I think it’s fair to say that The Australian Pink Floyd are, by quite a long stretch, the biggest tribute band in the world. Almost 30 years into their career, they have sold over 4 million tickets in 35 countries and were even booked to play Pink Floyd guitarist Dave Gilmour’s 50th birthday. Tonight at Montreal’s prestigious Place Des Arts, The Aussie Floyd convincingly prove exactly why they’ve transcended the tribute act scene to become something truly spectacular in their own right.
This evening’s concert is titled “The Best Side Of The Moon”, and the first 45 minutes are dedicated to Pink Floyd’s classic Dark Side Of The Moon album, played in its entirety, in order. It’s a brave move, but it pays off handsomely and makes you realise just what an astonishing collection of songs the album is. Vocalist Chris Barnes is pitch perfect and convincingly delivers each song without ever stealing the limelight from his talented bandmates. Indeed, the true test of a band playing the music of Pink Floyd comes down to the remarkable musicianship that the group became renowned for. And tonight we witness a collection of musicians, and singers, at the very top of their game. You may never get to see Pink Floyd play together again but this is a superb alternative to the original.
Each member of the group showcases their skills beautifully. What they lack in showmanship – only saxophonist Mike Kidson is in any way animated – they more than make up for with their musical talent. Throughout the packed auditorium the fans make it clear how much they relish the opportunity to witness anything close to the real Floyd. A dazzling laser light show, three extremely talented female back-up singers and a giant inflatable pink kangaroo all add to the spectacle. Indeed, during The Great Gig In The Sky, backing singers Lorelei McBroom, Emily Lynn and Lara Smiles each get their chance to shine, and receive a rousing reception from the audience as a result.
Once Eclipse brings the album to a sublime conclusion we are left wondering what could possibly follow such musical perfection. The answer comes by way of a trilogy from another legendary album, The Wall, culminating with Pink Floyd’s biggest hit, Another Brick In the Wall, which sold over 4 million copies worldwide. The song is given added visual impact by a 2-storey high inflatable of the teacher from the associated movie.
A 20 minute interval seems a touch unnecessary but, as the haunting notes of Shine On You Crazy Diamond ring through the venue, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find anything to criticise with tonight’s performance. Learning To Fly is the first song played tonight that sounds less than perfect. Ricky Howard’s vocals seem to struggle to match the original, but it’s the inclusion of Keep Talking, from 1994’s The Division Bell, which seems the oddest addition to the set. It gives guitarist Steve Mac some time in the spotlight but is not a song anyone would consider to be classic Floyd.
Sheep takes things back to Pink Floyd’s ominous 1977 album Animals before a compilation of Aussie video references from AC/DC and Kylie to Men At Work and kitsch sitcom Neighbours take us to the acoustic opening of the brilliant Wish You Were Here. Guitarists Mac and Dave Fowler excel yet again and the tune represents one of many highlights throughout tonight’s concert.
One Of These Days gets heads nodding before Barnes coaxes the admittedly older crowd to its feet for an uplifting Run Like Hell. There’s only one tune they could possibly come back with and, sure enough, Comfortably Numb makes for a fantastic encore. This is more than a tribute band. The Australian Pink Floyd raise the bar so high they leave all other tribute acts flailing in the dust. A magnificent evening of classic rock from an extraordinary group of musicians.
Speak to Me
On the Run
The Great Gig in the Sky
Us and Them
Any Colour You Like
In the Flesh?
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)
Learning to Fly
Wish You Were Here
One of These Days
Run Like Hell
Review – Steve Gerrard
Photos – Georgina Lanfranchi, Sarah Askaroff & Wendy Wilson