Seems like the only time Pink Floyd lands in the press these days is to document the endless bickering and occasional legal wrangling between Roger Waters and David Gilmour, or Waters’ increasingly polarizing view on how the world should be run. Thankfully drummers don’t seem to like the spotlight much (maybe because they so rarely get one), and Nick Mason has been busy doing what he does best – playing the music that he helped craft but more importantly, the segment of the band that’s totally ignored whenever Waters plays, or when Gilmour used to.
With the act billed as “Saucerful Of Secrets” it’s no shock that the material was heavily focused on the early days of Pink Floyd, from the embryonic beginnings of the Syd Barrett-era and ending around the time of what I consider to be their finest record, Meddle. In fact, while there was a strong overlap from the 2019 performance this round of shows was named “The Echoes Tour,” and of course that signature song was prominently featured.
Anything labeled ‘classic rock’ is by definition going to be a nostalgia exercise, and simply naming the tour “Echoes” gives off a vibe of trying to catch what was once present, but a slowly decaying version of it. Thankfully, this material hasn’t been beaten to death by incessant radio play; “Candy and a Currant Bun” or “Remember A Day” or “Burning Bridge” aren’t exactly featured on any Pink Floyd greatest hits compilations. Mason and his team also pulled out the shadowy and legendary “Vegetable Man,” a song that never found its way on a legit release but has been bootlegged many times; The Soft Boys’ cover was how I discovered it. After playing it, Mason related neither Roger nor David ever played it live, and neither did The Australian Pink Floyd who oddly enough were playing The Leader Bank Pavilion that same evening. Mason even joked that The Estonian Pink Floyd has ignored it, and that they are the true keepers of “Vegetable Man”!
For true Floyd heads, the set list was phenomenal; in addition those already mentioned, deep and vital tracks like “Childhood’s End,” “Lucifer Sam,” (but with a weirdly out of place keyboard solo), a suite of Atom Heart Mother material and the thuggish riffs of “When You’re In” were true fist pumpers. Mason’s touch on the drums was clear and steady, belying his 78 journeys around the sun. Another well-known heavy riff song didn’t fare as well. “The Nile Song” is likely Floyd’s heaviest moment but the band didn’t lean as hard into it as they should have, too many keyboards and not enough guitars even though there were two of them.
And that leads me to another observation. The band was highly competent and played well, even though you wouldn’t expect it from people who used to play in bands such as Spandau Ballet (Gary Kemp) or Icehouse (Don Pratt, who was also married to Richard Wright’s daughter). Visually though it was a bit of a cognitively dissonant experience, with guys wearing Hawaiian shirts and joking around on stage, occasionally bumping butts while playing. Not exactly how I’d picture a late ’60s Waters/Gilmour combo to act, and it was a little weird. Vocally they were also highly competent but their voices didn’t match the Waters/Gilmour/Wright sonic palette, and once those songs are hardwired into your brain to sound a certain way, it’s a little jarring when they don’t.
That said, the entire show would have been worth it just to see “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” and “Echoes,” both epic songs that closed their respective sets and stand much taller than anything from what most would classify as their core oeuvre of the Dark Side/Wish You Where Here/The Wall material. Thanks for keeping this particular torch alive, Nick.
Primarily based in Boston, Massachusetts, Tim Bugbee is no stranger to traveling throughout the country or overseas to capture the best live music photos.