Brian Wilson doesn’t need a grand introduction. While most other living legends wait in the wings as their band warms up the crowd at the start of a show, Wilson shuffled onto the stage at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, plunking himself down before a baby grand piano and kicking off a two and a half hour show of Beach Boy favorites with “California Girls” before the house lights went down. Surrounded by a phalanx of musicians, Wilson was in town to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his much-beloved album Pet Sounds.

It is apt to fear a Brian Wilson concert circa 2016. The man did spend years suffering from drug abuse and mental illness. Compared to many of the other living legends such as Paul McCartney and Leonard Cohen, Wilson is not spry. He hardly touched the piano and only sang portions of his songs in a voice that has lost its honeyed edges. That didn’t prevent the show from being a transformative experience at times as the power of the songs, along with the expertise of his backing band (which included founding Beach Boy Al Jardine), made the evening a proper tribute to a classic album and a celebration of some of the finest pop songs ever written.

Unlike McCartney or Paul Simon, Wilson can no longer play a concert without the support of a backing band. He sat there in the center of the stage, often stock still while the musicians rocked out around him, seemingly impassive to the energy swirling about on stage. But that’s okay. Jardine, still fit and agile, was there to banter about Beach Boy history and take the lead on some songs. His son, Matt Jardine, carried the show with his falsetto, even singing all the vocals on “Don’t Worry Baby.” Even if this sounds like a cop-out, it worked somehow. Also on hand was wild man Blondie Chaplin who stalked the stage like Prince and sang deep cuts such as “Sail on Sailor” to close out the first set.

The first half of the show was a mix between hit songs (“I Get Around,” “Surfer Girl”), deep cuts (“Add Some Music to Your Day”) and new songs (“Sail Away”). After a brief intermission, Wilson and his band returned for a straight reading of Pet Sounds. While these songs are some of the most beloved in the Beach Boy discography, this section felt less alive, more dutiful than the rollicking energy that filled the first portion of the set and the five song encore featuring “Good Vibrations,” “Barbara Ann” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.” Wilson ceded most of the higher vocals to Matt Jardine, taking on the bulk of “That’s Not Me” and “God Only Knows” only, the latter earning Wilson a standing ovation.

Something felt strange about sitting down during songs such as “Dance Dance Dance” and “Little Deuce Coupe.” At one point, a couple moved down the theater’s aisle, spinning and twirling. One of the ushers walked over to ask them to sit, thought better of it and walked away. By the time Wilson got to “Good Vibrations,” people were ready to boogie, most on their feet and dancing through the encore. Wilson even got to bask in the final bit of limelight, finishing the show with a touching version of “Love and Mercy.” When the song ended, he stood, took a bow and shambled towards the wings, his handlers taking him by both hands to help walk him into the darkness.

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