Dylan Jones: 'Watching Brian Wilson perform live is complicated because it highlights his fragile state'

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The Independent Online

It was the best private view ever. My favourite artist, my favourite performer, together, in front of 100 of London's most privileged people. And I hope they realise how lucky they were.

It had already been an interesting night. I had been to the Spectator party, complete with David Cameron, Alan Duncan and, er, Lorraine Chase – and to celeb-snapper Richard Young's exhibition at Claridge's, along with Stephen Webster and Gary Kemp. But good though these parties were, Peter Blake's private view for the launch of Genesis Publication's limited- edition imprint of That Lucky Old Sun was not only the party of the week, it might turn out to be the party of the year.

The private view took place at 1 Alfred Place, the members' club in Bloomsbury, and was organised to celebrate the launch of the collaboration between Blake and Brian Wilson – as featured last week in these very pages – essentially a £900 boxed collection of 12 collages inspired by Wilson's last CD, That Lucky Old Sun.

The cloth-bound book is extraordinary, as was the private view, because at 8pm, having been introduced by Blake, Wilson climbed up on to the makeshift stage, along with three members of his very brilliant touring band, and proceeded to serenade the room with his greatest hits – "Don't Worry Baby", "In My Room", "God Only Knows", "California Girls" and "Do It Again" – as well as the two best songs from That Lucky Old Sun, "Midnight's Another Day" and "Southern California".

Watching Wilson perform live these days – and I've seen him every time he's been to the UK since the Pet Sounds tour of 2002 – is a complicated experience, as it not only celebrates his ability to wring heartfelt emotion out of songs he wrote nearly 50 years ago, but also highlights his enormously fragile emotional state. That contradiction is the secret of Wilson's current appeal, a truth that amplifies the pathos no end.

It's a truth that springs from Blake's new images, too, because inherent in the painter's redemptive celebration of a dream world he still finds fascinating is the knowledge that Wilson's old Californian dream once turned into a nightmare.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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