Five thoughts: Brian Wilson with Rodriguez (July 10, the Chelsea)

Wilson doesn’t have the purest pipes anymore, but his voice remains strong enough to carry his work.
Erik Kabik
Jason Harris

1. Celebrating his 73rd birthday Friday, opener (Sixto) Rodriguez—the subject of Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man—had fans yelling for his songs, but the man in black seemed happier covering his favorite artists, like The Doors’ “Light My Fire” and Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” He did play his own “Sugar Man” and “Establishment Blues,” but when an audience member requested “I Wonder,” he said he was “conscious” about playing it, even though he did so just a few nights earlier.

2. Some of Rodriguez’s between-song banter was just as confusing—and oddly entertaining. Example: “This is a descriptive song, not a prescriptive song. Get your hugs. Stay off drugs.”

3. The last time I saw Brian Wilson (October 2013), it felt like he was prodded onstage by promoters making cash off his classic American songbook. At that show he was placed so far to the side, the headliner seemed like an afterthought. But, now touring behind a new album and an acclaimed film based on his life (Love & Mercy), Wilson is back to creating something special live.

4. You don’t have to be a rock historian to recognize the majority of songs played: “California Girls,” “I Get Around,” “In My Room,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Surf’s Up,” Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Sloop John B,” “God Only Knows” and on and on.

5. Admittedly, Wilson doesn’t have the purest pipes anymore, but his voice remains strong enough to carry his work, as evidenced by show closer “Love and Mercy.” More importantly, when “Good Vibrations” closed the main set, Wilson was an integral part of the performance, something sadly missing last time around. It’s good to have a legend back on his game.

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