It can be very frustrating as a huge Pink Floyd fan waiting for any of the surviving members to work on new music or tour. Granted Roger Waters is still touring The Wall, albeit with new changes and with a backing band with only two Pink Floyd touring alumni. Rumors come and go of David Gilmour possibly working on new music and maybe touring, but I won’t hold my breath. And with the passing of keyboardist Rick Wright, it is pretty obvious a reunion can’t happen. Sure there are tribute bands. While I haven’t seen some of them, I saw Wish You Were Here: A Tribute To Pink Floyd back in the late 90s, and it was twenty kinds of horrible. They just didn’t *get* Pink Floyd at all, doing weird medleys, and solos that contained out of place things like playing an electrostatic generator ball. The lead singer had a backwards baseball cap and sneakers and they just looked like a bad bar band. I was upset that me and my friend made the trip to another city and paid money for this.
So recently I was flipping through TV listings and saw that late that night PBS was showing Brit Floyd Live In Liverpool, so I set it to record out of curiosity and forgot until that weekend to check it out. I started it, and sat there expecting to be nitpicking it away. Instead I was slowly becoming intrigued. These guys were obviously real fans who respected the band and wanted to give a true proper tribute. Not one eye-rolling moment. My partner Terry was watching this with me and by the end of the viewing, we unanimously were impressed. I found their website and then found out that you can get their DVD for FREE if you pay shipping (I think this may have cost $5). I got the DVD, loved it, and found out about then Brit Floyd was going to be playing right in my town! So yes, I had to get tickets. Flash forward a couple of months to last night.
The doors opened at 7:00, and we had gotten there much earlier to stand in line (as the tickets said the *show* was at 7:00). We actually got there early enough to hear the soundcheck happening, and heard “Money” being played, which was not played in the actual show. We finally got inside of the LC later, a standing room only building with excellent acoustics. The hour-ish wait until the show was filled with the PA playing Brit Floyd’s version of “Echoes” on a loop (so about 3 times) with the visuals running on the screen on the stage that would accompany the band normally if they were playing the song. The crowd was mostly middle-aged (such a relief after dealing with a few maybe college-age drunken idiots at a Muse concert two nights before) and mellow. We stood at our places by the railing (so we could lean if we needed – there was a long night ahead), watching beer after beer being passed around, but hoping this wouldn’t lead to what happened at the actual Pink Floyd show in 1994, drunken idiots shouting “WOOOOOOO!” during all the quiet parts. I myself rarely drink, especially not at concerts, and especially *especially* not at anything Floydian. As an emcee at the original The Wall concerts said, “There will be enough explosions in your mind!”
The theme of Brit Floyd’s P*U*L*S*E tour was different than that of Pink Floyd’s 1994 tour that produced the live DVD and album of the same name. The band decided to do a show consisting of one vinyl LP album side each of the following: The Dark Side Of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, The Wall, and The Division Bell. The lights went out, and a film started to tease the audience, in a style very similar to a Storm Thorgerson film, where first person PoV hands poured out a drink, then the view pans to a record collection, and the “narrator” I guess start pulling out Floyd albums one by one and putting them back. Meddle? No. Atom Heart Mother? No. Dark Side? Out comes the album, and the vinyl is placed on a turntable, the needle drops, and we hear the familiar heartbeat, and “Speak To Me” starts much like the 70’s live versions with droning whirrs and the very audible “I’ve been mad for fucking years, absolutely years..” Suddenly you are transported to an alternate reality where Pink Floyd is still touring, playing smaller venues and sparking that magic that made you listen in the first place. “Breathe” was musically right on. “On the Run” was mind blowing. I couldn’t tell in the dark if there was a quad speaker set up, but if not the acoustics of the building made it sound like a quad setup, as the sounds swirled and raced past our heads. “Time” was excellent. Great drum intro (it’s easy for someone to botch it), great backups from the girls, excellent animation, which at first I thought was the 1994 tour film. It looked very close at first but the actions inside the clock were different. Nice job! “The Great Gig In The Sky” was one of the highlights of the night. Backing singer Ola Bienkowska took the lead and belted out her soul in a way that should make Clare Torry (the original singer on the album) proud. To be honest I’ve never been overly thrilled with any of the renditions done since the 80’s by either Gilmour-led Floyd or by Roger Waters. Album switch! This time it’s.. Animals!
