Eric Clapton, Brian Wilson, Sugar Ray & Others Pay Tribute To Carl Wilson

Eric Clapton joined Brian Wilson for the climax of the fifth annual Carl Wilson Foundation benefit concert at UCLA in Los Angeles on Sunday October 6, 2002.

At first, Slowhand was extra slow on "Good Vibrations", squeezing out tentative single notes as the complicated song slinked through its myriad modulations. (Backstage, he was overheard saying he had to "go practice.") But once the famous chorus began repeating near the end, Clapton dug in and milked gobs of soul from his Stratocaster, transforming the sunny song into a stormy blues.

"The first guitar my father got me as a kid said ‘Eric Clapton’ on it", gushed Carl Wilson’s 30-year-old son, Justyn, before the show.

Clapton also rang in as Brian Wilson sang Beach Boys standards "Barbara Ann", "Surfin’ USA", and "Fun, Fun, Fun", during an encore that brought out Jackson Browne, Bill Medley, and earlier performers including Matthew Sweet, Van Dyke Parks, and Brian’s daughters Carnie and Wendy Wilson.

The annual tribute to Carl Wilson, who died of cancer in 1998, has never drawn more than 500 fans or a celebrity bigger than Brian. But this year, the concert became a must-see for a privileged 1,800, thanks to the new old friend Brian picked up while playing the Queen’s Jubilee concert in London this summer.

Earlier in the evening, Clapton performed "Stormy Monday" and "Layla" with Brian’s band, which includes members of L.A.’s wonderful Wondermints.

Sugar Ray also performed, running on autopilot through "Every Morning" and "Fly" before singer Mark McGrath busted out his best Mike Love for the Beach Boys’ "Do It Again", backed by Carnie and Wendy Wilson. (Trivia note: Sugar Ray’s bassist, Murph Karges, is Justyn Wilson’s stepbrother). 

In Bloom — featuring Justyn and the late Dennis Wilson’s drumming son, Carl B. Wilson — proved why they named themselves after a Nirvana song, letting loose with loud guitar riffs that overwhelmed harmonies reminiscent of their fathers.

Headliner Brian was still stiff and unnatural. He freaked when his teleprompters broke down, screaming "Teleprompter, what happened?"! (Even with the scrolling lyrics, he transposed "Help Me Rhonda" so that "I was gonna be her wife and she was gonna be my man").

But the Beach Boys’ guiding genius seemed more animated than ever, conducting jovially with his arms through the more complicated soundscapes of "Wonderful" and "Heroes and Villains". And his tender version of "God Only Knows", backed by Wendy and Carnie, made up for all shortcomings.

After clearing the stage of special guests, Brian introduced Carl’s "Heaven" by saying, "I know this is where my brother really is".

Source: All Star News. Reprinted with permission.

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