The Roundhouse, that London
Well this was fun! A full 42 years since I last darkened their doors, here was I back in the drizzle of Chalk Farm Road, queuing up with more eager elders than a post office on pension day. And hasn’t it polished up well? No sooner inside than a tap on the shoulder, and it was @philpirrip, each of us gagging for a pint. After a brief check of our credentials, concerts seen and records heard, in we went to catch McNally Waters. Strange, I thought, that the support group for a Pink Floyd offshoot, if I can call them that, should contain a Waters, and, of course, it was indeed the son of Rog. Quite the wrong band for this evening, they weren’t bad, playing a very Band like set of songs, ragged harmonies and tinkling piano. Only an incongruous drum solo reminded us we were in dinosaur territory. So much for nepotism, they played perhaps 30 minutes, and, in another setting, outside, mid-afternoon at a festival, I think they would go down as well as a pint in the sunshine.
A short break and momentous music, all feedback and 60s style bleep and booster, started, building us up for the band arrival. The drum kit, centre stage at the back, but seemingly on a higher podium than usual, looked immense, a huge gong grabbing most attention. A cheer, and they’re on, Mason last, the others plugging in and starting off the riff for ‘Interstellar Overdrive’, even before he was sat comfortably. But, my my, when he was, what a glorious thump, mixed high in the mix. Bang bang, and it’s ‘Astronomy Domine’ ahead of any introductions. Mason elected to be master of ceremonies, occasional introductions and memories, standing up with a hand held mike, describing it being 52 years (fifty two years!!!!!!) since his first performance at this venue, or ‘home’, as he called it. Bassist Guy Pratt, astonishingly an honorary Floyd for 32 years, gave the added occasional added word, but seemed more intent on whooping and leaping around the stage, clearly loving it all. Lead vocals were shared between Pratt and noteventheSpandau Ballet vocalist, Gary Kemp, who shared guitar duties with Lee Harris, a necessary pairing to manage the often double tracking of, particularly, the Gilmour solos. Kemp also picked most of the Barrett style spiky guitar meanderings. Vocally, augmented, by Harris and keyboards man, Dom Beken, there was a sensible decision not to ape too strongly the idiosyncratic anglophone of Barrett, but gave a very credible simulation of Gilmour/Waters/Wright, this first displayed in a lovely rendition of ‘Fearless’, inevitably provoking the audience into bloody choral action, the bit both Phil and I had been dreading. Many of Barrett’s typically odd songs had never been played by Floyd, and we got several tonight, from the big ‘hit singles”, ‘Emily’ and ‘Arnold’, to ‘Bike’ and ‘Vegetable Man’. But most of the set concentrated on the stonking psychedelic metal they, probably, invented, with a lot of the instrumental bombast remembered so fondly from that 5th form essential, Relics. I found myself drawing comparison with early Hawkwind, the link far stronger than a shared obsession with space. ‘Nile Song’ was especially sturm and drang, Pratt calling it a punk rock song. And he wasn’t far wrong, cheekily chucking a line in from Holidays in the Sun, from the early catalogue of an acknowledged fan. Another highlight for me, my favourite Floyd being the duo of Atom Heart Mother and Meddle, was a quietly started ‘If’, segueing into the prolonged instrumental centre of AHM, all the bit, basically, without the brass band, gloriously unexpected, before nipping back into ‘If’. Appreciating 75 or so minutes in that the end was likely in sight, it was time for gong, lots of gong, as the controls were set for the heart of the sun, with, at that crucial moment, Pratt assisting also on gong duties. Terrific. Then the aforesaid ‘Bike’ and, slowly built in with random bass notes, suddenly it was ‘One of These Nights’, which, by heck, it certainly was. Of course there was an encore, a wonderful version of the track giving this band their name, Beken playing a blinder on the Rick Wright organ chordal flourish, ahead of a brief ‘Point Me at the Sky” and we were pointed to the doors. As much an experience as a concert, I felt privileged to have witnessed this, songs long since ditched by the other surviving Pinks.
Catch ’em if you can.
Largely survivors of the day, some having clearly done so with greater style and substance than others, a hard core remnant looking to have crept out of Ladbroke Grove, carelessly neglectful of there having been half a century since they last looked in a mirror. Not a few 2nd or 3rd generation fans and even some women, maybe, like the dutiful wife accompanying a lone groover husband, glazing over in some of the more prolonged wig-outs. Precious little fuck-wittery, but I did have to give the glare to a pair of noisy drunks standing behind me
It made me think..
I like this idea: an, effectively, covers band, yet rendered credible by containing a vital seed of the original. And Mason seems a genuinely decent cove, doing this for pleasure, I guess, rather than any need. He is, after all, 75 and presumably pretty well-heeled. And, wrongity wrong, all the nay sayers who call him a pedestrian plodder, with the right material, this material, he is exactly the right drummer for the job, a job he does efficiently and effectively. Good on him. And a CBE earlier in the week, I gather.
(Line of the night, from him, explaining why he was doing this, explaining he realised he had worn out his ballet shoes, from tip-toeing between Rog and David all these years.)