The sounds of summer filled Merrill Auditorium on Wednesday night as Brian Wilson appeared for a long-sold-out concert.

Backed by a solid 10-piece band, including fellow original Beach Boys member Al Jardine, the legendary singer-songwriter packed 2 1/2 hours with hits from the band’s golden era and beyond.

At the center of it all was a 50th anniversary tribute to the highly respected album “Pet Sounds,” an innovative set of songs built around feelings of love, longing and regret, which was performed in its entirety.

As chronicled in the recent biopic “Love & Mercy,” Wilson drew upon an array of sources and methods in creating “Pet Sounds.” He and his band brought all of that to the Merrill stage. Along with the expected reverb-heavy guitars, there were multiple brass and woodwind instruments, vibes, keyboards, and various large and small percussion instruments employed. On top of that, were the famous vocal harmonies and choral arrangements, with singing parts for as many as seven band members.

The 73 year-old Wilson, who was assisted in getting on and off stage, sat at the piano and sang well in the middle range of his distinctive voice. His signature falsetto parts were ably handled by Jardine’s son, Matthew. Their shared vocals worked to particularly good advantage on the dreamy and wistful “Caroline, No.”

“God Only Knows” was another standout from the “Pet Sounds” portion of the evening. Building on harmonies and counterpoint to become a sort of hymn, the song followed up on the romantic sentiments expressed earlier in “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” “Sloop John B” featured a solid vocal from the elder Jardine.


Much of the rest of the program was given over to a still-impressive string of Beach Boys hits, many of which provided the soundtrack for a youth culture built on hot rods, cool girls and hanging out at the beach.

“California Girls” was the first of many songs to earn a standing ovation, while “I Get Around” got the crowd moving as multi-colored beams of light shown down from above. “Shut Down” featured some nice surf guitar and the “Little Deuce Coupe” still roared. Wilson noted that he had written “Surfer Girl” as a 19-year-old while driving his car.

“In My Room” confirmed the melancholy strain that runs through some of Wilson’s best work, while the leader’s well-documented, child-like eccentricities came to the fore as he twice led the audience in sing-alongs of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

Singer/guitarist Blondie Chaplin, a Beach Boys member in the 1970s, took the lead for a short set capped by a full-bodied take of “Sail On, Sailor.”

“Good Vibrations,” complete with the famous Theremin sound, led off a sturdy collection of encore tunes that included “Help Me, Rhonda” and “Surfin’ USA.”

Wilson chose to finish the evening with the title piece from “Love & Mercy,” which he dedicated to “all the people of Orlando.”

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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