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Pop Music Review

Vibrations Better Than Good at Wilson Benefit


There's not much missing from "Good Vibrations," Brian Wilson's 1966 Beach Boys masterpiece that took six months, miles of tape and an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to realize.

But it turns out that the song can stand the addition of one more thing: some blues guitar licks.

At least it can if the person providing the licks is Eric Clapton. The English guitarist joined Wilson and his band on that song Sunday at UCLA's Royce Hall, and though "Vibrations" is about as un-blues as you can get, Clapton, with typical grace, slid in subtly here and there. At the closing coda, with its warbling electronic oscillation, though, he let fly with some rich, stinging runs that transformed the music briefly but remarkably.

It was an unlikely payoff of a new friendship between Clapton and Wilson, which began at the Buckingham Palace concert for Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee in June. And it was one of many sparkling moments of Sunday's fifth annual benefit for the Carl Wilson Foundation, Wilson's brother and Beach Boys co-founder who died of lung cancer in 1998.

Clapton--who was backed by Wilson's band on "Stormy Monday" and "Layla," and also joined Wilson during his headlining set for the lovely "Warmth of the Sun"--found himself in the middle of a family affair. The evening began with two songs by In Bloom, a trio featuring Carl's son Justyn as well as Carl B. Wilson, son of the third Beach Boy brother, Dennis, who died in 1983. The group suggested a Nirvana with sand between its toes. Brian's daughters Carnie and Wendy also did two songs and sat in with dad on a transcendently gorgeous "God Only Knows."

Longtime Wilson collaborator Van Dyke Parks teamed with rocker Matthew Sweet, and the Wondermints, the L.A. quartet that is part of Wilson's band, showcased its own, very Wilson-esque "Ride." Onetime Beach Boy Billy Hinsche contributed as well, trading vocals with Sweet on "Sail on Sailor." And Sugar Ray, whose bassist Murphy Karges is the stepbrother of Justyn Wilson and his brother Jonah, were joined by Carnie and Wendy for the Beach Boys' spunky "Do It Again."

By the time everyone (plus Bill Medley, Jackson Browne and America's Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell) piled on stage for encores of "Surfin' U.S.A." and "Fun Fun Fun," Clapton really seemed part of the family, diggin' those good vibrations.

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