GIG : Brian Wilson
Venue :  Royal Festival Hall, London
Date : Sunday 18th September 2011
Cost : £55 (no booking fee)
Our Verdict : It's Getting Better All The Time

Night number three… it was the last night in London and we hoped that Brian’s momentum would be maintained. Brian-land is a small world, and whilst having pizza for dinner before the show, who should sit at the table next to us, but two of the band Spygenius – a band we have seen a few times at the IPO’s in the UK. They too, were going to the show!

So, this was the last time we were going to hear ‘Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin’ and we savoured every moment. The harmonies were great, and being in seats just to the left of centre, we had a good view of Probyn Gregory playing a slidey steel on “I Got A Crush On You”. Tonight Minty did the ‘close your eyes and just listen’ bit and The Beeb was right – it did sound lovely.

Time just flew past us, and before we knew it, the final “Our Prayer” type harmonies were fading and Brian was walking off the stage for the interval.

The second set kicked off in the usual style, with Brian Wilson walking on stage to the intro of “California Girls” and the hall erupted in a great cheer and hearty applause. Tonight “Salt Lake City” was back in the set and the band members spotlights were also still there, Darian Sahanaja with “Darlin’”, Scott Bennett with “Sail On Sailor”, Nicky Wonder leading the way with “Pet Sounds” and the drum-off between Mike D’Amico and Nelson Bragg was the best we have heard on the tour (the audience went wild). Also, the whole band stopped and just watched the pair beating it out and Nicky kissed his guitar at the end! The Beeb, being his usual shy self, hollered “Brilliant Nicky”.

Jeff Foskett did “Don’t Worry Baby”, his falsetto sounding sweet and we also had a bit of a nugget, with a new addition to the set “She Knows Me So Well” which went down a storm. Other newbies on this tour, tonight were “Girl Don’t Tell Me”, with both Jeff and Probyn playing 12 strings, and Brian sounding smooth, and “Marcella” which totally rocked, and Probyn went mad on guitar. The reaction from the audience on this song was awesome and Brian looked very happy with it.

“God Only Knows” was introduced by Brian as the “best song I’ve ever written” and as the first notes were heard from the French horn, played by Probyn, the crowd gave a loud cheer. We wouldn’t say tonight was the best version we have heard on the tour but it is such a great song, and the arrangements fantastic, that you can’t say anything negative about it.

The set ended with “Good Vibrations” and before it started, Brian so candidly told us that it was his last song of the set before he came back on for an encore!!! Everyone laughed!

Well we got the encore, and it was the usual fare, with “Johnny Be Good”, “Help Me Rhonda”, “Barbra Ann”, “Surfin’ USA” and “Fun, Fun, Fun” and then the second encore when we were sent on our way with a bit of “Love and Mercy”.  Before leaving the stage for the final time, Brian did allude to coming back again…. and soon!

Farewell London!

Again, not many photos as the RFH police were on the ball tonight and stopping everyone they saw.

We were able to say goodbye to the band in the post-show party before they got on their tour bus and headed to the South coast to catch a ferry over to France for their next gig.

So, 6 concerts over 8 days. We thought it would be hard to write six times about what is essentially the same show, but each time we heard the Gershwin set we heard and saw new things, and with the second set being changed every night, we had some variety. Hope you have enjoyed the ride with us.


GIG : Brian Wilson
Venue :  Royal Festival Hall, London
Date : Saturday 17th September 2011
Cost : £55 (no booking fee)
Our Verdict : Rhapsody In London

After such a great start to the London 3 night residency  yesterday, we hoped that Brian Wilson would keep the momentum going. We were not disappointed.

Tonight the big man was on fire. He really seemed to enjoy himself, and kept smiling throughout.  Again, the night started with ‘Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin’ all the way through. Once again, “”They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “I Got Rhythm” got the audience all fired up and got a real rapturous applause. The latters’ segue into the “Farmers Daughter" type harmony was spot on, and the band sounded fantastic.

