Beach Boy Blast Caps off Ottawa Jazz Festival
All images by Andre Gagne.
Ok, so they didn’t really cart out 9,000 tonnes of sand into Confederation Park but the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival had one hot final night beach party nevertheless for the near record setting crowd. With several concerts goers dressed in Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts and, of course, the legendary “Beach Boy” himself, Brian Wilson, performing, you could almost hear the ocean. The sun was shining and songs from 50 summers ago provided the soundtrack. If only we could surf the canal.
Released in 1966, Pet Sounds is the 11th studio album by Wilson’s former band The Beach Boys. It is also one of the most influential and acclaimed albums of all time. That night in Ottawa, Wilson and his 11-piece band, which included original “Beach Boy” Al Jardine and past member Blondie Chaplin, performed it in its entirety. 50 years on and live, the album sounds as unique today as it did to those first giving it a spin back in the mid ‘60’s.
Ian Boyd, owner of Compact Music, was on hand selling recent reissues of the album. He was only nine when Pet Sounds came out but still remembers exactly where he was the first time he heard it.
That’s exactly the reaction Wilson was hoping for. His goal was to create the greatest rock album ever made when the band headed into the studio at the start of ’66. Credited as one of the first concept albums in rock, Pet Sounds would blend multiple genres of music along with the Beach Boys signature harmonies.
It paved the way for experimental rock and inspired musicians like The Beatles to approach their sound differently. It was no coincidence that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a seminal recording in all of music, was released a year later. Paul McCartney has openly acknowledged the Pet Sounds influence.
“In music there’s substance, there’s fluff and there’s quality and when you quality and substance at the same time it will last a long time,” says Boyd. “Pet Sounds is widely regarded by Wilson’s peers. When you release something that is regarded by your peers you know there is long term value in the creative side of the work. It is an absolutely genius piece of work that’s going to sell forever.”
Long-time fan Patrick Jacobson, sporting a Brian Wilson t-shirt, came early to get a good seat on the lawn anxious to hear such a classic album live. “Pet Sounds was one of the first records to really combine orchestral music and pop music,” he says. “It was breaking down those barriers at the time and had such a tremendous influence on pop music in the 60’s. It still stands as such a monumental album. How could it not?”
When the band took the stage at 8:30, beginning the set with a vocal tune-up of harmonic voices that evoked the sound of an orchestra readying a symphony, you knew you were in for something special. For many in attendance, these were the songs of their childhood, another time and place where summers could last forever cruising through town with the Beach Boys on the radio. Sure, Ottawa may not have much surf or beaches of sun-kissed bodies that stretch for miles, but this night we were all a little bit Californian.
Wilson, now 73, and crew would perform a near two-hour, 30 song set that showed the golden oldies are golden for a reason. The hits came out early.
Before launching into Pet Sounds, the band dug into the extensive beach Boy catalogue for favourites like “California Girls”, “You’re So Good to Me”, “Surfer Girl” and “I Get Around”. The tunes got them dancing and the beach party vibe was out like a full force Pacific wave in those doing The Swim and mock-surfing on the sidelines.
Thom Millest, who was at the show with his daughter Anna, has been a fan of the Beach Boys since the mid-60s. It was his first time seeing any of them perform.
Kicking off that turning point in person, the Pet Sounds portion of the set began with with Al Jardine’s son Matt handling the falsetto notes on “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” that Wilson can’t quite hit these days. Al himself had no trouble on “Sloop John B” but it was Wilson’s “God Only Knows” that received the first standing ovation of the night.
“Here’s one for all you lovers out there,” Wilson, who mainly opted to let the music do the talking, said.
With Pet Sounds complete, the band continued the “Good Vibrations” with an all hits encore that made you feel like you were on that hot beach sand the festival jokingly said they’d carpet the park with earlier in the day.
Who needs it when you have songs like “All Summer Long”, “Surfin’ USA” and “Help Me Rhonda”? If you didn’t feel summer before you did now and as the festival came to a close it was clear the audience, some still dancing as they exited, had nothing but “Fun, Fun, Fun”.
- Our Prayer
- Heroes and Villains
- California Girls
- Dance Dance Dance
- You’re So Good to Me
- Surfer Girl
- Don’t Worry Baby
- California Saga: California
- I Get Around
- Wild Honey
- Sail On Sailor
Pet Sounds Set
- Wouldn’t It Be Nice
- You Still Believe in Me
- That’s Not Me
- Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)
- I’m Waiting for the Day
- Let’s Go Away For Awhile
- Sloop John B
- God Only Knows
- I Know There’s an Answer
- Here Today
- I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times
- Pet Sounds
- Caroline, No
- Good Vibrations
- All Summer Long
- Help Me, Rhonda
- Barbara Ann
- Surfin’ USA
- Fun, Fun, Fun
- Love and Mercy
Ottawa Life’s Festival City Series will provide a unique look at some of your favourite summer events.We’ll go beyond the music with artist interviews, volunteer profiles, concert reviews and spotlights on the tastes, sights and sounds of the festival season. Your city! Your festivals! Your summer! Like a good sunscreen, Ottawa Life has you covered.