Live Review - The Half Moon, Putney
When one member of a band goes out with a bunch of session musicians and plays the hits to smaller venues, it often becomes the target of scorn. That might be the best attitude for ‘From Boney M’, but not so for Saucerful of Secrets. As the only member of Pink Floyd to have played on every single one of the band’s releases, Nick Mason evolved with the band on the drumstool. From their psychedelic pop inception under Syd Barrett, through the concept album Roger Waters years and into the stadium-touring David Gilmour era, Nick saw it all. His drums sticks have not seen much action since the last Pink Floyd tour in 1994. 2005 saw the famous Live 8 reunion, and he’s cameoed now and then with David Gilmour. So it really was a surprise when he announced a series of four Pub venue gigs in London focussing on the early years of Pink Floyd.
The setting was the back room at The Half Moon in Putney, a wide and shallow room perfect for intimacy. In true Floydian spirit, the band’s appearance was preceded by 30 minutes of sound effects played loud over the PA system. To much affectionate hollering and applause, the band took the stage and launched into ‘Interstellar Overdrive’, possibly the archetype of the 1960s psychedelic song. The combined telecasters of Lee Harris (The Blockheads) and Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet) sounded like snarling wild dogs as Mason demonstrated his unique rhythmic flair. This terrific opener blended almost seemlessly into ‘Astronomy Domine’, this time featuring harmonic vocals from bassist Guy Pratt (part of the Floyd ensemble since 1987), and Kemp.
Throughout the set the mainly male audience lapped up servings of refreshed deep cuts from the much lesser known Floyd albums. There were airings of songs never even played live by the original band themselves (See Emily Play, Point Me at the Sky), as well as instrumentals that just wouldn’t be part of a PF setlist (Obscured by Clouds, Saucerful of Secrets). What stood out to me was how, if Pink Floyd had ended in 1972, before Dark Side of the Moon, they would still be considered one of the world’s great bands. The fact they went on to become one of the world’s legendary bands meant that this rich seem of outstanding music has largely remained untouched by the band their constituent members. In 2016 EMI issued a compilation of remastered tracks and rarities from ‘67 - ‘72 and this was sort of the live show to compliment it. Songs like Arnold Lane, Fearless, The Nile Song, Green is the Colour and Bike all sounded technicolour and fresh by this slightly odd line up of musicians. I would never have thought a member of Spandau Ballet would work in a Pink Floyd side project - but Gary Kemp played deftly and was a pouting and engaging co-frontman with Pratt.
Nick Mason, undoubtably an elder statesman of the Rock fraternity, looked comfortable, dignified and engrossed in his playing. He spoke a couple of times to his audience to their delight and, for many there, made their musical year by dusting off a set of incredibly important, era-defining songs.
Syd Barrett has been gone since 2006 but disappeared from music in the early 70s after a breakdown. His music endures through new generations discovering its whimsical, playful lyrics and inventive, surprising music. The legacy he leaves, alongside the pedigree work his band mates went on to develop, is surely going to continue to intrigue and inspire many - and thanks to this project - it can be heard as it should be - live.
Contributor: Dave Griffiths / @davegriffithsmusic