Brian seemed to really like “I Loves You Porgy”, “’S Wonderful” and “It Aint Necessarily So” if his face was any barometer of how good he thought things were (we would agree).  “I Got Plenty o' Nuttin’” is really growing on us, and tonight, from the side of the auditorium where our seats were, we had the chance to see Probyn’s banjo playing. Disappointingly, the Bass Harmonica on this one didn’t come through as strongly as other performances.

During “Someone to Watch Over Me”, The Beeb sat with his eyes shut and basked in the sweet sound that was Brian Wilson on this song. With nothing to detract from the sound, The Beeb thought this was wonderful.

The second half started with “California Girls”, which night after night has been a great kick off to the hits part of the show. “Dance, Dance, Dance” got Probyn Gregory grooving and swinging his guitar. Brian Wilson’s reaction at the end of “Surfer Girl” was a deep throated “alright” so we guess he thought it sounded as good as we did!

Once again, the set list was given a shake up and we got treated to a song we hadn’t heard for a long while.... “Drive In” which really sounded brilliant, and had an acapella, harmony ending which Minty loved. “Wendy” stayed in the set tonight (introduced by Brian as having a Four Seasons kind of lyric) as did “Add Some Music” which went down a storm with the audience judging by the enormous cheer it got. “Going Home” gave Darian Sahanaja another chance to play with his geeky moog and tonight “Little Girl I Once Knew” was back in the set.  Why this wasn’t a big hit, we don’t know! “Surfer Moon” with great string accompaniment from the Stockholm Strings was played for the second night in a row (despite Brian announcing it was the first time they were playing it live!!!!) and again it sounded perfect.

“Don’t Worry Baby” with Jeff’s fine vocals got the cheers it richly deserved. Darian reprised his “Darlin’” and was humbled by the audience’s tremendous appreciation for him. Nicky Wonder led “Pet Sounds” and tonight the drum-off between Mike D’Amico and Nelson Bragg was the best so far. This song works so well live on stage, and long may it continue in the set list. Scott Bennett also did his soulful version of “Sail On Sailor”.
Darian Sahanaja

Paul Mertens and Jeff Foskett
The encore was the standard fare, but a little girl danced along on stage, to the left of Jeff Foskett. The Stockholm Strings provided the dance moves to “Surfin’ USA” and “Fun, Fun, Fun” and the whole of the RFH was on their feet.

So, night number two in London – to sum up, it was electric. The good vibe in the hall was there, and Brian looked so comfortable  - he was relaxed and enjoying himself. We are going to be sad tomorrow when all this comes to an end........

Not many photos - there were too many people using flashes, and the staff were on the case asking people to stop taking pictures...indeed Paul Von Mertens jumped into the audience at one point to stop someone!

Our night did not end there, however. A bit of a party in the Camel & Artichoke pub afterwards went on until past 1am, with a couple of guitars, a tambourine or two and plenty of singing to Beach Boys songs with the decent crowd of fans who had gathered in the upstairs room. What a night!


GIG : Brian Wilson
Venue :  Royal Festival Hall, London
Date : Friday 16th September 2011
Cost : £55 (no booking fee)
Our Verdict : Add Some brilliant Music To Your Day

Brett, Nelson & Jeff
The Royal Festival Hall is an iconic venue for any Brian Wilson fan. It was here that he did “Pet Sounds” almost 10 years ago, premiered SMiLE in  2004 and the venue commissioned “That Lucky Old Sun”. Now, for the first time, London was going to hear “Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin” in its entirety.

As with the other shows on this tour, the first set was the Gershwin album from start to finish. Brian seemed very relaxed and comfortable and this shone through in the performance tonight. He seemed to particularly like the performance of “It’s Wonderful” and as with all of the other shows, “You Can’t Take That Away From Me” delighted the audience and really made the whole auditorium come alive.

Tonight we really noticed Nelson Bragg’s percussion, especially on “Our Love Is Here To Stay” where the soft brushing on a drum skin was so audible. Probyn Gregory delivered a fabulous piece of guitar on “I’ve Got A Crush On You” and another real crowd pleaser was “I’ve Got Rhythm” which got such a great round of applause and cheering from the audience.

