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Date: 20 November, 2006

review: brian wilson @ the warner theatre

Just one night removed from Bob Dylan, sprite and I went to see Brian Wilson in concert at the wonderful Warner Theatre. Unlike Dylan’s show, which is raw and edgy, Wilson’s show was one of harmony and memories – and one of the final opportunities to hear Wilson and band perform Pet Sounds in its entirety.

As longtime readers may know, I’m a big fan of Brian Wilson and his works. “God Only Knows” is one of my favorite songs of all time. And one of my top-ten concerts was his SMiLE! show at the Warner in October, 2004. In the music meme addendum, I wrote this nugget about the concert:

Brian Wilson, 10 October 2004, Warner Theatre, Washington, DC
A magical night, as Brian and the band performed SMiLE in its entirety. Brian was in a fine voice, and his band is top-notch. The brass instruments are actually played by horn players, the string parts by a string sextet. And the Warner is a wonderful old theatre, perfect for concerts like this.

I’ve also seen Brian two other times: once playing Pet Sounds, and once in a double-bill with Paul Simon. And each time had its own special charms.

Let’s cut to the chase: Saturday night’s performance didn’t match the magic of the 2004 show, but I expected that. Instead, Brian brought along a new (albeit temporary) band member: Al Jardine, one of the original Beach Boys. Adding Al to the fold brought back some of the great Beach Boy chemistry: fun interplay between the old friends, some great harmonies, and most importantly, another singer who could take lead on songs that are increasingly outside of Brian’s age-and-abuse damaged voice.

So the first set included songs that hadn’t yet been played live by Wilson and band, including “Then I Kissed Her” (one of Jardine’s numbers back in the 1960s), and “Marcella.” And during the Pet Sounds set, Brian’s voice (which he seemed to save for this set) danced in sweet harmony with Jardine, and the two of them meshed wonderfully with the rest of the multi-talented band. Sure, he was lacking a full string section, but the loss was minor: the band still presented a gorgeous and powerful version of Pet Sounds.

The encore was also a lot of fun, featuring a string of Beach Boys hits that made the crowd get up and dance. Brian, per usual, donned his bass guitar for a few of the encore songs, and the night closed with the usual “Love And Mercy.”

All-in-all, a wonderful night with a true legend of rock.

Setlist:
Act One: Surfer Girl, Hawaii, Drive-in, Please Let Me Wonder, Add Some Music To Your Day, Then I Kissed Her, Break Away, Dance Dance Dance, Do It Again, In My Room, Do You Wanna Dance, When I Grow Up, I Get Around, California Girls, Row, Row, Row Your Boat (audience sing-along), Sail On Sailor, Marcella, Good Vibrations
Act Two: Wouldn’t It Be Nice, You Still Believe In Me, That’s Not Me, Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder), I’m Waiting For The Day, Let’s Go Away For A While, Sloop John B, God Only Knows, I Know There’s An Answer, Here Today, I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, Pet Sounds, Caroline, No
Encore: Band Intro, Johnny B. Goode, Help Me Rhonda, Barbara Ann, Surfin’ USA, Fun Fun Fun
Second Encore: Love And Mercy

review: bob dylan @ patriot center

Bob Dylan continues to reinvent himself, as was evident at his show last Friday at George Mason University’s Patriot Center. Not content to play the same song the same way twice, Dylan and his talented band threw in twists and turns the entire time.

Dylan, camped out behind a keyboard that was set on “Wurlitzer,” kept his band going from song to song, interweaving ballads with more uptempo numbers. The performances were quite spirited, with Dylan’s re-worked versions of “Boots Of Spanish Leather” and “Masters Of War” going over really well with the crowd. The numbers off his latest, Modern Times, were delivered with gusto as well, showcasing the instrumental abilities of his talented backing band.

In typical fashion, Dylan’s interaction with the audience was minimal. He’d occasionally give a bit of a nod or wink to the folks up front (of which I was one – second-row, stage right), but mostly he just worked from song to song. Only during the encore did he introduce the band, marking the only time he did any speech outside of the framework of a song. It’s not the typical “folkie method,” but it’s expected of Dylan, who has tried to stay ahead of the curve (or just deliberately away from it) throughout his career.

The encore was a power-punch of hits: two from his more recent albums (“Love Sick” from Time Out Of Mind and “Thunder On The Mountain” from Modern Times), and two from the 1960s. And, as with any of the more “vintage” songs in the show, Dylan reworked them into tunes that, while lyrically the same, had little resemblance to their original form.

No matter, though: Dylan was in fine form, and certainly put on a great show for his fans.

The opening act, The Raconteurs, were just okay. Led by Jack White (of The White Stripes), they pounded their way through an hour-long set that was fairly good, if far, far too loud.

Setlist: Cat’s In The Well, Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power), Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Boots Of Spanish Leather, Cold Irons Bound, When The Deal Goes Down, High Water (For Charley Patton), Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine), Masters Of War, Spirit On The Water, Tangled Up In Blue, Nettie Moore, Highway 61 Revisited
Encore: Love Sick, Thunder On The Mountain, Like A Rolling Stone, All Along The Watchtower

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