Royal Albert Hall
Friday 28th October 2016

It was great to welcome the grrrreat Brian Wilson back to the UK since he last graced our shores at the gig in Southend on Sea in September.

The joy about his gigs is not just the actual show, but the pre and post show social gatherings of the fans. A chance for like minded, passionate people to share thoughts and memories of the last fourteen years when we have always said.... "we have to buy a ticket because Brian might never come across again!!!"

Alex Mac's Red Jacket is legendary
Today's pre show gathering started mid afternoon in the Queens Arms, located in a quiet Mews around the corner from the Albert Hall. Unfortunately, none of the band joined us as they had in previous times, but none the less, it was a good few hours of chatting to friends and sharing in the atmosphere of what a Brian Wilson gig entails.

The fans had travelled quite a way, some from as far away as Scotland - could this be the last UK appearance of the legend that is Brian Wilson?

Our seats were first row circle slightly left of centre....... good seats as we had a great view of the stage and we didn't have to stand if we didn't want to (getting old now!). The fun of Brian Wilson concerts is spotting where our friends are sitting so as the venue started to fill it was a case of "spot our friends!".

The Drewett's spot "friends"

Dave and Kerri "spot" us

Darian Sahanaja and Gary Griffin
 The show did not disappoint. There was a very welcome return for Darian Sahanaja on keys, vocals and vibes, with Gary Griffin partnering. This meant "Darlin'" was in the set list, with a fantastic vocal from the Wondermint. He really has made this song his own over the last few years. Check out the video at the bottom of the page.

Speaking of the set list, it was broadly the same as we had experienced during the May/June dates. New additions were "California Saga" (which we had been treated to at Southend),  "Salt Lake City", "You're So Good To me" and a surprise addition of "Sail Away" from the last Brian Wilson album "No Pier Pressure" - a welcome addition given that Blondie Chaplin and Al Jardine who were prominent on that album were part of the band. Obviously to make way for these songs, something had to go, so we were missing the traditional opening of "Our Prayer" following with "Heroes & Villains", Brian opting to go straight into "California Girls".

The Blondie Chaplin showcase was also shorter with no "Funky Pretty".
Blondie Chaplin

The "left" side of the stage
The second half was standard - the complete "Pet Sounds" followed by the band intros and then the encore of the early 60's fun songs. Closing the night with "Love & Mercy" we were left wondering if this was the last time we would see Brian Wilson performing on this side of the pond. If it is the last show, it was a good one to end with. We are of course, hopeful he still has the tour bug and will come visit us again next year!
The "right" side of the stage

During the show, Brian was focused, energetic (in so far as he is ever energetic!) and seemed to enjoy himself. The sound was good and the band were on form. One thing we did notice was the difference having Darian back in the band made (and not just visually for Minty!). The difference really showed with the set up for the keys and vibes ....... something was different because during "Let's Go Away For A While" when Probyn Gregory, the multi talented, multi instrumentalist" comes to his fore and to the front of the stage to blow his trumpet, we noticed that he had to be mindful of where Darian was and he even had to move to one side, and take the microphone with him at times in order to allow Darian to use the keys/vibes. Something that was not done in the previous shows when the keys were in the control of Gary Griffin and Billy Hinsche.

The drum off on "Pet Sounds" between Nelson Bragg and Mike D'Amico was strong, the vocals from Matt Jardine who provided the falsetto flowed much more easily with Brian than they had earlier in the UK tour, although Brian did drop a few early words which Matt did not cover. The question is whether he should be expected to cover - Jeff did (just saying).

Probyn was going for the "Brexit" look!

Brian is certainly more fragile now. This tour has been brutal and  he has been on the road essentially most of the year. He tends to "speak" his lyrics rather than sing them now and he is getting short of breath. Does this matter? We guess reaction would be mixed. You have one camp that is just pleased to have him involved and another that expects him to be the main man. Us? We love the music, we love Brian Wilson and we love his band. The combination works for us!

Final Bow
Below are some of the videos:
The whole Drewett family did the "Surfin' USA" dance and you can watch it here......

Darian's fabulous rendition of "Darlin'"

Al Jardine on form for "Wake The World" and Probyn on trombone

Blondie took the lead on "Sail Away"

"Pet Sounds" includes a great bit of guitar from Nicky Wonder and a fantastic drum off between Nelson Bragg and Mike D'Amico

And here is the 8 minutes of footage with Paul Von Mertens introducing the band!

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