Once upon a time, I owned more Pink Floyd CDs than CDs by any other artist — combined. I was depressed because I thought I’d never find a band whose music was as transcendently amazing or that affected me in such an emotional way. I put up posters at my school celebrating the 25th anniversary of Dark Side of the Moon. I bought or downloaded “RoIOs” (seems like only Pink Floyd fans use this term instead of “bootleg”) and became familiar with tens of different performances of the same few songs. When I was a junior in high school, I once told a class that the one thing I wanted to do before I died was to see Pink Floyd live.
Needless to say, I’ve since set my life goals slightly higher, and Pink Floyd has slipped considerably in my list of favorite bands. Still, when I found out that The Australian Pink Floyd Show (hereafter “Aussie Floyd”) were going to play in the DC area, it was with only mild hesitation that I ponied up fifty bucks for a ticket. And I somewhat guiltily slipped out of work an hour or so early — it was a late night tonight as a bill we’ve been working to kill for over years now is going to a vote tomorrow — to make it to the show.
When I got to the theater, 45 minutes late, the band was just wrapping up what sounded like a killer version of “Us and Them” and seguing into the finale of Dark Side of the Moon. It looked like the first set was that album in its entirety; despite my poster shenanigans in high school, Dark Side has never been one of my favorite Floyd albums and so I wasn’t overly bummed about missing out on most of the set. However, to my surprise I did nearly get chills listening to “Brain Damage/Eclipse,” so things were looking good.
After a brief intermission, the second set kicked off with “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” much to my delight (Wish You Were Here remains my favorite Floyd album). I won’t list out the whole setlist, but suffice it to say that it drew from a wide variety of albums, although the only pre-Dark Side songs were “One Of These Days” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.” The latter was godly. The live rendition was trancelike at the beginning and ending, but unlike the original, added in an absolutely crushing middle section, with a pair of white-hot solos courtesy of the guitarist and saxophonist. Easily the highlight of the show for me. The pro-shot YouTube video below is good, but doesn’t do the performance I saw justice.
Elsewhere were some totally unsurprising selections like “Wish You Were Here,” “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2″ (with a nifty guitar solo section), “Comfortably Numb,” etc. If I had a complaint it would be that there were too many songs from The Wall. The vocalists in Aussie Floyd did a decent job with Gilmour’s rich vocal parts, but couldn’t pull of Waters’ reedy, tortured-soul vocals nearly as convincingly. In fact, overall their vocal performances, while technically sound, were emotionally a little flat. Some of the songs from The Wall (in addition to not being my favorites in the first place) suffered as a result.
An odd highlight for me was “Learning to Fly” off of A Momentary Lapse of Reason, which was played in a form closer to the funkier Delicate Sound of Thunder version. Momentary Lapse is not an album that most Floyd fans would ever call one of their best, but I have a bit of a soft spot for it. It was the first Floyd album I ever heard; I stayed up all night on a long bus ride from North Carolina to the Florida Keys on a seventh-grade school trip, listening to this album over and over again. When Aussie Floyd played “Learning to Fly” — my favorite song on the album then and now — I closed my eyes and I was 12 years old again, watching the nighttime landscape zoom past under the light of the moon as a whole world of music was opened up to me thanks to an old cassette tape in a borrowed Sony Walkman.