A vast majority of today’s generation of rock fans can instantly name the two rock albums that have come to define Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall.
Songs from those two iconic albums have become staples on classic rock radio for decades. The thing is, if you were to ask these same folks to name any of the seven albums Pink Floyd recorded prior to the 1973 release of Dark Side, you more than likely would be met with a bewildered look.
But that is okay.
Band co-founder Nick Mason is doing something about that serious gap in the Pink Floyd time line. After two decades of self-imposed obscurity, the drummer has once again returned to the limelight. He’s currently touring the world to reintroduce that lost music in Pink Floyd’s discography and more importantly, the musical influence that drove the sound, guitarist Syd Barrett.
Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets concert tour touched down at the Tabernacle in Atlanta March 29. As stated previously, outside of a handful of public appearances, this is the first time the drummer has gotten behind his kit and hit the road with a full band supporting him. Long ago he had left the legacy of Pink Floyd in the safe hands of Roger Waters and David Gilmour. Those two dutifully carried on the musical experience and stage extravaganza that is Pink Floyd. Coincidentally, the pair concentrated their solo tours around Floyd’s four ‘70s masterpieces – Dark Side, Animals, Wish You Were Here and The Wall – though Gilmour did touch beyond that with songs from the Barrett era when he toured.
But not Nick Mason! He is shining a light solely on the extensive musical experimentation that the band’s ‘crazy diamond’, Syd Barrett, helped pioneer. And it’s about time.
Tonight’s performance started off with “Interstellar Overdrive” from Pink Floyd’s 1967 debut album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Fans of the Marvel comic movie Dr. Strange may have recognized this tune as the song that played in the background during an early pivotal moment of that film that featured Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. The ten-minute opus was just an opening salvo in a night of musical explosions.
It should be noted that the Saucerful of Secrets are a terrific band. They attacked the music with the same reckless abandon that originally created it. Only this time, the music was being explored by a fresh set of eyes and talent.
Joining Mason on stage were Spandau Ballet guitarist and co-founder Gary Kemp, Blockheads guitarist Lee Harris, keyboardist Dom Beken and Guy Pratt on bass. The bassist is notable as the replacement for Roger Waters when Pink Floyd reemerged with a new album and tour 1987. Pratt’s roots to Floyd remain particularly deep as he also was a fixture in David Gilmour’s solo bands when they toured in 2006 and 2016.
Mason’s purpose for emerging out of the shadows with this music had absolutely nothing to do with cashing in on the Pink Floyd name. This tour, I believe, is meant to expose fans to the group’s earlier works of extended instrumentals and thematic songs that led up to the creation of the epic Dark Side of the Moon and the recordings that followed.
Again, by concentrating solely on this ignored period of Pink Floyd’s musical history, Mason’s merry group of minstrels not only breathed new life into this part of Pink Floyd’s rich history but also give a better insight into how Pink Floyd became, well, Pink Floyd.
Tonight’s crowd ate up this part of Pink Floyd’s neglected past. It was quite refreshing to watch Nick Mason shepherd the crowd through the musical dynamics that created the Syd Barrett era of Pink Floyd as well as the growth of Roger Waters and David Gilmour. The song selections were vibrant and rich. The arrangements were updated with a modern edge to them. But make no mistake this performance was pure Floyd through and through.
The set list primarily featured songs from the band’s first two releases, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets. Other selections were culled from the albums More, Obscured by Clouds, Atom Heart Mother, and notably the unfinished Barrett opus “Vegetable Man”.
Kemp handled most of the lead vocal work with Pratt and Harris chiming in on harmonies and leads as necessary. Mason looked ‘comfortably numb’ behind his drum kit. Even the deepest of cuts – the B-sides – as well as tunes lost in the shadows of the band’s biggest hits found new life this evening. Mason wanted to make sure this chapter of the band’s history wouldn’t get lost in the sands of time. He succeeded.
This current tour is an absolute must-see performance for the band’s diehard fan base. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for music lovers in general to absorb the breathtaking beauty of Pink Floyd’s groundbreaking sound that would come to define their musical dominance of the ‘70s.
Mason and his mates offered the rarest of glimpses into an alternate universe of Pink Floyd music that would one day turn the band into musical icons. For those unfamiliar with the group’s early output, this part of their incredible history is a chapter you need to hear.
– David Huff