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the australian pink floyd - symphony hall, 02/10/2003

simon gray - 2003-10-02, 01:21:03

Just before the show started my colleague recounted an anecdote from an old Pink Floyd interview – “The time will come one day with technology when we’ll be able to just set the equipment up, press a button, & go. In fact the time will come when we’ll be able to send another four people out to do the gig instead of us!”. I don’t think when they said that they envisaged the modern day popularity of tribute bands... 

I’m not sure I really ‘get’ tribute bands; OK, we’ve all been there, from sitting in the music shop with the guitar we can’t afford to buy playing the opening bars of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ (or ‘Purple Haze’ if you’re of a different bent), through to your first few bands from school and college playing mostly other peoples’ songs. But when you’ve developed your ability a bit, you start exploring your creative talents into your own material. So if you have the talent to play another band’s songs so well, why not play your own? 

But on to the gig; the first thing I noticed was that the Aussie Floyd seem to have a bit of a following of their own, with plenty of people walking around with t-shirts sporting pink kangaroos & beams of light refracting through a glass map of Australia. There were a few seats left inside Symphony Hall empty, but it was as near to full as makes no odds which made for a good atmosphere, & compared to Earl’s Court where you might expect the real thing to play turns it into quite an intimate venue, considering. 

The band opened with Wish You Were Here, and I was immediately impressed with the sound the band made together. And just like a real Floyd show, there was a circular bit of scaffolding with a screen behind it onto which animations were projected – with the occasional kangaroo replacing a hammer head or whatever. No lasers, but the spotlights through the smoke-haze I tend to find more interesting anyway. Plenty of strobes abound (& particularly evil putting it on the mirror ball during the encore) – possibly exceeding health & safety guidelines, but imagine how dull a rock concert would be if it complied completely with health & safety guidelines.

Moving on through the rest of the first half, I think I could say ‘mostly good’. The Wish You Were Here material seemed to work the best, & on reflection I think the reason for this is that it was mostly instrumental – some of the singing could be described as OK, but frankly some of it was a lot less than that, to the extent that employing a separate singer & giving him a guitar to pretend to play would have been a good idea; though that said the bass player managed to have difficulty getting some of the notes in The Fletcher Memorial Home quite authentically. The full spectrum of Floyd’s era was covered ranging from Astronomy Domine through One Of These Days, which for a supposed note-for-note recreation missed out the crucial quote from the Doctor Who theme tune, up to The Division Bell. The post-Waters Floyd songs were a bit tedious, but then I’m reliably informed the real thing gets tedious at that point as well. 

The second half was a different matter; we were presented with a complete performance of The Dark Side of the Moon (go on, admit it – you’re saying how seminal it was, but 30 years on just when was the last time you listened to it?) which my colleague, a Floyd expert with a number of books under his belt, described as ‘spooky’. The pace was a little rushed at first, but soon settled down, & became a most excellent performance. DSOTM should always be performed as one complete work rather than songs from it, I always feel, because it’s the only way you can get the true spine-tingling effects. For an encores we were treated to Comfortably Numb, which was also truly excellent. 

Was it Floyd? Well, despite the quotes from other press reviewers, no it well & truly wasn’t, especially at a ticket price approaching what you’ld expect for the real thing. But it’s all a matter of expectation really – do you go to a symphony orchestra concert & expect to see Beethoven himself raised from the dead at the conducting stand, or do expect Sakari Oramo to reinterpret it? If you go into it with the latter point of view you’ll have a good time, with a fraction of the equipment Aussie Floyd do put on a cracking show, but if you want to see the real Floyd, go see the real Floyd. 

#birmingham #reviews #SymphonyHall

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