Five Years Since We SMiLEd

Five years ago exactly today (and indeed, also on Friday night), musical history was made. And it is one the great privileges that I believe that I have been in given in life that I was a part of it, sitting pretty much in the front row watching it happen.

On 20 February 2004, the completed SMiLE album was performed live for the first time at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Instead of being the greatest uncompleted album in musical history, it became a completed and coherent work. And everybody knew that Brian Wilson had conquered one of his greatest mental demons.

There was massive nervousness on that night. No-one really doubted it would be good, any musical work with Wonderful, Surf’s Up, Cabin Essence, Good Vibrations and Heroes And Villians, however assembled would be top-notch. The question was how Brian Wilson would deal with something that ultimately defeated him almost 40 years prior to the show, and despite scores of wonderful songs since then, would always be regarded as an artist in retreat.

I don’t normally have vivid dreams that I remember, but the night before the show I remember dreaming that Brian was so nervous that he didn’t want to do show, and the performance was in jeopardy. When the DVD of SMiLE came out, my dream seemed more of a premonition. Fortunately, Brian conquered that final demon and did the show.

It wasn’t the greatest show from a performance quality that Brian did- but the opener was the very fitting And Your Dream Comes True, and when the second half started with Our Prayer, we realised our prayers had been answered and our dreams had come true. Brian performed SMiLE, there were no major problems and the standing ovation at the end was a mixture of relief, respect and awe.

Maybe it didn’t change the world in the end, but it did put than a little smile on your face. And we all felt the good vibrations, and the ability of one man (with his friends and an awesome band) to conquer his biggest demon.

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