Honkin’ down the highway. In a minor key

Two great pieces of entertainment over the past few days. Maggie Smith and an ensemble cast in the movie of The Lady in the Van and Brian Wilson, leading another ensemble cast, playing Pet Sounds (and more) at the Opera House.

Both central protagonists suffered greatly for their art, and the piano was central to that art. Both wreaked creative chaos on their families and close friends (and initially not so close, in the case of Alan Bennet), and both endured long periods where they disappeared from public life. Both enjoyed periods of beautiful redemption at the end of long tortured lives. Both were (and are in Brian’s case) buoyed by a supporting cast that in some ways help spread the load, and provide alternate perspectives, and both were quite spectacular. Shout out to Al Jardine and his son Matt, who did a lot of the heavy lifting on vocals, sensitively and with grace.

‘Honkin’ down the highway’ was a 1977 track, written by Brian and sung by Al. The song seemed like the kind of song you’d sing forty years later only if you’d lost the rights to the whole Beach Boys catalogue. They did the Beach Boys songbook, beautifully, so I can only assume Honkin’ was a nod to friendship, and rolling down life’s highway.

Brian Wilson and band 20160329

Postscript. Sydney Morning Herald music critic Bernard Zuel slammed the same show, and said Brian Wilson should stop now (Beach Boy was once genius but it’s time to let it go’) and while I think he’s got a valid point, he was overly harsh on the band and the performance. I don’t feel inclined to share the link to the review, such as it was; I really enjoyed the show and so did many others. There’s an objectivity – or level of cynicism – inherent in being a critic. If we didn’t see artists after their prime (or before?) what would be left? Do critics seek out only those ‘perfect’ moments? The fact that they have to (?) adopt this outsider mindset must mean they miss the ‘social’ aspects of a night like Tuesday, so why take the seat? Leave it to someone gullible enough to enjoy the show

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