NICK MASON’S SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS
THE APOLLO, MANCHESTER
27 September 2018
When we reported back from the Saucerful Of Secrets London show – an idea that “shouldn’t work” – perhaps it sounded too good to be true. Mike Ainscoe pops down to Manchester Apollo to take a look for himself and see if Nick Mason’s diversion into the early days of Pink Floyd with Gary Kemp in a lead role, really was as good as it sounded.
With plenty of pre-show ambient noises that to be honest were difficult to describe in words – all bleeps and whooshes, zaps and throbs – it was easy to close your eyes and imagine you were back in 1968. Cast out from the PA, as they band arrived onstage, they merged into the workout that became Interstellar Overdrive, and launched a trip that was nostalgic, exciting and riveting. And yes, one that perhaps shouldn’t have worked but did so in a spectacularly heart-warming fashion. Naysayers may argue that there’s an element of tribute about it but you could argue the case is the same for both Waters and Gilmour who also do their own thing with ‘their’ Floyd songs, so that argument isn’t going to stand up. Any notion too that Gary Kemp’s inevitable association with the New Romantics of the eighties might be a contrived and surprising move was dispersed as his coming out as a closet psychedelic/prog rocker was an inspired move. No-one wanted this to work more than him.
Much was played of it being Mason’s first time in town since 1988’s Main Road Pink Floyd show which Guy Pratt recalled as bring like returning to another planet with the Madchester craze in full swing and Floyd back with a vengeance. Mason himself took the chance to stretch his legs from his drum stool and deliver a few song intros and some mildly acerbic barbs at his mates – yes, they may have forgotten his phone number (not to worry – it also happened to John Paul Jones when Page & Plant did their thing) so what else to do but go it alone. No, they weren’t the Roger Waters Australian tribute band or the Midlands Pink Floyd and yes, Roger was “a great friend and a great songwriter but flawed. He didn’t like sharing.” So was he really confessing to us that this whole project just about Nick Mason finally getting to play the gong? All those years having Rog do the business on Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun and finally Nick could show his gong skills – and not just a great big thwack but some subtle rim work (ooeer….) and letting us all see what The Floyd had been missing.
They all passed by in a carefully and well paced setlist that went from the hits – Arnold Layne (including a little of the original film clip on hidden amidst the multi-coloured psychedelic swirls on the backdrop) and See Emily Play to the quirky – “Vegetable Man where are you!!??” and the simple see-sawing rhymes of Bike. Then there was the space rock diversions – Set The Controls and a blast through One Of These Days before Kemp taking a spotlit solo to kick off If that took a diversion through a nostalgic and sublime Atom Heart Mother section – all Rick Wright hanging keyboard chords – before heading back to acoustic simplicity. And then one from Relics – “the Floyd album that everyone had because it was released as mid price!” – as the Nile Song rocked as hard as anything. Yes there was more to wax lyrical about – a thumping Fearless to suggest that meddle might be a mine where more gold may lie in the vaults and then Let There Be More Light all Eastern tinged. We could go on.
Making our way out, once again there was a final chance to admire the signed poster which would have looked nice on the wall but a tad out of the budget at £30 and also puzzle over why the XXXL T shirts were selling at £5 more than the other sizes, but also to reflect on how was it? Really? To be fair, not as good as it was made out – it was better. As one Facebooker commented – “all the dusty pomposity of 50 years of Pink Floyd wiped out. Pink Floyd music is cool again.” This was a real indulgence – seeing and hearing the early material and knowing that it was only the tip of the iceberg, fingers crossed in the hope that Nick and his guys will do the decent thing and keep the show rolling and evolving. I’ll be back.
Here’s the band website but don’t stare at the homepage too long….
All words and live photography by Mike Ainscoe You can find more of Mike’s writing on Louder Than War at his author’s archive. He can be found on Facebook and his website is www.michaelainscoephotography.co.uk