Los Angeles – Mike Love and the rest of the surviving Beach Boys stayed away, but luminaries such as Neil Young and Jeff Beck showed up in Hollywood on Friday as the music industry honored Brian Wilson at a black-tie bash.
The troubled genius behind the fabled vocal group was feted as man of the year at the 15th annual MusiCares dinner, a Grammy-related event that raises money for musicians in need.
While previous gatherings took place in glamorous hotel ballrooms, this year’s was held at the Hollywood Palladium, a run-down concert venue infamous for attracting drive-by shootings a few years back.
The dingy surroundings combined with poor weather, a low-wattage turnout and a steady exit of people throughout the ceremony to produce an event a little low on fun, fun, fun.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers, the only local band to pay tribute to the southern California icon, kicked things off with a version of “I Get Around,” a tune that gave guitarist John Frusciante a good workout on harmonies.
“God only knows how much we love Brian Wilson,” commented vocalist Anthony Kiedis.
Ballads seemed to be the order of the evening, with the Backstreet Boys reuniting to perform “When I Grow Up (To Be A Man),” Shelby Lynne doing “Surfer Girl,” Earth, Wind and Fire attempting “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” and Michael McDonald and Billy Preston dueling on keyboards for “Don’t Worry Baby.”
Young British pianist Jamie Cullum earned a standing ovation for his version of “Sail On, Sailor,” as did Beck after he fired up his guitar for a suite from “Smile” and “Surfin’ U.S.A.”
Young dedicated “In My Room” not only to Wilson, but to his late brothers, Dennis and Carl. Other performers included Richie Sambora, the Barenaked Ladies, John Legend and Darlene Love.
About 11 p.m. after various speeches and video tributes, Wilson took to the stage to accept his award, not waiting for the audience to stop clapping as he offered a few words.
He then took to his keyboard – whose keys remained untouched throughout his performance – to sing “Heroes and Villains,” “God Only Knows” with India.Arie, “Good Vibrations,” “Fun, Fun, Fun” and “Love and Mercy,” the latter two songs backed by most of the acts who had played for him.
Next on Wilson’s agenda are the Grammy Awards on Sunday, where he is nominated for two statuettes for his album “Brian Wilson Presents Smile.”