We've had composer and Beach Boys collaborator Van Dyke Parks on Off-Ramp plenty of times, and when he takes the stage, it's worth making note of. This past Saturday I was lucky enough to see him and Inara George (singer in the Bird and the Bee, daughter of Little Feat's Lowell George) perform live at the Getty this past weekend. The show was a part of the Getty's sprawling Pacific Standard Time exhibitition.
The sold out night started off as promised: supported by a few dancers and a small army of strings, winds and brass, Parks and Georges guided the audience through an unabridged rendition of An Invitation, their dense but delicate 2008 collaboration. In a live forum, the album commands your undivided attention: every dizzying swell of flutes, every thick, syncopated chord from the strings and every earnest note sung by Inara. An Invitation finds its home somewhere between Parks' 1967 Song Cycle and maybe a more playful Mirah.
At the album's conclusion, Parks took center stage for the better part of the evening: he sang and piano'd his way through nearly 50 years of music history: included was spirited rendition of 1967's "The All Golden", a Ry Cooder song and a gorgeous version of "Orange Crate Art," a song Parks penned for the Brian Wilson album of the same name. The evenings highlight, however, didn't happen until the end when Parks and George both took to the stage to perform "He Needs Me." The song was written by the late Harry Nilsson in 1980 and has long outlived the goofy, somewhat forgettable film it first appeared in. Hearing Inara's take on the track was touching and sweet, sure. But it also reminded us all of the great songwriter we lost in Nilsson, and the great performer we have in George and Parks.