The Beach Boys Live at Knebworth: A visit with Brian Wilson

By: Ben Fong-TorresTue, 06/16/2020
The Beach Boys

Summertime, and it’s easy, musically, to float over to the music of the Beach Boys, who were all about the California sun, about surfin’ and cruisin’ and being true to your school – except in summer, of course, when it’s time for fun, fun, fun.

The Beach Boys are so summer that even when they’re playing this concert in Knebworth, where it’s dark and rainy, they transport the audience to, if not sunny Venice Beach, then at least to a drier Knebworth.

In hindsight, it was an historic gathering of the Boys here in 1980; the last time the full lineup, including Dennis, Brian and Carl Wilson would play together.

Although some lead vocals are ragged, especially as the hits keep on coming, the group harmonies were pristine as ever, a salute to those they learned from and an inspiration to coming generations of boy bands and R&B ensembles.

Pretty much all the hits are here, along with a few then-new songs from the album, Keepin’ the Summer Alive, which had just been released, and would go nowhere.

I met some of the Boys back then. Showtime hired me to host and narrate a special about the making of that album.  They exuded brotherly (and cousinly) love and optimism; the mentally fragile Brian had been open to the media about his excessive use of drugs, his psychological problems; his reclusiveness.

Sitting with me, he was in a chipper mood, which seemed to surprise the people around him. At one point, when I heard some laughter behind us, I asked him what made him laugh.

“What makes me laugh? Arguments. Whenever I hear an argument, I laugh.”

I laughed, too. “Arguments between you and other people, or just…”

“No. Just listening.” He cocked an ear, as if he were eavesdropping on somebody, as his brother Carl and others joined in the laughter.

Of course, that was and is part of his genius. To take common concerns, conversations, and conflicts, and turn them into harmonies, melodies and, just often enough, mini- masterpieces.

How does he do it? God only knows

Watch The Beach Boys: Live at Knebworth on Qello Concerts!