Getting Brian Wilson as headliner on the Saturday night is something of a coup for Guilfest. As chief songwriter for The Beach Boys, Wilson is one of the biggest names in world music with a mass of awards and accolades behind him. We do begin to wonder however if someone has duped him slightly as throughout the set he keeps saying “thank you London”, which becomes more amusing each time he does it!
Heading back from other stages we miss the beginning of his set and arrive to find Wilson and his ten piece band already in full flow and getting a rapturous response from the tightly packed crowd that haven’t been put off by what’s becoming an increasingly heavy downpour. It’s hard not to be impressed by the set up and the sheer quality of the musicianship on display. The well worked harmonies are spot on and exceedingly impressive, as is the overall tightness of the band, especially considering there are so many of them. ‘California Girls’, ‘Soul Searching’, ‘Your Imagination’ and ‘Do You Wanna Dance’ all feature in the first part of the set and ensure a healthy section of the crowd are doing that strange little jig that people at festivals do when they’re a little bit pissed.
The big hits aside though, the longer it goes on the more I find myself thinking that most of these songs aren’t actually that good! They are largely easy listening elevator music with little or no edge or excitement about them. Now this is what Wilson does so fair enough but when it’s a headlining slot and it’s pouring with rain I’m looking for some incentive to keep standing here and I’m finding precious little. There is the odd highlight such as ‘Get Around’, during which the harmonies are once again exemplary but after an hour I’m afraid to say I’ve simply lost interest.
For some the chance to hear the old Beach Boys classics is enough to make this a triumphant performance and as already mentioned the show is spot on. For the casual observer however there’s just not enough substance around the hits and tonight serves little more than the ability to tick another box on the bands to see before you die list.