The project seemed destined to fail. But last January, the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson came to London, performed Pet Sounds in its entirety and bowled over the fussy Brits. How could an album so richly orchestrated and delicately revolutionary — regarded as one of the ultimate achievements of studio recording — make it to the stage thirty-six years later and not be a pale shadow of itself?
The captured results may not improve upon the Boys’ 1966 achievement, but neither are they mere nostalgia. Even with the weight of so much history, there’s a spontaneity to these renditions of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows” and other beloved classics that sheds warm light on their mournful studio counterparts. You haven’t heard Wilson sing this well in decades. He sounds healed, not only in his head but also in his heart, as if he could finally let back in the love he gave us.