The Wilson concert had me at seat’s edge at the start — a glorious cover of “Sloop John B,” which I’d been singin’ along to since the Kingston Trio days. The evening was pure velvet from then on: Wilson’s superb traveling band, with some added instruments in from Sweden, the orchestration with genuine depth, the solo winds cutting across the ensemble as though someone had bothered to look at the counterpoint in, maybe, a Bach Brandenburg. Smile itself, the new version, took up the second half, a continuous (46’59”) pop-vocal-symphonic sequence: not the first of its kind, but the first that really works as well as this. The credit here divides straight down: Van Dyke Parks’ angelic wisdom — does anybody besides me remember his Song Cycle
of 1968? — and the energy and depth of Wilson’s sound concept. Beside Radiohead and Sonic Youth and all these new developments that are supposed to push my horizons back a few notches, Smile is positively retro. In the context of my musical adventures this particular week, its restorative powers have been phenomenal.