Monday, March 15, 1999

Smiley Smile

"God only knows what I'd be without you."

I'm nothing if not a Taebo fanatic. I love Taebo. Lately, it's all I think about. The workout is always exhilarating and uplifting. Everything in the world feels right after you do Taebo. Although I was only introduced to it a few weeks back, it feels like it has always been a part of my life and I'm looking forward to many more strenuous Taebo moments. When I'm feeling sad all I have to do is close my eyes and think of Taebo and the image I see warms my heart and melts the blues away.

I think sometimes my passion for Taebo frightens Mr. Max. He's not quite sure what to make of it yet. Last week as I was out front trying to dig my way out from snow that was up to my lil' arse, Mr. Max sat watching me from the front picture window and I think he thought I had taken my Taebo outside to another extreme. Believe me he saw more than a few curse words come from my mouth. By the time I had my sidewalk clear, it felt like I had been Taeboing for days.

The snowstorm made for a long week, the type of week that would have been nice to spend in, say, Mexico, but there was plenty of work to do here. Occasionally I'd close my eyes and when I wasn't thinking of Taeboing, the music I heard didn't quite get me to Mexico but did get me all the way to sunny California. It is always inspiring when you discover something that doesn't so much change your life as it does rearrange the other pieces so they make a little more sense and you can appreciate them even more.

And rarely do you have a chance to go to a concert of a living legend where twenty minutes before the show is supposed to start, you see the artist being walked out by his assistant holding his hand showing him around the stage. When Brian Wilson finally hit the stage for real with his twelve piece band Saturday night at the State Theater, he still seemed a little unsure of himself. Opening with The Little Girl I Once Knew, his voice struggled to hit the high notes, and his falsetto disappeared into the harmonies as it did for most of the night (a Beach Boys song without a falsetto is like Taebo without the kicking). As shaky as his voice sounded at times, and despite how deliberately he moved around the stage, there was something very special about being in the same room with the man who has created so much wonderful music. His best songs are raw nerves and emotion, as courageous an expression as they are breathtaking.

Early on he announced his intentions for the evening, "I'm sorry the Beach Boys couldn't be here, but I'm here to represent them." Represent them he did, with nostalgic performances of many of the group's best known songs (Good Vibrations, Surfer Girl, Surfin USA, Fun Fun Fun, Barbara Ann, Help Me Rhonda, Don't Worry Baby, and In My Room to name just a few). Although it was disappointing he only did three songs from his latest CD, Imagination, the performance of the title track was the highlight of the evening. At times he seemed to lose himself in the music and other times he seemed lost in other ways. Yet moments like his cover of Phil Spector's Be My Baby showed he was in charge of what was going on musically around him. Brian the perfectionist played the part during Do It Again, when he told the crowd to clap along and then scolded them for continuing to clap during the quiet bridge of the song.

Generally the first half of the show was exactly what you'd expect, polished, professional and entertaining yet it lacked the spontaneity of the best live performances. He opened the second half with two songs from Pet Sounds- Wouldn't It Be Nice, and Sloop John B. The poignancy of the moment was astounding. Pet Sounds is my all time favorite CD, one of the few I have that takes me to a different place no matter where or how I am. The performances on both songs was downright spine tingling . (How many rock stars include a french horn player in their sonic mix on stage?) He introduced the next song, Lay Down Burden, by saying, "This is the sad part of our show. My brother Carl passed away last year and I wrote this for him." From a nakedly passionate version of Lay Down Burden he segued into the song Carl sang with such heart, God Only Knows. Brian's voice wavered at times and it was the most moving moment of the evening. Clearly he is still mourning the loss of his brother and singing the two songs meant something special for him, and being able to share in the moment is what makes his music so cathartic. (It was just one of the few times during the show where I cried.)

The first song of the encore was Brian without the band for the first time all night, sitting at the piano singing Love and Mercy from his 1988 solo album. He screwed up the piano part and abruptly ended the song, and yet the fragility of his voice was matched by the confidence of knowing that even though he messed up the song, it still said what needed to be said. He is a survivor, and it is somewhat of a minor miracle that he was up on that stage seemingly having the time of his life (who would have imagined that possible fifteen years ago?). Through his music he continues to prove there is a lot in life that can break down but there's nothing so resilient as the human spirit.

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