Sunday, November 6, 2016

Aretha Franklin and Brian Wilson

No not at the same time, but close! We went to see Aretha in Boston at the Blue Hills Pavilion overlooking Boston Harbor back in August. The concert was on a Friday. Lee used points to get us a reservation at the Marriott Residence Inn at the Seaport, so we were only a short 15 minute walk away from the concert. We brought the the dogs with us and they were super good. We had a suite, so we brought the the large, soft-sided collapsible crate with us and put them all in it while we went to dinner and then to the concert. They were so good, we didn't hear them barking, and Cosmo wore his belly band so we didn't need to worry about him marking either.

We went to dinner at Sportello's, right next to the hotel. It's a Boston restaurant that I've wanted to try for awhile. It has a modern diner feel; much of the seating is at a long winding counter, so you can see all the kitchen action right in front of you. The food was really good. We ordered a bunch of things to share. My only complaint is that the waiter was attentive but he knew the people sitting next to us and spent a lot of time chatting with them. And even though they came in after us he took their order before ours! 

Aretha was magnificent. She is 72 years old, and she looks it, but her voice is still spellbinding. I actually cried through half the concert. 

I'm actually puzzing a little over why I was so moved by her concert. Part of it is nostalgia I know. My mind drifted back to my sophomore year in college. The dorm I was in was fairly diverse and there were a few African American girls on my floor. We got to be friendly and they introduced us to some of their favorite music. Besides some of the classic R&B groups, like The Temptations and Wilson Pickett, there was Marvin Gaye's album "What's Goin On", and Aretha Franklin. Songs like Respect and Natural Woman moved me back then, and move me still.

She is a treasure and I'm so grateful that we got to see her. If you ever ever get a chance, do not hesitate, do it.  You won't be sorry.

The following weekend we went up to Gilford, New Hampshire to the Meadowlands concert venue to see Brian Wilson and the Pet Sounds Tour. This was a very interesting experience.

Lee found a campground very close by where we could take the RV. The only drawback was no dogs allowed. But we decided since we would be leaving them alone most of the evening it wasn't going to be that fun for them anyway, so off they went to Freedog for the weekend.

Meadowlands is a big country western venue but they also seem to be big on comeback tours. We could have seen Rod Stewart there the next weekend. It's not huge but it has a big outdoor food court and there's beer and other alcohol for sale too.

Brian Wilson did not sell out by a long shot. I felt a little sad about that, but he probably doesn't need the money. He came with a huge band, 11 people, all very accomplished musicians. Like Aretha, Brian Wilson is old, but unlike her he is damaged. He came shuffling out and sat down at the piano. Lee and I both had the same thought; Brian Wilson walked just like my dad did in his later years. If someone that is mentally ill stays on their medication for many years, one of the many side effects is a shuffling walk.

For the first half of the show the band played a bunch of Beach Boy oldies. Surfing songs, cars songs, motorcycle songs. This is the Beach era before I was conscious of Rock 'n roll, before the Beatles, before Sargent Pepper. There was a short intermission and then they played songs from the Pet Sounds Album. This was an odd concept for a concert. They actually played the album. Brian even said, "now we're  going to turn the album over and play the other side!" 

Interestingly enough, they left the stage before playing Good Vibrations, and came back and played it as an encore. They saved some of the biggest Beach Boys hits for a final jam session; Barbara Ann, Help Me Rhonda. 

The band was mostly good session musicians, but did include Al Jardine, one of the original Beach Boys, and his son, Mathew, who had a wonderful falsetto.

Brian Wilson is an extraordinary song writer, but he's no Paul Simon. Everything they played was from 30 and 40 years ago. He has suffered, and survived, but lost so much in the process. 

Really the two concerts were a study in contrasts, in what could happen to a person over the course of a creative lifetime. Aretha was dignified, proud of her accomplishments, polished, passionate. Brian was a physical wreck, his voice gone, but at peace with himself and what life has thrown at him. They are both survivors, but in very different ways. 

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