So we went to see Australian Pink Floyd. The very name a strange juxtaposition. The quintessentially english Cambridge moody, dark, radical, intellectual (some would say over-intellectual) band mimicked by a group of fun-loving straight-forward Aussies.
We arrived part way through Welcome to the Machine. No sign of an Australian Roy Harper grinding out the machinery of the vocals. The overall sound was accurate but a little flat and lacking feeling. Not helped by the fact we were in the Birmingham Symphony Hall, more used to Puccinni and Purcell than Pink. More first violin than lead guitar. The inevitably middle-aged audience sitting politelly in the elaboratly tiered seating, but with little movement or excitement. Debbie and I eased into our seats.
The first half continued and drifted. Too many soft post-Waters songs, lacking the edge and bite in themselves, and further eroded in the emotion by the fact we knew this was clearly not the real deal. Dave Gilmour as a song writer may be bland, but his guitar skills are a slightly hard act to imitate. Then Arnold Layne – a dire song IMHO even in the original. The record (as it was) which makes a band famous is rarely their best, but tribute bands feel obliged to play it anyway as some sort of signature.Just in case we had forgottten who they were.
APF is a very big tribute band. We had three guitarists – pretty good and quite accurate. We had an extremely good drummer, who did add some pace and feeling. The one interactoin with the audience – a hello and welcome – was from an older stocky guy in a bush hat and long hair surrounded by an array of 1970s keyboards and synthesisers. More waltzing matilda than Waiting for the Worms. There was a lead vocalist – who was a little high pitched and silky for my liking. I never thought Id miss Waters nasal singing. So I guess a tribute in itself that they needed so many to imitate the infamous four – Waters, Wright, Gimour and Mason. And the obligatory trio of female singers in a line, doing the same synchronised arm movements and swaying wriggles as the originals.
The overall sound was extremaly well replictated. Butthe excitement in the first half was provided more by the laser show – drawing a matrix of lines along the balconies, creating impressive fans and webs. But after the first display, the laser repeats seemed a little hackneyed. Just like the songs.
After 4 or 5 sets, it was all all little mediocre. Then the first half was saved by a brilliant and elongated renditoin of Dogs. Starting with the strum through “You gotta be crazy”, and the bounce into “And after a while, you can work on points for style” – they were starting to, indeed, accumulate some points for style. A nice touch with the background inserts of well know Australian songs in the musical section, and an impressive climax which had passion and pace and volume.
I guess the difficulty with being a tribute band is you can worry too much about being close to the original and in the process squeeze out the performance. Indeed at no point did the band do anything more than stand still, sing play their instruments. The audience can conspire in this. I spent the first few renditions making the inevitable comparisons. But when you get past the fact that you are listening to a tribute band and start to actually enjoy the music, and as the band relaxed and started playing the better selecton of Floyd songs (ie more Waters compositions), it became more and more enjoyable.
The second half was enhanced by the 3D show at the centre of the back wall. Although watching with cardboard 3D glasses would have been riduculed by the original band Im sure.
A quiet self-respecting roar came from the audience at the sight of the famous prism in 3D – the famous songs were coming. Breathe was ok, Time was excellent. Money had an outstanding guest saxophonist and had Debbie dancing in her seat. But the standout (yay) Dark Side of the Moon piece was surprisingly Great Gig in the Sky, brilliantly performed by one of the female vocalists, who slid and screamed and between the high and low notes with depth and expression. Mixed in with more from The Wall and of course “We don’t need no education”, we began to applaud and girate and enjoy more and more. Wish You Were Here was a rare technical abberation where the two accoustic guitarists lost a little on the timimg.But Here we finally Were.
The video and 3D were grand – with a few joke references to Australia. And a clever touch at the end where we were treated to a giant inflatable Pink Kangaroo, in leiu of the usual Pink Pig. Nice one Bruce.
So we all finished on a high and bayed for an encore. Some people even stood up ! All good fun. No, not a patch on seeing Roger Waters at Earls Court. But enjoyable, and I did spend the rest of the week resurrecting my Pink Floyd CDs and beating out songs in my head. A tribute to brilliant music and lyrics for sure, performed with some imagination and much expertise. Maybe the respect for Pink inhibited the feeling.
Maye its just impossible to fully express something which is not yours.