Kangaroos, boars, lasers, and good ol’ fashioned Pink Floyd. Shine on, you crazy diamonds.
Pink Floyd is one of those bands destined for imitation. You name it, Porcupine Tree, Airbag, Circus Maximus, Radiohead, pretty much any band using extensive, spacey keyboards possess some kind of influence from Gilmour, Waters, Wright, and Mason. Out of this mess comes the dime-a-dozen cover band. Yet, like Black Sabbath, such a classic sound is hard enough to imitate, let alone replicate. You can say my expectations for a Pink Floyd cover band are astronomical. Sure, St. Louis has El Monstero, who are a extremely respectable band in their own right. I have yet to see them — ironic since they played here over the weekend — so I cannot express judgment just yet.
However, Australian Pink Floyd are the real deal. They have it all, from Floyd’s iconic circle production screen, to the laser show, to backup singers, to the overall stage presence of their inspiration. Shit, even Gilmour himself invited them to perform for his 50th birthday event. 2013 brought Aussie Floyd’s extensive reach into Real Floyd’s back catalog. 2015 brought soundscapes, hits, everything you’d want from a cover band, a cathartic experience with overwhelming visuals.
Led Zeppelin 2 kicked off the evening. Now, I’m unfamiliar with St. Charles’ family arena, but lord was the sound horrendous at first. Imitator Plant’s voice — or ear monitor. Insert vocal excuse here — seemed to dissipate at times, leaving the poor singer to reach through his already limited register. Think of “Immigrant Song.” You know those opening wails? Now, think “Immigrant Song” performed in its original key, but with actual Robert Plant’s aged vocal chords. Not good. Not good at all.
Thankfully, imitation Bonzo held the performance together with a rousing rendition — and, might I say pummeling expression — of “Moby Dick,” “Heartbreaker,” and “Stairway to Heaven.” It also helped that, as the performance moved forward, the sound guy came out of his smoke stupor and equalized the freakin’ master. As a result, Plant finally heard himself, Page overcame his hangover, and JPJ, well, JPJ stayed the same. Calm and collected, just like his source material. Good set overall, so-so performance. Unfortunately, that’s to be expected from an opener.
Aussie Pink Floyd gets an entire point for starting their set on time. I’d say it only took the roadies fifteen minutes to sound check and finalize. Fifteen minutes! In the wide, wide world of Rock n’ Roll, that’s unheard of. So, kudos just for that, Aussies.
That’s enough blabbering.
“In The Flesh,” gets me every time. I know it’s coming, but that opening chord always comes out of nowhere…Bang! Instantly, Australian Pink Floyd’s performance felt tighter than their previous stop in St. Louis. Sound wise, everything clicked, the bass audible — shocking, right? — the guitars ear splitting, the vocals synchronized beautifully, the keys completely Wright-esque. Unfortunately, Colin Wilson, albeit a fantastic bassist, still could not quite nail Water’s nasal delivery, but that’s just nitpicking on account of a reviewer looking for negativity in the wee hours of the night.
Also, as the band moved from “Learn to Fly,” to “Shine On You Crazy Diamond Part I-IV,” it was obvious the show was hit-centric. And you know me, I’m all about those hits! Pink Floyd produced their strongest material between Animals, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall, but much of Aussie’s setlist could benefit from the oddball track here and there to please the Floydians and hipsters like myself. Shit, trade “Learn To Fly,” for “Dogs,” and I wouldn’t have said anything. Or, “Set Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” that would’ve made the evening. Maybe I’m just speaking for myself now.
Okay, Dark Side, you win. The band’s most rousing moments — aside from the beautiful “Shine On…” — came from Floyd’s transcendental production, that thing classic radio has spammed for what feels like a century. All I have to say is “The Great Gig in the Sky.” Wow. The girls, Lorelei McBroom, Emily Lynn, and Lara Smiles graced through their make or break moments with confidence, grace, and absolute awe. I don’t think a single arm in that establishment was without goosebumps. Meanwhile, “Time,” complete with syncopated lasers, brought Pink Floyd’s psychedelic stage presence to the forefront, and demonstrated guitarist Steve Mack’s prowess.
Solo of the night belonged to David Fowler’s rendition of Gilmour’s most famous composition in “Comfortably Numb,” but there’s something about Mack’s atmospheric style that just sounds larger. It’s as if Mack understands Gilmour’s “less is more” attitude, focusing on precision and emotion over absolute chaos and technicality. “Time[‘s]” solo takes time — bad pun, sorry — and build, which wouldn’t work if played in Fowler’s more straightforward technique. Fowler, you had the whole place after “Comfortably Numb” — including myself — so don’t be offended when I say Steve Mack better understands Gilmour’s playing style.
Australian Pink Floyd brought the sounds and sights of their inspiration to St. Louis on Tuesday, August 4. Although their set could benefit from, let’s say “Echoes,” the band’s performance far outweighed its lack of setlist creativity. Take away Led Zeppelin 2’s rough start and it’s easy to say Aussie Floyd put on one hell of a show. Oh, and did I mention…
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