Australian Pink Floyd
I love Pink Floyd.
Now, I don't claim to love Pink Floyd more than any other guy but if I've had a few drinks, Pink Floyd is one of the subjects I can often talk about until those around me are tired of hearing it. I own several books wherein Pink Floyd are the primary subject matter. I've visited the Clark Planetarium on multiple occasions, by myself, to catch the Friday night Pink Floyd "laser show." On the Pink Floyd "Live at Pompeii" DVD, I watch the original VHS version, which is found under the features section of the menu, because the redux version with the CG planets is terrible. When I am bored in a meeting at work, my mind often wanders to the beginning of a random Pink Floyd album and I try to recall the entire album in my head with all the instruments and lyrics.
Like I said, I love Pink Floyd. On the other hand, I usually hate cover songs of bands I love, and I especially hate Pink Floyd cover songs.
As far as I'm concerned, there are only a few bands that have done Pink Floyd justice with their covers. One would be Radiohead, who did a very lovely cover of "Wish You Were Here," utilizing piano as the main melody instrument, rather than guitar, and with vocals which were recorded entirely through a telephone—a nice nod to the beginning guitar measures on the original version. The other who does it right would be Colonel Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade (one of the many bands fronted by Les Claypool of Primus). Their "Live Frogs Set 2" album happens to cover my favorite Pink Floyd album, Animals, in its entirety. They manage to pull it off flawlessly and I actually love listening to it almost as much as I love listening to the real album itself.
Third and foremost on this short list of mine is The Australian Pink Floyd show, and for the past five years, our state has been lucky enough to host them annuallu in either September or October. I only hope this trend continues for as long as Aussie Floyd tours the world. Like so many nights of drinking beers and listening to Pink Floyd with my friends, it has now become a tradition for some of us to meet up and catch the Aussie Floyd show each time they come through town.
Tonight was different than the past four years for several reasons, most notably that the show was not held at the E-Center, but rather the USANA Ampitheater. This was a first, and a much more fitting venue for their show. Each time Aussie Floyd has played at the E-Center, it has grown more and more crowded, and it has always felt more like a spectacle rather than an evening at the theater, which is what I've always imagined a Pink Floyd show to feel like. Unfortunately due to logistics, I missed most of their first of two sets, catching the last three songs before their 20 minute break. Two of those songs would be "Pigs" and "Sheep," from Animals, my aforementioned favorite.
Animals is an incredible album, and definitely one of the few albums that managed to change how I listen to music for good. It consists of a mere three songs, and five total tracks which are bookended by an intro and outro track. The three tracks are all titled after farm animals, and lyrically are influenced heavily by George Orwell's book "Animal Farm." Roger Waters' lyrics and stark storytelling by using his emotive and sneering voice, paired with David Gilmour's incredible guitar work and beautiful singing voice work to create what is, to me, the perfect album.
The great thing about The Australian Pink Floyd show is that they are clearly there to play the music, and are fans themselves. The band isn't trying to be a rockstar entity of their own, and avoid this by rarely talking to the crowd, aside from thanking us at the end of their first set, and introducing each band member usually sometime during the second set. As a Floyd fan, I feel lucky that this band exists because as far as other "classic" bands go, there really isn't another one that tours internationally on a regular basis. We do not have "The German Led Zeppelin Show," or "The Spanish Jim Morrison and The Doors" touring around the world playing to fans. Not even Beatles fans are fortunate enough to have a band that does this, and this makes me even more grateful for Aussie Floyd. Since I was born just after Animals came out, I never had the opportunity to appreciate Pink Floyd when they were in their prime, and obviously I never got to see them play live. As far as I’m concerned, The Australian Pink Floyd show is the next best thing.
For example, last year they played The Wall in its entirety, including the non-album tracks from the movie, and complete with all of the theatrics, stage setup, etc. During "Nobody Home," Roger Waters' lyrics were sung while sitting in an old easy chair next to a lamp while watching Gomer Pyle on an old television. The best part about this is the Gomer Pyle episode is the same one you hear in the album, complete with the pause toward the end where Gomer exclaims his recognizable quip, "Surprise, surprise surprise!" and yes, they performed this same song similarly this year as well, complete with the easy chair and Gomer Pyle.
That kind of attention to detail from the band is nothing short of staggerin. And it should be, because Pink Floyd is a band full of subtle nuances and subjective messages. Should Aussie Floyd fail to accomplish these subtleties, I believe they would not be anywhere near as effective, or popular, as they are. Sure, they could probably get away with performing “Nobody Home” while leaving the easy chair back in Australia, and I’m sure I would enjoy the performance. However they insist on nailing these touches that made Pink Floyd such an incredible entity themselves. More obvious details would be the rear projection video that plays throughout their two-hour sets. During The Wall, it was all related to the song being played, some of it was animation from the movie, but the majority of it was actually original video material and footage. When they play Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety (something they most always do) much of it is similar to what you would see at the "laser show" in the Planetarium. My favorite moment was the footage they show during "Us and Them" which is full of politicians and famous people fumbling about. If you know what Dark Side is about, and you watch their rear projection video, you will catch many of these tiny things.
Another thing I look forward to when I go to Aussie Floyd is the people watching. Ohhh, the people watching is absolutely exquisite, and for me it makes the price of admission even more worth my dollar. It is by far the most diverse concert crowd I have ever seen. All ages, social groups, economic demographics, and types of music fans make it out to Aussie Floyd. When "Money" or "that we don't need no education song" plays, most of the audience is guaranteed to stand up from their seats and really get into the music. Aside from those two songs, the majority of the audience do not seem as into it. But at every concert, there's always bound to be people there who are solely in attendance to see "the hits" played, rather than to appreciate the entire show. This is why Roger Waters played with his back to the crowd for a great deal of Pink Floyd's tour for The Wall. This type of thing, obviously, was also a huge influence for The Wall to even be written. The little bit of smug irony I feel when watching everyone dance to "that we don't need no education song" is absolutely delicious.
Songs such as “Money” aside, Aussie Floyd definitely keep their setlists diverse each time they come through here. This past Wednesday, I was not expecting to hear "The Gunner's Tale" from Floyd's The Final Cut album. I was also pretty surprised to hear “Astronomy Domine” as well. The band does keep some standards in place though. You can almost always expect to hear them close out their set, or the encore with "Comfortably Numb."
My goodness, look how long this rambling is… and I’m not even drinking as I type this! This isn’t even about my favorite band, but instead about a cover band. Aussie Floyd are no mere cover band though, and as far as I’m concerned, I’ve seen the closest thing I will ever see to Pink Floyd themselves. The fact that I’ve been able to see this show five times now makes me love being a fan all the more, and quite simply, I feel lucky. I’ll see you there next fall, I hope.
Might like to…
Go to the show.
To feel that warm thrill of confusion,
That space cadet glow.
I've got some bad news for you sunshine,
Pink isn't well, he stayed back at the hotel
And they sent us along as a surrogate band
We're gonna find out where you fans really stand.