Again, all too quickly the first half ended, with the superb “Our Prayer” type harmonies on reprise of “Rhapsody In Blue” and us, the audience were left to discuss the highlights of this show.
Mike D'Amico

Nicky Wonder
The second half began with “California Girls”. Brian’s vocals were quite weak on “Dance, Dance, Dance” but he perked up again the for a new number added to the set, “Wendy”. We were really treated tonight with another new addition, “Surfer Moon” which was a little gem. The Stockholm Strings sounded fantastic on this one. Another new number was “Add Some Music” which Brian introduced with “It will blow your mind”. And it did – it sounded amazing, with the flute and drums really standing out. Sunflower is well up there in our top albums, and it was fantastic to hear this song back in the set list.

“Please Let me Wonder” remained in the set, and for the first time we heard the spoken “I Love You”, and again, we were delighted to hear “Your Imagination”.

Next up was another new ear tickler... “Goin’ Home” with Darian Sahanaja on the main vocals and also playing the Moog..... (he loves his geeky toys!) . Paul Von Mertens also did  a mean harmonica solo on this one.

Brian sounded so beautifully soft on “God Only Knows” and he got the standing ovation and rapturous, continuous applause he has had for this song on every show we have been to.

The set still had the great band member shine throughs – Darian on “Darlin’”, Nicky Wonder leading “Pet Sounds”, Scott Bennett singing a really soulful “Sail On Sailor” and Jeff Foskett with his falsetto lead on “Don’t Worry Baby” & “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”.

The encore had the usual favourites and during “Help Me Rhonda”, Scott was all over the stage, banging a tambourine, sharing a mic with each band member and joined Probyn and Brett Simons in a bit of formation dancing.
Brian plays his bass guitar during the encore

The second encore was “Love & Mercy” and we left the RFH with a lovely warm glow.

 The warm glow lasted through to the early hours of the morning, where a post show party for the fans had been organised, and 6 of the band turned up to mix and mingle...... it was past 2am before we saw our beds! Roll on night number 2.
Brian had the opportunity to talk guitars with Nicky Wonder

Minty managed to get Wondermints in the same place at the same time!


GIG : Brian Wilson
Venue :  Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Date : Wednesday 14th September 2011
Cost : £50 (plus extortionate £5.75 booking fee per ticket)
Our Verdict : The Black Country, Brightened

Our third show... and still we were filled with anticipation and excitement. Again, the show kicked off with the ‘Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin’ album from start to finish. Brian, on introducing it, told the audience “If you don’t like it, just tell us and we won’t do it anymore”!  No danger of that happening.

Tonight, our seats were on the left hand side of the auditorium so we were able to really appreciate the Q Strings and the interaction between the band members on this side of the stage. During the encore Probyn Gregory & Scott Bennett were line dancing and bassist Brett Simons was twirling, and on “Fun, Fun, Fun” Paul Von Mertens and Scott were moving in slow motion which was quite effective! It also gave us the opportunity to appreciate how many instruments Probyn Gregory plays... 12 string, electric guitar, banjo, trumpet, French horn, theramin.....
Multi Instrumentalist - Probyn Gregory

Brian was really with it, and appeared to be very comfortable tonight, especially through the Gershwin set. The sound was just brilliant, and highlights were “Summertime”, “The Like In I Love You”, “I Loves You Porgy” (even Brian said “Oh Man” at the end it was that good) and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” once again got a really rapturous applause. Being able to see the Q Strings we could see just how much they enjoyed playing. The girl at the front playing the cello was really amazing (especially during Heroes & Villains”), and she was even dancing in her seat and singing along to “I Got Rhythm”. In fact, she sang her way through the SET!
Paul Von Mertens

This has been the best performance of the Gershwin set so far.....
Jeff Foskett

The second half of the show started once again with California Girls – this is a real crowd pleaser and sets the tone for the whole of the Greatest Hits set. The set was pretty much the same as the one from Manchester, however “Breakaway” was dropped and “Please Let Me Wonder” was back. During “All Summer Long” Brian was multi-tasking, playing keyboard with one hand the clicking his fingers with the other. He was on fire tonight.
Scott Bennet "Sail On Sailor"

“Your Imagination” was once again the stand out song for us and we caught Brian smiling to himself, so he must have thought it hit the mark too. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” with Jeff Foskett taking the lead vocal worked very well tonight, and Brian even remarked “Wasn’t that a good one”?

