September 12th saw Brian Wilson return to the freshly-refurbished Royal Festival Hall – where he had previously debuted Smile and Pet Sounds – for the world premiere of his newest work, a song-cycle written with Wondermint Scott Bennett and long-time collaborator Van Dyke Parks. Entitled That Lucky Old Sun (A Narrative), conceived while Wilson was “in the middle of a real creative trip”, it is a musical tribute to Southern California, a location enshrined in so many Beach Boys songs.
In typically excitable, enthusiastic mood, dressed in a black and white striped top and accompanied by his ten-piece band and the Stockholm Strings And Horns, Wilson treated his audience to a joyous opening set of Beach Boys favourites from ‘Surfer Girl’ to ‘Heroes And Villains’, slipping in a snippet of ‘That Lucky Old Sun’ as a tease; that the audience were clapping along by the fifth bar was an encouraging sign.
Following a twenty minute interval, Wilson and his musicians returned to perform the nine songs of That Lucky Old Sun, with periodic interjections from Van Dyke Parks’ dippy, loving, poetic narration, accompanied by projected animations. Brian’s most ambitious new work since returning from the wilderness, the song cycle recalls Pet Sounds and Smile, not least in its playfully baroque arrangements – a playground riot of glockenspiel, tympani, strings and harmonies all played with a smile – and melodic nods to the Beach Boy canon, complementing the autobiographical bent of the lyric-book.
That Lucky Old Sun revisits familiar
(c) 2007 Stevie Chick