Rant’N’Roll: Aussie Pink Floyd

BETHLEHEM, PA 2016—The Australian Pink Floyd Show landed at the Sands to blow us all away. The wattage of the lights alone made for a spectacular in-your-face presentation. The green laser beams criss-crossing above our heads, the smoke, the giant inflatables, the original animation and still photography of a young Syd Barrett during “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and “Wish You Were Here” plus film of the band in its halcyon days on the big screen made for pretty powerful stuff. It was, in fact, the kind of theatrical experience that had our jaws dropping, our minds reeling and our senses totally captivated. “Time,” “Us And Them,” “Bricks,” “Pigs,” “Comfortably Numb,” “Hey You” are part of our DNA. Yet 11 more songs in two sets, played in note-for-note perfection, had us, indeed, rockin’ and a reelin’ with the feelin’.

NEW YORK, NY 1970—Richard Wright [1943-2008] had a stick shift on his organ that we could see from our cheap seats upstairs. He’d point it to the left and that’s where the sound would emanate from. When he pushed it all the way forward, the sound was magically behind us. During opener “Astronomy Domine,” they were so loud I thought my ears were bleeding. We each had swallowed some blotter acid in the bathroom of the gas station on Passaic Avenue and Allwood Road in Clifton. By the time we hit the tunnel, we thought we were feeling it but it was just the constant flow of joints we were smoking on the way in. Once in Manhattan, we asked for directions, and when we lowered the windows a plume of marijuana smoke wafted out of the car and into the face of the polite bystander who directed us to the Fillmore East. We thought it was hysterical.

I’ve done a total 180% about-face when it comes to tribute bands. I used to scoff. Now I know that great music needs to be performed live and not necessarily by its composers. Hell, you go see symphony orchestras perform Bach and Mozart. Why should rock be any different? The Fab Faux taught me this. Aussie Pink Floyd played these songs so powerfully, so profoundly, it didn’t have to be asshole Roger Waters up there. And without his stink, it was more enjoyable anyway.

Wright started the mellifluous strains of “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” and in the next 15 minutes we were lulled into a false sense of security. Gilmour/Wright/Mason/Waters kept that flow until it all dissipated into silence. That’s when we heard it. Footsteps on the roof. We all looked at each other in incredulous stoned stunned silence. There was a giant walking on the roof of the Fillmore! The band was obviously going for a horror vibe and it had me in its clutches. This couldn’t be happening. I was getting unnerved.

Then came the scream.

The Australian Pink Floyd Show has sold over four million tickets in 35 countries since 1988. They played at Gilmour’s birthday party and have been joined onstage by Wright. Their ungodly huge pink kangaroo has to be seen to be believed. Two great guitarists, a Grand Guignol-styled keyboardist, one powerful monster drummer, a lead singer who hits all the right notes in a velveteen voice, tenor sax, baritone sax and those three soulful divas made for exquisite entertainment.

The scream freaked me out. I got up and ran out of the Fillmore onto Second Avenue, sweating, tripping and scared. The air was stingingly cold. I remember this like it was yesterday. I kept running until an inviting opened door made itself available to me. I walked into a totally different environment and leaned against the wall. It was Slug’s, the legendary jazz club, and as I gazed at the bandstand, I knew I was experiencing something totally new, foreign, calming. It was Pharoah Saunders who had left John Coltrane’s band to go solo. I didn’t know that at the time. All I knew was this strange black man was blowing the kind of sax I had never heard before.

Then they kicked me out.

I wholeheartedly recommend The Australian Pink Floyd Show. Man, did it bring me back.

I walked calmly back to the Fillmore in time for another song or two. My friends never knew I had left. True story, y’all.