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The City Journals

Brian Wilson and Friends close the season at the Sandy Amphitheater

Oct 03, 2019 01:17PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Zombies bassist Soren Koch and lead singer Colin Blunstone perform with the band at the Sandy Amphitheater on Sept. 19. (Photo courtesy Sandy Arts Guild)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

The Brian Wilson and Friends show at the Sandy Amphitheater on Sept. 19 was dubbed “Something great from ’68.” The amphitheater’s final concert of the season drew in fans of all ages.   

“It was a great show. The Zombies sounded almost as good as the record. Seeing Brian Wilson has been on my bucket list since I was in my teens. It was so cool to see him at an intimate venue like the Sandy Amphitheater. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but considering [Wilson’s] health, I thought it was awesome,” said Paul Helms, a DJ from Murray. 

The British band the Zombies opened and played their entire second album, “Odessey and Oracle.” Past and present band members all took turns on the stage, including original members Hugh Grandy on drums and Chris White on vocals and bass. 

Rod Argent is the keyboard player of the current Zombies lineup. The set included their biggest hits he co-wrote: “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No” and “Time of the Season.” Argent’s organ solos, like on “Time of the Season,” brought in the ’60s vibe.  

During a break, the stage was set for Wilson’s 11-member band. It included original member Al Jardine on guitar and vocals. Al’s son Matt Jardine sings with the band. His voice is a dead ringer for the high parts originated by Wilson’s cousin Mike Love.  

Friends Matt Sargent, Ryan McKinnon and Chris Foster of Salt Lake were some of the many younger fans who came to the show.  

“I came because the Beach Boys are epic and iconic. Wilson is the man behind them, and to pass up a chance to see him would be a musical mistake. He’s a genius,” McKinnon said. 

McKinnon wasn’t always a fan. “I was dismissive of the Beach Boys. But ‘Pet Sounds’ and later work converted me. Even if somehow tonight’s show is a colossal disappointment, because we are here seeing a legend it will be a great night,” McKinnon said. 

Sargent agreed. “He’s a music legend, from a different time and place. His debilitating health struggles are well known, so who knows how much longer he’ll be touring,” Sargent said. 

Foster said, “I felt like due to his stage fear I had to come see him while I have the chance and he’s still touring.”

Wilson, 77, has struggled mentally and physically for decades, and shows earlier this summer were postponed. Wilson published a note on his website that read in part:

“The music and my fans keep me going and I know this will be something I can AGAIN overcome. Love & Mercy, Brian Wilson.” 

Hours before the show, Wilson posted a photo on Twitter. It showed him backstage, sitting on a cardio machine with the caption, “Working out before tonight’s show!” 

He used a walker and had two attendants help him walk out. If fans were surprised, they hid it well. Most stood and applauded him as he walked out. He sat at the bench of a baby white grand piano, where he stayed for the entirety of the show. 

The band jumped right into “California Girls,” “I Get Around” and “Help Me Rhonda,” which all featured Jardine senior and junior on lead vocals. The crowd loved hearing “Salt Lake City.”

When Wilson sang, his voice was breathy and clipped. But so was his interim concert talk. He’d simply say, “Here’s something you might like,” or, “Now Al Jardine will sing for you,” and the band would start right in to the next song. At one point the audience was on their feet and he asked them to “please be seated.” 

Wilson and Al’s friendship was front and center during “Sloop John B.” Wilson had lead vocals on a verse, but after the first line he stopped suddenly. He pointed to Al, who laughed slightly, and jumped right in to take the lead. Such is the understanding between longtime friends and bandmates. 

Wilson’s vocals were stronger on other songs. During “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” he took the solo on the bridge. His voice had more of the sweetness of a grandparent than a rock star, and it was a tender moment. He also sang lead on “God Only Knows.” 

Guitarist Blondie Chaplin played with the Beach Boys in the early 1970s. He came out on stage to play “Feel Flows,” “Long Promised Road” and “Sail on Sailor.” 

The concert finished with a torrent of crowd-pleasers: “Good Vibrations,” “Barbara Ann” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.” Wilson finally seemed OK with the crowd getting to its feet and rushing toward the stage to sing and dance. 

For a finale, Wilson stayed at the piano while the rest of the band gathered around to sing an acoustic version of “Love & Mercy” amid shouts of “We love you, Brian!” 

Marianne Harrison of Sandy said it was a very moving way to end. “It was an awesome concert. What a talent and genius he is. And you’ve got to respect a man coming out using a walker. ‘Love and Mercy’ at the end had me in tears,” Harrison said. 

When it was over and Wilson had been helped off stage, other band members came to the edge of the stage and handed out set lists to a few lucky fans. Two teenage boys grabbed one and celebrated their luck. “We just love good music,” one said. The other, holding the set list said, “I’m gonna frame this bad boy.”