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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Brian Wilson Performs That Old Lucky Sun (A Narrative)

London Royal Festival Hall, 16 September 2007

Written by Rich Hanscomb

Word about town was that Peter Pilotto was going to be an interesting one.

Turns out that everyone had heard the same thing; as a sizeable group of showgoers were ushered through various vast white rooms and corridors filled with clothing and blown up photographs, price buy information pills the entrance to the show room emerged from a bounty of colourful fabrics and mannequins. The remaining throng of show-goers picking their way through the labyrinth of racks only to be told at the door that the room was at capacity and to watch it from the ‘big screen’, help which turned out was a rather hazy projection onto a white wall, to be observed on a balcony from a height.

Never fear, despite the rather feeble view of the show from a projector, the quality of the design did not disappoint. An amalgamation of a number of influences were apparent; the collection being a futuristic take on decidedly tribal and almost Edwardian sensibilities, with vague Mary Poppins-esque references in the shape of jackets nipped in at the waist with deep scoop collars and Dick Van Dyke style flat holiday straw boaters thrown into the mix. Unexpected elements were juxtaposed; A-line silhouettes with cinched waists as well as pleating for small volume in a subtler version of the bubble skirt. Bodices were manipulated into rosette-like features. Add to that the neo-tribal, yet weirdly industrial prints in dove greys, browns and creams and you get Peter Pilotto’s Spring/Summer 2008. Splashes of orange highlighted the sophisticated and subdued palette.

A highly unified collection, strong and urbane. I just wish that I had seen the clothes in the flesh and not projected onto a wall – if I’d wanted to do that, I would have just tuned into Fashion TV.

“There he goes!” says guitarist Jeffrey Foskett as Brian Wilson pads offstage like an acid scarred Yogi bear. “65 years old and he’s still got it!” After years of false starts, sickness the music performed that Sunday evening was a testament to the creative re-birth of one of this century’s finest composers. The man who single-fucking-handedly invented a state of mind had come home – his spiritual home – and shown just how transcendental and awe inspiring his talent still is.

Back by royal request: the re-opening of Royal Festival Hall was enough of an event for the Southbank Centre to commission an album of brand new music….hmmm. Since Smile’s belated release, sales new music from Brian was hardly going to prompt fevered anticipation. This was to be special though. A Van Dyke Park assisted song-cycle premiered in London. A post-Smile triumph? Almost. And an ‘almost’ for Brian Wilson is more than we could ever hope for.

It’s easy to forget how utterly magnificent the back catalogue of the Beach Boys is. Prior to That Lucky Old Sun’s performance, and we were reminded with merciless efficiency. One after another – sun kissed albeit heartbreaking teenage symphonies to God. Obvious classics such as Californian Girls and Do It Again have us dancing like idiots but we were also treated to other nuggets from the Brian Wilson cannon of genius. I’d Love Just Once To See You and Sail on Sailor sit perfectly amidst the AM hits. I bet Mike Love feels even stupider now. If, indeed, Mike Love feels at all.

So how was the new music to fare next to this audacious display of pop history? Admirably. Set to four, spoken word Van Dyke Park narratives (Pumps drunk with oil/Dance like prehistoric locusts on the hills of L.A.X) this was rich, multilayered power-pop. A tribute to the City of Angles, her flaws but mostly her wonders.

Often a disconcertingly open lyricist, Brian’s words here held much weight. It was during the set’s centre piece, Midnight’s Another Day, that the tears started rolling down my cheeks for the umpteenth time of the evening. It’s not just the song’s un-earthly beauty and eerie similarity to Surf’s Up but the way Brian’s soulful voice intones, “Took the dive but couldn’t swim/All these people make me feel so alone”.

40 odd years of making grown men weep. That night proved some things – thankfully – never change.

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