Singer/songwriter and Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson performs songs from the group’s 1966 album "Pet Sounds" at the Paramount Theatre in
Singer/songwriter and Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson performs songs from the group's 1966 album "Pet Sounds" at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 28, 2007. (D. Ross Cameron -- Staff)
Former Beach Boy Brian Wilson opened the second set of his concert at the Paramount Theatre by saying, "Let's do 35, 40 minutes of some real nice music."

That might be the understatement of the year. Nice? I'd say it was sensational.

The music was the Beach Boys' 1966 masterpiece "Pet Sounds," a work considered by some to be the greatest pop album ever. Wilson and his superb band performed that record in its entirety on Sunday for what might well be the final time.

The 64-year-old rock music legend has said that he's retiring "Pet Sounds" following this tour, the last stop of which was at the landmark downtown Oakland venue.

If the genius lyricist holds true to his word, local fans saw more than just another concert — they witnessed a piece of rock 'n' roll history.

Before turning on the "Pet Sounds," Wilson and his 10-piece band warmed up the crowd with an opening set full of great Beach Boys tunes. He started off with 1963's "Surfer Girl," the first song he ever wrote.

That number proved to be a perfect showcase for the group's mesmerizing harmonies, which, at times, drew upon eight different voices. The sweet ballad, one of the Beach Boys' best known songs, also immediately got the crowd on Wilson's side.

From there, the mastermind proceeded to roll through a plethora of tracks that don't usually make the cut on Beach Boys "best of" collections. That meant up-tempo goodies such as "Hawaii" (from 1963's "Surfer Girl") as well as mellow pop ballads such as "Please Let Me Wonder" (off 1965's "Today!").


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After the fast-paced "Drive-In" from 1964's "All Summer Long," Wilson introduced the evening's special guest, former Beach Boy bandmate Al Jardine. Many fans considered the pairing of Wilson and Jardine as big a deal as the final performance of "Pet Sounds," since it was the first chance in years anyone had heard the original Beach Boys harmonize.

The payoff was worth the wait when Jardine warmly sang lead on the next track — "Then I Kissed Her" from 1965's "Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!)" — while Wilson nicely wove his voice in here and there.

Wilson sounded strong in the first set, at least as good as when he performed at the Bridge School Benefit at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View in October. He sang from behind a keyboard, which he used mainly as a desk for the teleprompter that feeds him the lyrics.

He hit a few rough patches in the second set as he headed into the more vocally demanding "Pet Sounds" material. In all, however, Wilson showed once again that he is definitely improving following his initial comeback of 1999.

The first set closed with a flurry of memorable tunes, including "I Get Around," "California Girls" and — oh, yes — "Good Vibrations."

Forty-one years after it was originally released, "Good Vibrations" continues to astonish, to the point where it's still a candidate for best rock song of all time.

It's truly, as Wilson calls it, "a pocket symphony," a near-perfect 3 1/2 minutes of dynamic twists, turns and some of the most glorious harmonies ever devised. The words are deceivingly simple, but they remain so riveting. It's hard not to get choked up when Wilson sings what could be the loveliest line in all of pop music, "Close my eyes, she's somehow closer now."

View more photos of Brian Wilson's performance at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland. [slideshow]

After a short break, Wilson, Jardine and crew were back and ready to make "Pet Sounds." Following the album's track list from start to finish, the group opened the second set in hopeful fashion with "Wouldn't It Be Nice."

The band did a fantastic job bringing these difficult pieces of music to life. The arrangements were dizzying, so much so that it was often hard to tell how all the different sounds were being made, yet the musicians charged through such beauties as "You Still Believe in Me" and "That's Not Me" like clockwork.

Not surprisingly, the performance peaked midway through the album's song list as the band delivered the back-to-back knockouts "Sloop John B" and "God Only Knows," which is as potent a one-two punch as you'll find on any pop album.

Nearly as good was a somber, lonely take on "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" and a lovely rendition of "Caroline No," which closed the door on "Pet Sounds" and inspired the audience to give Wilson a standing ovation.

He would further earn the audience's love with a rocking encore that showed just how much Wilson learned from watching Chuck Berry. Indeed, he opened the segment with a raucous run through Berry's own "Johnny B. Goode" and then kept the motor revved as the band hit with "Help Me, Rhonda," "Barbara Ann," "Surfin' U.S.A." and "Fun, Fun, Fun."

The latter perfectly summed up the feeling of the concert. Yes, it was a historically important night, as Wilson said goodbye to his greatest achievement, but more than anything it was just plain fun.

Write music critic Jim Harrington at jharrington@angnewspapers.com. Read Harrington's Concert Blog at http://www.insidebayarea.com/music.