IAIN ROBERTSON 

An unabashed lover of Progressive Rock in most of its forms, Iain Robertson has been attending a wide variety of concerts in recent months, which he admits are reliving his youth but fuelling his fondness for elegant noodling and stellar sounds.

It has been a fantastic year for gathering musical reminiscences. In 2018, I managed to see and hear Jeff Beck (an awesome guitarist), Steve Hackett (another phenomenal guitarist), Steve Winwood (is there a better Hammond organist?) and the prodigious Saucerful of Secrets (the new muse of former Pink Floyd drummer, Nick Mason), among others.

With Genesis sidelined by Phil Collins’ spinal problems (although his solo concerts have not stopped him), Yes still touring but continuing its band wranglings, Supertramp enduring an embittered status with its band members, Camel having returned to the circuit, ELP reduced to one (of the former three-men line-up) and the Eagles having tickets produced from ‘unobtanium’, it is clear that age, frailty, death and mental uncertainty are doing their level best to make every remaining performance that exists within the stalwarts something to treasure.

For what it is worth, I already have tickets for the November 2019 performance of Steve Hackett in Manchester, when he will be revisiting both his Genesis catalogue and his latest album work. While I am looking forward to a Genesis tribute band (one has to be fed by whichever means remain) concert being held in Manchester in May, it is the second such alternative means of listening to my favourite sounds, in neo-classical form, in the absence of the original artists.

The first dive into ‘replicants’ occurred only recently, when I attended a concert at the Bonus Arena (an in-apt and inept venue, if ever there were one), in Kingston-upon-Hull. The band was The Australian Pink Floyd Show, or ‘Aussie Floyd’, as it is better known, probably for e-mail brevity rather than any diminishment of its grandeur. I was sceptical. Yes. I had heard great things about it. Not least, from Dave Gilmour, the Ferrari-owning front-man of the actual Pink Floyd, who engaged the Aussie combo to perform at his 50th birthday celebrations a few years ago. If anybody needed a greater accreditation, this one beats them all.

With a thirty-year history behind the band, which means that it was tributing before Floyd had ceased playing live, Aussie Floyd clearly has something going for it. That most of Floyd’s original band members have also joined the band (originally known as ‘Think Floyd’) on stage, suggests that a sense of mutuality and respect exists in spades.

While its line-up has changed over the years, its premise of faithful reproduction of strictly Pink Floyd compositions, complete with phenomenal light show, inflatables and choral support, from which it has never deviated, all with some sweetly humorous Antipodean humour attached, remains key to its success. The Hull show was an event of memorable quality. Oh, sure, the purist would have noted some very minor differences between recorded performances of the original artists and Aussie Floyd but that was all they were, minor changes that even Floyd might have inserted unwittingly.

The band line-up consists of Steve Mac, one of TAPFS’ original members at its formation in 1988, on guitar and lead vocals (the Gilmour role); recent addition Ricky Howard on bass (the Guy Pratt role); moderate newcomer David Domminney Fowler on guitar and vocals; another of TAPFS’ founding members Jason Sawford on keyboards (the Rick Wright role); and Paul Bonney on drums and percussion (the Nick Mason role). Paul, a non-Aussie Mancunian, who had worked with New Order and Peter Hook, joined the band in 1998.

However, no Floyd tribute would be complete without a saxophonist, in this case Mike Kidson (reprising the phenomenal Dick Parry role), who has been a TAPFS’ regular since 2003. The role of ‘the tarts’ as they were named irreverently but amusingly by Dave Gilmour, is nailed superbly by Lorelei McBroom, Emily Lynn and Lara Smiles, while another Mancunian, Chris Barnes, performs support lead vocals.

Packing into a solid two hours performance (with interval) were inevitable Dark Side of The Moon, Piper At The Gates of Dawn, Atom Heart Mother and Ummagumma album track renditions, all performed faithfully to the original forms. Leading up to the intermission was a selection of tracks from Another Brick In The Wall, accompanied on stage by an enormous inflatable ‘teacher’ stage-left, just as Floyd had delivered it.

If anything, the second half was even more impressive and there were respectful references to late Pink Floyd members, Syd Barrett and Rick Wright. The show featured a huge inflatable kangaroo on centre-stage, while the signature circle-screen behind the band played footage reminiscent of the original performances, always peppered with pertinent and witty Aussie references. The entire show culminated with the most spectacular version of Comfortably Numb that I have heard since the original at Earls Court.

The engineers and riggers responsible for putting on the show warrant positive mention, as some of the edit/action points within the outstanding stage performance and both light and audio-visual elements demanded fine timing and lizard-like reactions. While I may have harboured some preconceptions (always dangerous!), I departed the Hull venue in bristling form, enlightened and enlivened ecstatically by what I can only term the finest show on earth! TAPFS, or Aussie Floyd, however you reference the band, has earned its 30-year stripes. Not so much a ‘tribute’, more a revival of original artwork.

Conclusion:    Whether you like or loathe ‘tribute bands’, Aussie Floyd will give you good reason to love Pink Floyd and it, in the same breath-taking performance. The quality of the music and its high-fidelity reproduction was worth every penny of the ticket price!