Since Animals only consists of 5 tracks, side one gave us two selections. First was a gorgeous, brief “Pigs On the Wing (Part One)”, followed by a tour de force of the night, the complete 17 minute song “Dogs”. Animals is an album that always grabs me, and over the years has become probably my second favorite to The Wall. Hearing anybody perform the meat of this album live, and doing it well, just floors me. This was no exception. The vocals, the guitar, the drums, the keyboards, all were excellent. And the bastard child status of the album was confirmed when you saw there some people very, very excited to hear “Dogs” and some people looked lost and took the opportunity to get more beer instead. Their loss! There was a great animated film piece used also during the middle “dragged down by the stone” section that was a bit creepy and fit perfectly. I love imagining “If Floyd had played “Dogs” in 1994 what would it have been like?”. Thank you guys. After a thunderous ending, what album next? The Wall! Side two.
I have gone on at length and probably will again about how deep a connection I have with The Wall as a story. Without sounding too overly dramatic, it snapped me back from a depressive state when I was a late teen and probably kept me from starting down my own road of self destruction. Sure there’s all the songs on The Wall that are played a lot out of context on classic rock radio. But the lesser played songs are the ones that grab me every time. The set started with a beautifully played and sung “Goodbye Blue Sky” that gave me chills. This was followed by “Empty Spaces”. Now here’s where I know the band knows their Floyd. It wasn’t *just* “Empty Spaces”. It was the movie version, called “What Shall We Do Now?”, with an ending closer to the live album Is There Anybody Out There?. True, they didn’t have the original Gerald Scarfe animations. So they made their own, using their own graphic artist Bryan Kolupski to have new 3D style replications that were at least good enough, but at times a bit different which worked as well. The band finally gave an introduction at this point, just like how the band actually did this in the original shows… oddly so late into the show already. “Young Lust” was next, the somewhat ironic beer-and-titties song that always has some people going “wooohooo!” at the screen over the barely dressed women (in case you haven’t read my bio, this is kind of lost on me, so I just take in the spectacle). Then out comes a chair, lamp and TV, and Ola recites the “Oh my God what a fabulous room!” part, and vocalist Ian Cattell transformed himself into Pink and Roger simultaneously, tormentedly singing his way through every pained high note of “One Of My Turns” and “Don’t Leave Me Now”. Even Roger had to drop tune this section on his recent Wall tour so this was really a treat to hear it done right and so close to the original. The band charged up for a fiery version of “Another Brick in The Wall Part III”, which was also appended with a shortened version of “The Last Few Bricks” a/k/a the stalling section in the original concerts where earlier songs were reprised while the wall-builders finished getting the bricks in place. “Goodbye Cruel World” usually makes me a little teary eyed and this was no exception after quite an emotional performance. There was then a 20 minute intermission to buy beer and t-shirts, which is exactly how the 1980 Wall shows were done.
The first half was already enough to fill some bands’ time for a concert. however, we were only halfway through. This time we started with film of hands pulling out the vinyl of Wish You Were Here and putting it on the turntable. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” was so painstakingly detailed to sound like Gilmour’s guitar solo. In fact Bobby Harrison really gets Gilmour’s touch when playing. Most guitar players that play David’s style hit too many notes, as to where David bends the notes a lot and that makes all the difference in the world. There was an excellent sequence of animation that took us through a lot of album artwork in a three dimensional sense, and before that even a montage of clips of a young, happy Pink Floyd frolicking around in early home movie and video clips. The combination of this with the Syd Barrett photos at the end made the song that much more touching. It felt like a true tribute. Then we got to “Welcome To the Machine”. This one was done more like how Roger Waters has played the song live in the last decade or so, with heavy drums and backing vocals. But I liked Brit Floyd’s touches better. The balance of instruments to vocals seemed better than when Roger did it, and Roger’s voice really can’t handle this song anymore. Brit Floyd’s vocals are closer to the original than Roger’s strained vocals now trying to sing this, as it was originally recorded so high in his range. Excellently played, excellent visuals that were sort of The Matrix meets I Robot. Loved it. Now for the part some wouldn’t expect, The Division Bell.
