter Blake. Peter kindly answered a puzzling point about the Sgt Pepper cover that the Beeb had wondered about for years. A lovely ending to a good night out.

And on our way home, heading towards the M1 out of London, we were in the wake of the EST truck that was carrying the gear away from Camden…..

Hope you like the pictures we have included.
And the customary news on the loos........ Minty loved the fact that during the interval the queue for the Gents stretched out beyond the door and trailed back through the corridor.... the Ladies was completely empty! Hoorah - justice!


  1. Awesome blog, Jacqui, thanks for sharing--great pix, too! :) Betsy

  2. Can't add any more comments cos I share all your opinions (apart from the comment about the ladies as I didn't go in there!)

    A great gig - the highlights for me were Soul Searchin' and Midnight's Another Day