Review: UK Pink Floyd Experience
Venue: Grand Opera House, York, September 11
Anticipation is a big word, it can release so much emotion. I was eagerly anticipating UK Pink Floyd Experience at York’s Grand Opera House.
I had not heard Pink Floyd music live since my trip to see the real band play at Earls Court in 1980, performing the Wall album tour. I knew from some pre-show surfing that the band (all nine, including three ladies), were not strictly Pink Floyd imitators.
They were playing the music (less the personalities of the real band) to a wide and appreciative audience, made up mostly of middle-aged couples, eccentric individuals and some fresh face younglings, dressed very much like something from a mid 1970s fashion catalogue…
At 7.30 the lights dimmed, despite the fact the stalls were only half full. Suddenly a booming God-like voice spoke and announced the band. I had deliberately not viewed any web footage of the band as I wanted to experience them first hand.
Pink Floyd were an idiosyncratic band, who wanted to be more than just “arty” musicians. Their spectacular live shows grew from the psychedelic “lava lamp” effects of the Sixties to the big arena shows complete with lasers, smoke, explosions, flying models, massive animal balloons and even 50ft mechanical puppets: could UKPFE replicate any of that?
Well, no. I don’t think anyone could do that, but they did have a large circular rear screen complete with laser lights and spinning light effect rigs: it was a worthwhile effort considering the small venues they play.
Thump, thump, thump, the recurring heartbeat rumbled in deep base… anticipation level set to max! The back screen burst to life and a multitude of images flashed across it, still the thump of a steady heartbeat, and then the haunting first chords of a guitar quivered across the auditorium through the darkness as the band slowly launches into the classic Shine On You Crazy Diamond. A good start by any standards.
The first set began on a high, then seemed to flounder with technical sound levels causing the vocals and keyboards to be drowned out by the bass and drums. A smattering of some later Pink Floyd songs from the Division Bell and Pulse era (which were really just Gilmour albums, supported by Mason and Wright, Waters by this time had left under a cloud and was working solo, trying to protect his version of the Pink Floyd name) had made my anticipation levels drop quite a bit.
But they were revived by some more memorable songs including Another Brick In The Wall which allowed some audience participation, and Wish You Were Here. Both of which were played technically perfect, but unfortunately had very little emotion or passion.
OK, I knew they were not supposed to be the Floyd, but the same person singing all the vocals was flattening the songs. Water’s sneering, self-effacing vocals gave the songs a menacing edge, which Gilmour could ease with his soft voice and slick guitar work. The UKPFE did not have this, so much of the performance, although wonderfully spot on, lacked a sense of balance and integrity.
The high point was undoubtably the rendition of The Great Gig In The Sky, with amazing vocals by the three girls (Louise Beadle, Linzi Martin and Marie McNally).
With a new perspective (sitting further back under the balcony, made the stage appear widescreen!) we settled to hear the second half, which if instinct was right would be stuffed with Pink Floyd classics… and we were not disappointed. Speak To Me / Breathe, Time, Money, Us And Them, were note perfect, and accompanied by the light show, and visual stimulation with ambiguous Floydian animations and images.
The band seemed to have finally loosened up, they began to enjoy the show as much as the audience who give their appreciation back. The solo sax work by one of the girls (Marie McNally) was brilliant, the two keyboard players, Dave Woodfield and Neil Smallman were faultless.
Drums were the heart of the band and played expertly by James Archer, but the guitar is what Pink Floyd are all about, and Paul Andrews, David Power and Mike Bollard were just superb.
Lead singer Paul Andrews did manage to begin sounding like Gilmour, especially on Brain Damage, so to say they were trying not to mimic the real Pink Floyd might be a little white lie.
The last quarter of the show was all about building up to the finale. A crescendo of smoke, lights, guitar, keyboard and drum solos all helped to give the audience what they had come for – a Pink Floyd experience. So as Brain Damage segued into Eclipse and the audience began to sing the immortal final verse, I finally felt my anticipation was rewarded with a hearty warm inner glow.
The audience loved it and clamoured for more as the band left the stage. And we all knew they would be back, because of all the fantastic pink Floyd songs, there was but one which was perfect as a show closer… Comfortably Numb. The song from The Wall album is a painful self-therapy penned by Waters, and rescued by Gilmour and his guitar.
The UKPFE sang the song adequately, but it lacked the edgy frustration prominent in Waters’ sections. However, Paul Andrews guitar made up for the vocals and the song screamed to a musical finale.
After the band had been introduced individually they asked if we wanted one last song… a nice surprise for all! This was Run Like Hell from the Wall album, one of my favourites, and it actually ended making the show complete for me.
On the way out of the theatre it was nice to meet the band face to face and say hello and shake their hands, a generous gesture from them considering most acts are in the car and away before you even get up from your seat!
I managed to speak to Dave Power, the bassist and I remarked he should do more vocals, he laughed and said he would, but apparently this is not only the period the UKPFE will be covering.
As Dave said he will be the frontman for the Sixties and early Seventies version of Pink Floyd, and that they will be touring again to perform this important part of the band’s history.
To know how Pink Floyd ended up in the Eighties you need to know where they came from in the Sixties when the “crazy diamond” genius of Syd Barrett penned their original hits and inspired their musical path – an integral part of the Pink Floyd story.
UKPFE are a slick, professional band of talented musicians and vocalists, who can put on a really amazing tribute to the original Pink Floyd. They will never reach the heights of Pink Floyd but I bet they are having great fun trying, and in the meantime giving a most appreciative audience a chance to hear some Pink Floyd music played live and loud again. Accept them for what they are and just enjoy the experience.