Brian Wilson’s ‘Pet Sounds’ was the loveliest moment of Bilbao BBK

The 50th anniversary tour of the classic Beach Boys album was a highlight of the Spanish festival

He has to be led onstage, is largely a token presence as his extensive backing band do most of the heavy harmonising, and when he sings it often reminds you of when bands do duets with Muppets. But such is the fondness Bilbao shows to Brian Wilson as the 50th anniversary tour of ‘Pet Sounds’ rolls into the Euro-fest circuit that all that is instantly forgiven the second ‘Californian Girls’ strikes up and BBK breaks out the bubbles and hippy dancing en masse, determining to ignore the gathering rainclouds and make like a Santa Monica scorcher.

For the first half hour, Brian drawls gamefully along to Beach Boy Al Jardine and his son Matthew singing a selection of Wilson’s most accomplished pop hits, some (‘Surfer Girl’, “the first song I ever wrote”) embedded deep in rock’n’roll history and others (‘Help Me Rhonda’, ‘Don’t Worry Baby’) still sounding box-fresh fifty-plus years on. The melodic invention in these surf stalwarts still seems a little superhuman, but it’s the full run through ‘Pet Sounds’ that prises open the battered lid of genius and gives us a peek inside.

 

The deceptively Beach Boys-y ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ introduces a suite of music the more laguid moments of which – the slower sections of ‘Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)’ and ‘Let’s Go Away For Awhile’ which, as Brian helpfully points out, contains “no voices or singing, just music instruments” – basically foretold prog and the more focussed tunes sit easily amongst the finest ever recorded. It’s easy to lose the likes of ‘Here Today’ and ‘I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times’ in the almighty shadow of ‘God Only Knows’ (“the best song I ever wrote”) and wave-riding trad shanty ‘Sloop John B’, but they’re every bit as quietly majestic. What Faragian killjoy would resent Wilson his chance to basically sit on a stage prodding a keyboard and occasionally moaning in order to soak up the respect for this incredible work one last time?

At the album’s end a final ‘Good Vibrations’ sets BBK mock-surfing again, safe in the knowledge that it is physically impossible for it to rain during this song. Wilson beams like a man who’s the permanent guest of honour at a touring celebration of himself should. He has, after all, made music for all times.