The music of Pink Floyd roared back to life this weekend in Englewood, NJ, as tribute act The Pink Floyd Experience delivered a night of hits and rarities backed by a stunning light show for their appreciative suburban audience.
Few rock bands have had the lasting influence of Pink Floyd, and the array of tributes playing in 2013 attests to the love fans and musicians alike have for the genre-defining psychedelic rock music. But while most tributes and cover bands focus on the radio singles, the San Diego-based Pink Floyd Experience stood out by intentionally playing as many deeper cuts as possible in addition to the Q104 standards.
In fact, the night’s first three songs all predated the mega-successful Dark Side Of The Moon, as guitarist/vocalist Randy McStine explained before starting Fearless, one of three tracks that would be played off the Meddle album during the band’s two set performance.
A brilliant light show and projection screen (see photos above) added a visual emphasis to the throbbing rock music, which was lovingly and fastidiously recreated by the six man band. Playing Shine On You Crazy Diamond and Echoes back-to-back, the group proved their chops with the pair of epic multi-part songs, a highlight of which was saxophonist Jesse Molloy, who dazzled the crowd with his brass tone and stage presence.
Molloy also enjoyed the saxophone spotlight for Money, a track on which the band took their own liberties when they stopped in unison for a single beat, before jumping back into the song at full speed. It was just one of a number improvisations on the night, as the group made each song their own even while paying spectacular tribute to songwriters Waters, Gilmour and Barrett.
Money also proved to be the only chart-topper played during the night’s first set, as the band channelled the Animals record with Pigs On the Wings (I & II) and Sheep. Dogs would make an appearance during the second set as well, giving fans 4/5s of the album, a rare treat for Animals fans in this day and age.
While the audience clearly enjoyed themselves, singing along and standing up and dancing on occasion, as well as offering a stereotypical holler of “Welcome to freakin’ New Jersey!,” it was obvious that the band was having just as much fun inside the ornate Englewood theater. Guitarist Tom Quinn was never without a smile on his face as he played electric, acoustic, and even steel pedal guitar. After an intermission, the second set opened with an instrumental jam on the opening tracks of soundtrack album Obscured By Clouds, riding throbbing, distorted guitar riffs right up to the edge of modern heavy metal.
The second set of the night was also a chance for bassist Gus Beaudoin to shine, first on the crunchy, bass-led Have A Cigar, and then on an epic solo breakdown during One Of These Days. Tapping his way up and down the fretboard, the song was easily the most immersive and head-spinning of the night, as Beaudoin and the band expertly blasted their way through the blistering instrumental.
The show wrapped up with the platinum radio hits, first with Brain Damage/Eclipse from Dark Side of the Moon, followed by a gentle, theater-wide sing-along on Wish You Were Here. The foreboding verses and soaring guitar solos of Comfortably Numb brought the audience to their feet, and while this reviewer didn’t love the improvisation Quinn took on the second solo, arguably one of the most definitive and classic leads ever written, judging by the wild cheers and applause I might have been the only one there to think so.
Run Like Hell was the night’s final song, and it featured the famous flying pig floating above the heads of the crowd, as well as the defiant chorus to Another Brick In The Wall Part II slickly improvised in and sung loudly by every ticketholder and even venue staffers hovering by the exits.
Every Pink Floyd show should be judged on its own merits, and there were many to enjoy at Saturday night’s performance. All six band members beautifully harmonized on songs like Echoes and Eclipse, and the saxaphone work of Molloy was especially impressive when he took the final solo of Wish You Were Here as well. It’s worth saluting the band for their insistence on bringing out pre-Dark Side songs, as well as hitting a pair of post-Roger Waters tunes with High Hopes and On The Turning Away.
However, it would have been nice to hear at least one less deep cut in exchange for a favorite like Hey You, Time, or even a full rendition of Another Brick In The Wall. But Pink Floyd’s discography is simply too vast to give every fan everything they want to hear in a single show, and it’s admirable that the members of The Pink Floyd Experience are dedicated enough to tour behind a ‘Rarities’ package.
While not regular visitors to the East Coast, The Pink Floyd Experience offers a high end show and overpowering love for the music that is guaranteed to satisfy. Short of Roger Waters returning for a third round of The Wall shows (read my review of his summer Yankee Stadium stand right here), this is as close as fans can get to the real thing, and hopefully it won’t be too long before the boys in the PFE return for another night of Floydian fantasy.
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Additional photos from this and other concerts can also be seen on my tumblr: Heavy Metal NYC.