“God Only Knows” got the same reaction as last night....... constant applause for minutes after the last chord had been played. This song is a real hit on the tour.

During the encore, Scott spotted a young girl in the audience dancing in the aisle and he jumped off the stage, danced with her in the aisle and then lifted her onto the stage for a boogie with him during “Surfin’ USA”! She looked so chuffed.
Scott Bennett & Darian Sahanaja

“Love & Mercy” was the final song before Brian and the band left the stage for the last time and the house lights came up. This has been the best show so far, soundwise. You could hear every little tinkle, plink, plonk, strum, beat of a name it. Sound man deserves an award.

Next stop...... London Town for three nights of Fun, Fun, Fun.
We were lucky enough to meet the big man before the show


GIG : Brian Wilson
Venue : Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Date : Tuesday 13th September 2011
Cost : £50 (no booking fee)
Our Verdict : Brilliant - They Can't Take It Away from Him!

Our second show of the Brian Wilson tour got underway in Manchester, with the ‘Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin’ album performed in its entirety during the first half. The show really came alive during “You Can’t Take That Away From Me” which got thunderous applause. The seats we were in did not reflect the best sound in the auditorium – the big speakers hanging from the ceiling were in line with our row, so we never really got the benefit from them. At times we really could hear the drums and Jeff Foskett’s many guitars (we were in the firing line of Jeff’s amp) but less so, Darian and Scott on the keyboards on the other side of the stage.

The second half opened with “California Girls” which was a great crowd pleaser. Brian asked if we wanted to hear a bit of rock and roll, with Chuck Berry words.... and then launched into “Dance, Dance, Dance”!!!

The set list was slightly different to what we experienced in Glasgow –“ All Summer Long” was in the main set, not in the encore and new songs in tonight’s show were–  “In My Room”, and early in the set was “Catch A Wave”. From Brian’s reaction he thought that it sounded good (it did!) and also included a nice guitar solo from Jeff Foskett. Later in the set we really got a treat, with “Your Imagination” a song  that has not tickled our ears during a live show for a long, long time, and tonight it sounded superb. The drums really sounded great, Paul Von Mertens’ flute shone through and Brian sounded great. We hope this stays in the set. The final encore was “Love & Mercy” to send us on our way with a marshmallow comfort blanket wrapped around us all.
Brett Simons & Probyn Gregory

 “Breakaway” stayed in the set, and tonight it sounded very fine. Not sure if the band did anything different from Glasgow, but Minty thought it sounded much better tonight.

“Pet Sounds” was once again a main highlight, where Nicky Wonder radiated in the limelight once again, and the drum off between Mike D’Amico on drums and Nelson Bragg on percussion was ace.

Darian Sahanaja delivered another great rendition of “Darlin’” and Scott Bennett sang another flawless “Sail On Sailor”.

Another big highlight was “God Only Knows” – not just because Brian sang it perfectly, but from the reaction from the audience......... there was continuous applause and Brian had to sit patiently and wait for it to end...... he was there for a while!!!

In summary of the show, at times Brian’s vocals were hardly audible, and he did look a bit fed up at times. However, he was playing the keyboards much more than we have ever seen him play them before. The crowd were appreciative, and got up and danced on the spot throughout the greatest hits.

So night two for us ended. It was good to hear a slightly different set, and also once again some of the firm favourites.

Next stop...... Birmingham.


GIG : Brian Wilson
Venue : Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
Date : Sunday 11th September 2011
Cost : £45 plus the booking fee
Our Verdict : Blinding
The Pre-show meet up was in a music bar called The Bay in West Regent Street, and it was here that a few of the fans congregated ahead of the show, including some that had made the journey from Australia and Boston. We got there about an hour after it all kicked off, only to learn that Brian Wilson himself had popped hi s head around the door (with Jeff Foskett and Nelson Bragg). Natch, we had missed the great man. Nelson came back later and mingled with us all.

