CLEARWATER — At first glance, Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck wouldn’t appear to have much in common.
But on one memorable Saturday evening, the 71-year-old founder of the Beach Boys and the 69-year-old British guitar icon combined to thrill a near-sellout crowd at Ruth Eckerd Hall.
Fresh off a 50th anniversary tour celebrating the legacy of the Beach Boys, Wilson opened the show with a 65-minute set that featured ballads like “Surfer Girl” and rockers like “Help Me, Rhonda” and “I Get Around.’’
The highlight was a four-song suite from the 1967 landmark album Pet Sounds, including “God Only Knows,” introduced by Wilson as Paul McCartney’s favorite song. Wilson was backed by an 11-piece band that featured fellow Beach Boys Al Jardine and David Marks.
There were some curious diversions as Jardine took over vocals for a pair of American standards, “Ol’ Man River’’ and “Cotton Fields,’’
Wilson never budged from his spot behind a white piano and he closed his set with a rousing version of “Good Vibrations’’ that had much of the audience on its feet.
After intermission, Beck commanded the stage with his five-piece group, alternating between power chords and lilting melodies that enraptured the crowd.
Beck’s familiar Stratocaster reinforced his reputation as a virtuoso guitarist as he took on instrumental versions of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing’’ and the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.’’
When Wilson returned, Beck remained on stage to help out on “Surfin’ U.S.A.’’ and “Fun, Fun, Fun.’’
Not a bad sideman, right?
For the emotional finale, Beck took the spotlight and delivered a poignant “Danny Boy’’ that wouldn’t have left a dry eye in any Irish pub.