Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets – Live at the Tabernacle

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As much as I enjoy Pink Floyd, hearing that their drummer, Nick Mason, was touring and playing their early era music was a no-brainer.  He was never the focal point of the band, but a rock legend is a rock legend, and there are only so many chances.

His assembled band, named after Pink Floyd’s second album, featured vocals by Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp, who also played rhythm and lead guitar, and bassist Guy Pratt, who toured with the band in the post-Roger Waters era.  Both had similar voices and at times traded verses like they were written for them.  Keyboardist Dom Beken and guitarist Lee Harris rounded out the band. 

Given the nature of the band’s first few albums and the very retro light show, it was hard not to be drawn into the psychedelic presentation of their Syd Barrett era music.  For most fans of Pink Floyd, they wouldn’t recognize that that this is the same band, given the very dated sounds and rare covers of these songs in their later years.  Kudos to Nick Mason for finding a space in the band’s repertoire that doesn’t compete with the expectations of Floyd’s two acrimonious leaders and apparently having a blast doing it.  

Gary Kemp

The segue into Floyd’s “progressive” sounds were found in songs from Meddle and Obscured by Clouds, which have smoother, groovier sound than the more clearly “psychedelic” sounds of their early albums, which might be characterized by hyperactive or spacier keyboards, odd rhythms, noodling guitar leads and vocal harmonies.

And for that reason, my post-concert thoughts kept returning to the show as an artifact, certainly an enjoyable one, but still a bit of a time capsule.  The show was extremely well presented, the sound and lights were excellent, and… there’s just no way that it resembled an “authentic experience,” back in an era when the music was both new and exciting, never mind that that the audience and the band would likely have been under a pharmaceutical influence sufficient to overcome lapses in the sonics and visual sophistication of the era.  Today, it’s pretty easy to identify their better constructed and and more enduring songs, and there just aren’t that many.  That said, heard and seen live, there is also a punk vibe to some of the songs, like “The Nile Song,” which aren’t too far removed from what the Clash and others brought to music ten years later.

As for Nick Mason, he played effortlessly, and filled in gaps between the songs with entertaining comments about the years past, which, based on concert reviews, were just as practiced as the music.  “We’re not the Australian Roger Waters” hits the funny bone especially well for those that understand the reference, and if you only see them once.

Set list:
  • Interstellar Overdrive – Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  • Astronomy Domine – Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  • Lucifer Sam – Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  • Fearless – Meddle
  • Obscured by Clouds
  • When You’re In – Obscured by Clouds
  • Remember a Day – Saucerful of Secrets
  • Arnold Layne – Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  • Vegetable Man – unreleased
  • If – Atom Heart Mother
  • Atom Heart Mother
  • The Nile Song – More (soundtrack)
  • Green is the Colour – More (soundtrack)
  • Let There be More Light – Saucerful of Secrets
  • Childhood’s End – Obscured by Clouds
  • Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun – Saucerful of Secrets
  • See Emily Play – Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  • Bike – Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  • One of These Days – Meddle
  • A Saucerful of Secrets
  • Point Me at the Sky – single

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