Once at the Royal Concert Hall, we had the chance to meet more of the fans, and then headed into the auditorium to take our seats. The show started with the complete “Brian Wilson Imagines Gershwin” album, from start to finish allowing only short breaks for appreciative applause. The harmonies were perfect from the very first note, but some of the songs really stood out, including, “Summertime”, “I Loves You Porgy”, which had a lovely sax solo from Paul Mertens. “You Can’t Take That Away From Me” was a really upbeat number, and the band seemed to like playing this one.” I Got Rhythm” had a great rolling drum beat from Mike D’Amico and after “Someone To Watch Over Me”, Brian looked really satisfied – the band had obviously nailed that one. The strings were provided by the Apollo Strings, from Glasgow, directed by Paul Mertens.
Paul Von Mertens

How the time flew..... as the last notes faded, Brian left the stage for the interval.  Minty was pleasantly surprised at how much she enjoyed the 1st half. Not being a big Gershwin fan, nor a big fan of the album, the live presentation of it was actually really awesome.

The second half kicked off with the songs we all know and love, beginning with “California Girls”, “Dance Dance Dance”, “Surfer Girl” and “Please Let Me Wonder” where Jeff Foskett played a rather nice Elvis Presley acoustic guitar. Brian did a bit of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and The Beeb made a sheep’s “baaaaaa” noise, which cracked Scott up on stage!!!

We heard “Salt Lake City” performed for the first time tonight and that sounded really tight. Scott got everyone up to dance to “Do You Wanna Dance” and after that no-one sat down for the next 60 minutes + ......... even when the tempo slowed down a bit. The set included “Little Girl I Once Knew” which is a song we haven’t heard in the live shows for a while and were delighted it was included tonight. “Breakaway” still needs a bit of work – Minty felt there was something missing from the mix tonight on that song. “God Only Knows” was dedicated to the 9/11 victims

Nicky Wonder plays "Pet Sounds"
The band really shone tonight. Jeff Foskett performed an absolutely lush “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, Nicky Wonder shone in the glory of “Pet Sounds” which included a drum off with Nelson Bragg and Mike D’Amico,  Darian Sahanaja astounded us with “Darlin’”and Scott tinkled the ivories whilst singing “Sail On Sailor”. Brian looked quite sombre at times, but every now and then, there would be a bit of a sly smile when he realised just how good the show sounded. Yes, he fluffed a few lines here and there, but on the whole his vocals were good. He played his keyboard on a few occasions (more than we’ve seen him in the past) and for the encore had his SMiLE bass .
There were two encores, the final one beginning with Mike D’Amico beating the drum and then the band stepping on stage, one behind another (like the Madness walk) in time to the drum beat, and then after taking their positions behind their microphones and instruments, launched into “All Summer Long”.

And so our first Brian Wilson concert of 2011 came to an end. Reaction among the fans afterwards was really positive – Great Sound, fantastic harmonies, terrific, brilliant...... you get the drift.

After the show, a bit of a party had been arranged in a bar not far from the venue, with an invite for everyone..... that was a brilliant 3 and a half hours of Brian Wilson/Beach Boys tunes being spun and some live spontaneous acoustic sets from the many muso’s in the room, which included four of Brian’s band (Scott Bennett, Nelson Bragg, Probyn Gregory and Brett Simons), Pugwash, Duglas T. Stewart, Laurence Reid  and The Beeb of course.

Post Show Party
Daniel McGeever started off proceedings, and would have given Darian a run for his money on “Darlin’” and The Beeb did his great harmonica piece on “Forever”.  A few Beatles numbers were included, with Scott delivering some fine vocals. Pugwash did some original material which was good but the people in the bar wanted something more well known – it was Beatles and Beach Boys songs only. You feel if Bruce Springsteen had come in and started playing some of his songs he’d have been told to stop and play more Beatles,!!!!

Nelson & Probyn have a jam

Duglas & Jill
Cocktails flowed all night and it was just past 3am when we finally toddled off back to the hotel....... leaving Nelson &  Probyn (aka The Duracell Bunny) still partying!

Night one over......  another five to go!