Alexis Petridis' review of Brian Wilson's recent Hammersmith Apollo show is a fascinating if slightly troubling read. On the one hand, he acknowledges that the performance - of Pet Sounds in its entirety, plus other gems - is at times extraordinary and sublime. But on the other, he's unsettled by Wilson's own contribution, noting that "his face seems to naturally arrange itself into a troublingly blank expression" and that "he looks like he isn't sure what he's doing up there". That gnawing disquiet leads Petridis to mention the claims that either Wilson himself is "milking it" or "a larger organisation [is] manipulating a vulnerable man in order to milk it".
In truth, I'm not convinced this is anything new. His Pyramid Stage set on the Sunday of Glastonbury 2005 - before I'd even heard and fallen in love with Pet Sounds - remains one of my favourite ever live experiences, but even then he looked a bit bemused and bedazzled by it all, frequently carried by all of the stupendously talented musicians around him. At the time I was absolutely swept up in the exhilaration of hearing Beach Boys songs played in the flesh (copious quantities of scrumpy and the sunny weather, after the flash flood of the Friday, may have helped...), but with hindsight I can agree with Petridis' conclusion that "it's a very strange Brian Wilson fan indeed who can see him live without feeling beset by doubts".