WILKES-BARRE — There was no love on stage at the F.M. Kirby Center on Tuesday night — Mike Love, that is.
But there were plenty of warm feelings and good vibrations to go around as founding Beach Boy and lauded composer Brian Wilson brought his 11-piece band to the downtown theater to perform two sets of music, the first a hit-filled tribute to his chart toppers preceding a performance of his seminal art-rock album “Pet Sounds.”
Lou Palmeri, 61, of Kingston, was seeing Wilson for the second time and said the 74-year-old songwriter puts on “an incredible show.”
“It’s part of our childhood,” Palmeri said. “He’s a musical genius. He creates such sweet melodies.”
The band took the stage to a standing ovation and led into “California Girls” with an orchestral intro. Once the singing started, all harmonies and high notes were on point and heavily layered, eliciting in-time hand clapping from the audience.
The ensemble, which was comprised of multiple percussionists, keyboard players, guitarists and one multi-instrumental woodwind player, gave The Beach Boys’ surf-rock anthems a big band sound.
“Dance, Dance, Dance” and “I Get Around” brought the ’60s California sound back to the audience before original Beach Boy Al Jardine took vocal lead on the bluesy “Little Deuce Coupe.”
“Help Me, Rhonda” had the crowd screaming before the first measure was through and featured a swinging saxophone solo.
Wilson acted as conductor, bringing his arms up and down to intensify or soften sound.
A hopeful “Wake the World” gave way to a robust “Add Some Music To Your Day,” as the brilliance of some of the compositions began to shine.
Jardine’s son, Matthew, commanded the high-end vocals on “Don’t Worry Baby” before Blondie Chaplin brought home the first set on Carl Wilson’s “Feel Flows,” “Wild Honey” and “Sail On, Sailor,” Chaplain’s soulful vocals and grungy guitar work added an air of psychedelia to the performance.
The first set was a complete show on its own, but Wilson returned to showcase his piece de resistance.
Matthew Jardine sang sweetly on “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” which gave way to the artful harpsichord melody of “You Still Believe in Me.”
“That’s Not Me” filled the theater with dreamlike jazz-pop, and transitioned the masterfully composed “Don’t Talk.”
An upbeat, organ-fueled “I’m Waiting for the Day,” and the ambient chamber instrumental “Let’s Go Away for Awhile,” led to The Beach Boys candy-coated cover of the traditional “Sloop John B.”
Introduced by Al Jardine as a beautiful song, Wilson’s landmark ballad “God Only Knows” brought to the house its delicate blend of joy and sorrow.
“It’s a privilege,” Al Choman, 63, of Hanover Township, said of seeing Wilson live.
Choman’s son, Anthony Choman, 35, added that his favorite composers are “Beethoven, Bach, Wilson,” in that order.
After finishing the album that’s widely considered his greatest composition, Wilson and company delivered a five-song encore that included “Good Vibrations,” “Surfin’ U.S.A” and “Love and Mercy.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.