The Division Bell is literally such a dividing record amongst Pink Floyd fans. Most either love it or hate it. Since I first took real interest in Pink Floyd in about 1993, this was their new album, and it was very exciting that such a legendary band was making new music with such a dark brooding presence and story ghosting it in the background. I hold this album in high regard. When I saw Pink Floyd for the first and last time in 1994, I was flabbergasted by the amount of people that became impatient and had to go get beer during the new music. Things must have changed in time because on this night most of the crowd was very receptive to the album. Things started with a great version of “Take It Back”, followed by one of my personal favorites on the album, “Coming Back To Life”. I did catch that singer Ian Cattell accidentally flipped the “killing the past” line with the “heading straight into the shining sun” line, but when he caught himself he pulled it off in a way that I don’t think too many noticed, subbing the missed line in and effectively swapping the two parts. Good save! “Keep Talking” was next, with the subsonic rumble opening , and a very close approximation of the Stephen Hawking voice, and an excellent talkbox solo at the end by guitarist/vocalist Damian Darlington. Oddly, “Lost For Words” was skipped, which was a shame as I really love that one. Maybe the band assumed too much Division Bell would try the audience’s patience. Instead the band went straight to “High Hopes”. This was a massive highlight of the show for me. In this instance, they had the original Storm Thorgerson film used by Pink Floyd in 1994, which would be nearly impossible to duplicate. The vocals, guitar, the delicate touches by drummer Arran Ahmun, all were superb. The spine tingler moment for me was the end of the song, where they tacked on an acoustic coda much like David Gilmour’s live On An Island tour version. After over two hours of my favorite music ever recorded, there was *still* much more!
Ian announced the last section of the show would be “the best of the rest of Pink Floyd”. First was “Wish You Were Here”, and it never ceases to amaze my how beautiful it is having an entire crowd singing this song in unison. Next was a stomping rendition of “One Of These Days” that drew from the 1994 tour version, but added a bit more bass trickery that made it even menacing. I was surprised there was not an inflatable pig involved in this one. I’m assuming it had to do with the small size of the venue. Not that it matters. The light spectacle during the song was amazing. The band really got to have some fun with the song and improv a bit in the way the song was played on the 1994 shows, but never straying from sounding like it still fit. Next came helicopter noises, searchlights and “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” and “Another Brick In The Wall”. Ian has quite the evil laugh in that one. The singalong was fun as always. You could tell who in the crowd that this was the song they wanted to hear most and only knew the words to this and maybe a couple other songs. This was followed by “Comfortably Numb”, which had the hotel setup again, and Ian acting out the doctor role in a white lab jacket and clipboard, with a band member playing comatose Pink in the chair. The vocal duet between Ian and Damian was great. The solo though! The solo is what sold me when I saw the DVD. I can almost always judge a cover band or version by how they start the first solo. Even Roger Waters’ guitarists can’t mimic Gilmour The Great accurately, because they don’t get the touch he uses when he combines those first three notes. Bobby Harrison gets this. His solo was dead on. The second solo was handled by Damian Darlington. That solo went on forever and still could have kept going. It was based on the solo Gilmour played on the 1994 tour that was extended to fit the mirrorball effects. This even went a bit beyond that. After such an emotional ending, how do you do an encore? The traditional way of course. The band came back out and much like how they did on P*U*L*S*E, and did the teaser opening to “Run Like Hell”. It has always struck me as strange that this song went from a maniacal creepy turning point in The Wall‘s storyline to being a big fun show closer. But regardless of that, Brit Floyd did something different. While the version started like the 1994 version, it quickly veered into the 1980 live version with the dark synth parts and sound effects, jagged drum fills, and spiteful tone of the original intent of the song. Bonus points of the night go to Ian Cattell for nailing Roger Waters’ blood-curdling scream. It was a big bang of an ending to three hours of my favorite music ever written.
Thank you Brit Floyd for reminding why I love this band’s music so much. Thank you for respecting this music and the fans of it enough to want to give them the best experience possible. The key to making this work is in the details, and you’ve done your homework. Thanks for a wonderful night. Signed, one fan who has been tickled Pink.
To see when Brit Floyd may be performing near you, check out their tour dates on their official website HERE!
Here is some video of the band:
“One Of These Days (fan footage 3/7/13 Columbus)”
The full “Live In Liverpool” 2011 show