Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Pink Floyd Experience

The Music Center at Strathmore
North Bethesda, Maryland
February 25th, 2010

If you’ve already read my previous post on Nouvelle Vague, then you know my thoughts and opinions on the various types and styles of cover bands out there. If you haven’t, then I encourage you to do so prior to reading any further. The Pink Floyd Experience falls into a classification of cover bands that I touched on briefly in that write-up, a category I call the "tribute band". These acts focus the entirety of their performance on recreating the music (and sometimes the image) of another artist. Now typically, I am not a fan of these bands because I’d rather be seeing the real thing. However, oftentimes a tribute band is the only option we have for hearing the music of some of our favorite artists re-created in a live setting. Such is the case with the legendary Pink Floyd, who have lost two original members (Syd Barret and Richard Wright) and other than a few reunion type shows, have been, for all intents and purposes, broken up since the mid 1990’s.

The Pink Floyd Experience
When the band took the stage and opened with "Another Brick In the Wall: Part 3", every subtle intricacy and nuance of Pink Floyd’s complex sound was immediately noticeable throughout The Music Center at Strathmore, which is a venue that was designed and built for the sole purpose of showcasing live music…much like a smaller version of Radio City Music Hall. The Pink Floyd Experience was created by lead guitarist/vocalist Tom Quinn, who coincidentlly bears a striking resemblance to real Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmore (at least when he’s onstage). "The Experience" is rounded out by Graham Heath on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Gus Beaudoin on bass and backing vocals, John Cox on keyboards and effects, Jesse Molloy on saxophone, guitar and backing vocals, and John Staten on drums. Each member is a true virtuoso on their instrument (Graham’s being his voice of course) and this became strikingly evident as the evening pressed on.

The Pink Floyd Experience appropriately segued into "Welcome to the Machine", seemingly trying to wake up the surprisingly subdued Strathmore crowd. Perhaps the crowd’s malaise was due to the band’s decision to play a few lesser known numbers like "Let There Be More Light" off of Pink Floyd’s 1968 album "A Saucerful of Secrets" or "One of These Days" off the 1971 album "Meddle, during their first of two, hour-long sets. Or maybe the crowd was simply mesmerized by the signature lights and visual displays accompanying the music. Regardless, the combination of visual and aural perfection was pure space-aged, psychedelic bliss and any true Pink Floyd fan surely thought they’d died and gone to heaven…this reviewer among them.

Each member of The Pink Floyd Experience impressed me so much, that at varying moments throughout the show, I felt like a different one was the centerpiece of the band. During the first set, I found myself thinking that Cox was the man, as he continuously filled the room with the intense samples and sound effects that are such a key component of Pink Floyd’s music. But later, during "Have A Cigar", when Heath (who is massive by the way…I mean this guy looks like he could pick up a car) sang the familiar line "we call it riding the gravy train" where the word "train" is held longer than any human vocal chord should be capable, the vocalist sounded perfect. And when Beaudoin slapped and popped his way through a bass solo, it was as impressive a performance as I’ve seen on that instrument this side of Les Claypool. Molloy, Staten and Quinn were all equally proficient on their respective instruments too, as every member of the band was given an opportunity to showcase their aforementioned virtuosic talents.

There were multiple highlights from this performance, like getting to hear "Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)" and "Comfortably Numb" in a live setting. But perhaps the most amazing thing happened just before The Pink Floyd Experience returned for their well deserved encore. As the sounds of rain and thunder echoed through the room, a man dressed in a suit made of light bulbs (which were in fact lit up) walked onstage, looked around and then opened up an umbrella. Of course, all the "Floydians" out there recognized the man from the cover of the Pink Floyd live album "Delicate Sound of Thunder". What followed was an amazing version of "Wish You Were Here", which included a sing-along with the crowd, who had thankfully woken up during set number two. By the time the band released a massive flying pig into the audience as they closed out their show with "Run Like Hell", there were literally people dancing in the aisles of Strathmore. Ladies and gentlemen, this is my type of cover band.

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