“ pinkfloydexperience.co.uk „
UK Pink Floyd Experience is a tribute band seeking to recreate the unique music, vocals and visuals of English prog rock band, Pink Floyd. The band members are Paul Andrews (lead guitar and vocals), David Power (bass guitar and vocals), Mike Bollard (guitar and vocals), James Archer (drums and percussion), Dave Woodfield (small keyboard), Neil Smallman (keyboards), Louise Beadle (backing vocals) and Marie McNally (backing vocals and saxophone).
Details of tour dates can be obtained on the band's website at www.pinkfloydexperience.co.uk. The UK Pink Floyd Experience are currently performing two shows. The Pulse Show (which we saw) is based on the David Gilmour-led tour band of the 1980s and 1990s and features tracks from The Dark Side of the Moon album through to The Division Bell album. The 60s and 70s Show is based on the Sid Barrett and Roger Waters-led band and includes tracks from Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Saucerful of Secrets, Animals, amongst others. I have not seen this show so can't comment on what it is like.
My husband, Rory, has always been a Pink Floyd fan, so when I found out that the UK Pink Floyd Experience was coming to Building 21 at the Elsecar Heritage Centre, I thought it would make a great early birthday treat for him and I decided to purchase tickets. Of the two shows, I was quite pleased to see that it was The Pulse Show that was coming to Elsecar, as I know that Rory is keener on the music from the David Gilmour era than the Sid Barrett era. As for me, I would not describe myself as a Pink Floyd fan but I am familiar with some of the more well-known tracks and I looked forward to hearing some live music.
I felt that the atmosphere was wonderful from the start, with Shine on You Crazy Diamond making a perfect opening track, the bluesy guitar recreating the meditative, spaced out quality of the original, keeping us on tenterhooks as we waited for the vocals to begin. It was as if time was standing still. Once the vocals began, the audience were singing along heartily and the mood was set. I always find this a very moving song and in this rendition it lost none of its intensity for me.
Front man, Paul Andrews, has great stage presence. I found myself watching every movement of his fingers on the guitar frets, every facial expression, but there was nothing pretentious about him. He just seemed totally connected to the music and lyrics, playing and singing with soul and emotion.
I noticed that on the band's website one fan has left the following comment: "If I closed my eyes I could have been at an actual Pink Floyd concert." My husband thought that was a fair comment. He has seen The Dark Side of the Moon live performed by Roger Waters, rather than the original Pink Floyd line up, and he felt that the guitar solos performed by the tribute band were closer to the way it was originally performed by Pink Floyd (and all the better for it). The vocals were fairly close, although Paul Andrews is more a Gilmour sound-alike (and a very good one at that) than a Waters sound-alike. At times that didn't matter, but perhaps Waters' edgy voice gives an extra dimension to tracks such as 'Hey You' and without a Waters sound-alike the tribute band's performance isn't quite as stirring. All in all though, the musical experience was authentic and convincing.
As was the case with the 'real' Pink Floyd, 'Money' and 'Another Brick in the Wall' were outstanding live tracks. Another Brick in the Wall is one track I personally find rather boring as a studio version, but I loved it live. The audience were encouraged to join in and participate in the performance, which made the song seem much more dramatic and 'punchy' for me.
Comfortably Numb is always a highlight for any Pink Floyd fan and it was a track I looked forward to. It was not quite to my husband's satisfaction as he didn't feel that the harmonies were in keeping with the 'real' Pink Floyd's version. The main weakness for Rory was that the verses were sung collectively with group harmonies without a clear lead vocal. This may be the way it was sung on the tour they are reproducing, but it departs from the way it is performed on the album, and also the way he has seen it performed in videos of live concerts.
Additionally, Rory felt that the guitar solo section at the end had little of the light and shade of other live performances he had seen, and the 'hell for leather' approach to playing became a bit much, just mushing into a sound that wasn't pleasant to listen to. I didn't share Rory's criticisms of this performance, as I enjoyed it and found it expressive, but I am no Pink Floyd expert. I think we both agreed that the chorus sections and guitar solo in the middle of the track were both performed to a very high standard.
Rory was a bit disappointed not to hear anything from the Animals album as he rates it at least as highly as Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. He felt they might have sacrificed 'Time' from Dark Side to play something like 'Sheep' from Animals. However, it seems that the other tour, The 60s and 70s show, does feature tracks from Animals. With so much material to choose from, with the best will in the world, they are not going to be able to cover everything in a single show.
I tend to have mixed feelings about tribute bands and whether it is a legitimate way to enjoy the music of a famous band, or whether it will always feel second best. As the real Pink Floyd have not toured since the 1990s, tribute bands seem to be currently the only way to hear their music played live. Rory has seen a number of Genesis tribute bands and has found them immensely enjoyable, so he was keen to see how a Pink Floyd tribute band would fare. I think that for fans of progressive rock, it is always about the music rather than the band members, and so it is great to hear these tracks performed live. Rory feels that tribute bands often take more care to reproduce something that is as authentic as the original performances (something that the real bands playing their back catalogue do not pay so much attention to). He would rather watch a good tribute band, genuinely into the original music, than a real band just playing their popular back catalogue number to satisfy part of an audience.
Rory did say that he thought the lighting was modest by 'real' Floyd standards. A point of comparison is The Musical Box (a Genesis tribute band) who reproduced all the staging and lighting from Genesis's Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour. The Pink Floyd experience did an adequate job, but were matching only the music and not the visuals. There are no Gerald Scarf cartoons playing in the background, for example. Nevertheless, the lighting show was attractive and effective, and added to the power of the music frequently. For me it did conjure up that rather hypnotic, exotic, trippy mood of some of the tracks, although it wasn't as spectacular as I had been expecting.
We thought the female backing vocalists/saxophone player were excellent. I always thought there should be three, but there were only two at the gig we saw. One vocalist, Louise Beadle, gave an excellent rendition of 'Great Gig in the Sky' from Dark Side of the Moon' with a beautiful mellow tone, taking care to reproduce the original rather than over-improvise the vocal lines. The other backing vocalist, Marie McNally, had a slightly harsh voice, but was outstanding in her role as saxophone player during Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Money and Us and Them. I loved the way she looked at the audience as she played. She had great charisma. When playing to their strengths they were a formidable duo, and also took care to choreograph their movements when not singing/playing to add some visual interest.
Would we see the UK Pink Floyd Experience again? Yes. I should point out however that at £15 a ticket this was not particularly cheap (I think Rory once paid less than this to see Regenesis, the Genesis tribute band, play in a packed Royal Albert Hall.) It was worth it for the music, but next time, we would like a better (and warmer) venue. Building 21 at Elsecar Heritage Centre was like a draughty old barn with no heating. They might as well have held the concert outside, it was so cold. (The words 'uncomfortably numb' spring to mind as an apt description of my feet by the end of the evening.) If they played here in the summer, no problem, but it was just not a good venue for winter-time, up north when the snow was falling outside! Of course, other venues around the country may well be better. Perhaps we were just unlucky to chose Elsecar.
I personally thought the selection of tracks was great, spanning over 20 years of Pink Floyd's work, so there was quite a bit of variety, making it suitable for all fans, regardless of which particular eras and albums they favour.
Although the venue was pretty woeful, we still enjoyed the concert and it must say something for the music that it distracted me from how cold I was feeling, at least for some of the time!