Although separated in age by just two years, it’s hard to find the common ground between these two rock legends that have paired for a monthlong North American tour. Wilson, 71, is an American pop maestro, the author of some of the 1960s’ most endearing hits; Beck, 69, is a British guitar wizard, heralded for his technical artistry but lacking mainstream success.
Wilson took the stage first with his 11-man band, which included fellow founding Beach Boys Al Jardine and David Marks. With the wide array of instrumentation and as many as nine voices locked in harmonic cohesion, each song was performed to near perfection. Wilson sang lead on hits such as “California Girls” and “Do It Again,” but sat idle at his grand piano much of the time. But his surrounding cast carried the night, giving this show more authenticity than Mike Love’s current Beach Boys lineup can. Wilson & Co. delivered the up-tempo songs, such as “Help Me, Rhonda,” “I Get Around” and “Fun, Fun, Fun,” as well as Pet Sounds-era classics “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Sloop John B” and “God Only Knows” before leaving the stage.
After a short break, Beck and his four-piece band performed an hourlong instrumental set that didn’t feature any hits, but instead showcased the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s prowess. He bended as many notes out of his guitar as any human can, getting progressive on “Eternity’s Breath/Stratus,” showing his delicacy on Hendrix’s “Little Wing” and creating a Middle Eastern vibe along with violinist Lizzie Ball on “Yemin.” Wilson and most of his band returned to join Beck and his group, putting as many as 19 musicians onstage at times, for a closing set that included Beck-infused readings of the Beach Boys’ :Child Is Father of the Man” and “Surf’s Up”; a rowdy cover of “Rollin’ and Tumblin'”; a masterful take on the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”; and loose versions of “Barbara Ann” and “Surfin’ U.S.A.” In the end, maybe Wilson and Beck share nothing other than a lifelong obsession with musical exploration. And maybe that’s more than enough to make this seemingly weird pairing work. ★★★★☆