Brian Wilson at Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater, 7/27/13

Brian Wilson at Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater, 7/27/13
Photo by Tony Nelson

Brian Wilson with Al Jardine and David Marks
Weesner Family Amphitheater, Apple Valley
Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday's Brian Wilson show at the Minnesota Zoo's Weesner Family Amphitheater was said to take place rain or shine. Shine might've been too much to ask for, considering the persistent precipitation in recent weeks, but the mild sprinkling and mist consuming the outdoor space, slightly visible on the pond's surface behind the stage, made for a peaceful acoustic environment suitable for a sit-down show amongst the trees.

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Slideshow: Brian Wilson at MN Zoo Amphitheater

Brian Wilson sat calmly at his ivory piano, surrounded by the other ten stellar musicians currently touring with the band, including original Beach Boys members David Marks and Al Jardine. The guys looked good. They have aged gracefully considering the ups and downs of being a part of one of America's most beloved pop bands, and they still look like Beach Boys -- just maybe more of the Tommy Bahama variety.

Brian Wilson at Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater, 7/27/13
Photo by Tony Nelson

When an iconic musican such as Brian Wilson goes on an anniversary tour, there are some expectations that he should find the perfect recipe of older hits and newer tracks to fill the set, and the band did just that. A show that has a 36-song setlist allows for some wiggle room when choosing what to play. But they sufficiently covered so many of the songs true Beach Boys fans, old and young, want to hear, like opening with "California Girls" and "Catch a Wave," ending the first half with "I Get Around." They sprinkled in some rare material like "Cottonfields," which Wilson said they have only first played live on this tour, and had a lively response to last year's "That's Why God Made the Radio."

In contrast to a musican like Bob Dylan, who might not be the vocalist he once was but is still a legend and worth seeing, Brian Wilson and Al Jardine's vocals were so accurate to the records that came out more than fifty years ago. The amphitheater was the perfect vessel for the sometimes nine-part harmonies and backup vocals that make the Beach Boys songs so powerful and melodically consuming.


It was endearing to see Wilson, Jardine and Marks not only have a genuinely good time on stage together, but they were transparent about some of the nostalgia and memories that come with such an expansive and sometimes tumultuous career. During "Pet Sounds," Wilson sat at his piano, turned back toward the band and appeared to be authentically soaking in what was one of the most profound records in the band's repertoire. Jardine prefaced "Sail on Sailor" with the explanation that they wrote the song "literally out of homesickness" while in Holland, hence the 1973's album title. He also recalled the first time they played "Surfer Girl" live at a film set at an L.A. beach party. "We sang it to dead silence," Jardine said. "They didn't like the lyrics."

Brian Wilson at Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater, 7/27/13
Brian Wilson at Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater, 7/27/13
Photos by Tony Nelson

One of the many standing ovations came when Wilson dedicated "God Only Knows" to his late brother Carl. Marks later mentioned a fond childhood memory, honoring Dennis as well. Following the song, Jardine leaned into his microphone and looked at Wilson, "I'll get emotional if I keep speaking, but you deserve that."

The energetic show rounded out with an encore that got the audience on their feet, dancing and singing along as they soaked up some of the last few tracks that everyone knows the words to -- "Help Me Rhonda," "Barbara Ann" and "Surfin' USA." "Summer's Gone" closed the show with a soothing finish and allowed for a peaceful moment to reflect on what was just a really kick ass show by the Beach Boys.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: Most of members of the crowd probably had more psychedelic, free-spirited memories conjured up by the show. "I Get Around" sends me more to a time of being five-years-old and listening to the Beach Boys in my babysitter's car on the way to Blockbuster to rent a video. Nevertheless, I'm a major fan too.

The Crowd: My first sightings as I headed into the Zoo's entrance were a good indication: Couples and groups in their late fifties, wearing windbreakers, slacks and plastic rain ponchos while holding last-minute beers in cozies, some smoking cigars before reaching the ticket counter.

Random Detail: The amphitheater smelled like someone was burning Nag Champa incense. Oddly appropriate, but a bit strange considering it didn't seem to be for the purpose of covering up other more expected odors.


California Girls
Catch a Wave
Dance, Dance, Dance
Little Deuce Coupe
Girl Don't Tell Me
In My Room
Surfer Girl
Please Let Me Wonder
Then I Kissed Her
Don't Worry Baby
Little Bird
Do it Again
Summertime Blues
Do You Wanna Dance?
I Get Around
Heroes and Villains
Your Imagination
Goin' Home
That's Why God Made The Radio
God Only Knows
California Saga
Sail On, Sailor
Pet Sounds
Wouldn't It Be Nice
Sloop John B
Good Vibrations

All Summer Long
Help Me Rhonda
Barbara Ann
Surfin' USA
Fun, Fun, Fun
Summer's Gone

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