The thought of a late-career revival for Brian Wilson at one time seemed so unlikely that when his first live dates in forever were announced, many suspected some kind of theatrical implementation of a futuristic CGI technology. The Beach Boys’ musical mastermind performed under what seemed to be highly supervised conditions, often with his arms at his side as he sat at his keyboard, witnessing more than leading.
Now it is just old news that Brian Wilson is back, reclaiming what is inarguably his and applying rock ‘n’ roll’s most golden pair of ears both to new music and to the hands-on management of his singular legacy. In the current decade alone, Wilson has reimagined Gershwin (2010), surveyed the songs of Disney (2011), reunited with the Beach Boys for 2012’s That’s Why God Made the Radio and released an exquisite live record of his own classics (2014’s Brian Wilson and Friends). To prove that this is no mere curatorial renaissance, Wilson also dropped a collection of new co-written songs, 2015’s part-bizarre and part-delightful Pier Pressure.
The King is back, sure enough, owning his music and demonstrating beyond dispute that the well is hardly dry. We all know the narrative, from mega-fame through many years of fractious disputes, tragic deaths and numerous episodes of plain old classic weird. All that melts away once the music starts to play and Brian Wilson commands harmony and melody, unerring pop instincts and experimental courage, like no one else in the history of pop music.
The Bardavon presents Brian Wilson – with special guests and old friends Al Jardine and Blondie Chapin – giving final performances of Pet Sounds at the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) on Sunday, July 22 at 7 p.m. Ticket prices range from $65 to $139, with a $5 discount for members. Purchase tickets in person at the Bardavon box office at 35 Market Street in Poughkeepsie, (845) 473-2072; the UPAC box office at 601 Broadway in Kingston, (845) 339-6088; or online at www.bardavon.org.