Brit Floyd, live in Belgrade, Serbia (2012)
Pink Floyd is a rock band that has influenced many a band since the 60’s and has continued to inspire musicians to this day with their experimental sounds, progressive musical directions (hence them being often referred to as a prog-rock band, even though they adamantly refuted that label), thought-provoking lyrics and, simply put, amazing rock riffs, solos, songs and albums as complete representations of their music and the music of the time…music which has even transcended time and is still popular and relevant today.
Except for a spectacular, albeit brief gathering of the four essential Floyd members, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright, for the Live 8 concert back in 2005 and for occasional solo tours by Waters and Gilmour, the original Pink Floyd disbanded back in the early 90’s, although Gilmour, Mason and Wright continued on as Pink Floyd for a few moreyears. Their music has been so inspirational and influential, that even after all these years, their albums are being sold in large numbers and countless cover bands have dedicated hours and hours in garages and studios practicing legendary Floyd classics.
So it comes as no surprise that the acclaimed Pink Floyd cover band, aptly named Brit Floyd filled the 3600-capacity Sava Centre in Belgrade on the 2nd of November, 2012. The tribute band, which formed in 2010 out of the ashes of the Australian Pink Floyd Show (another world-famous Pink Floyd tribute band) is fronted by Damian Darlington who is musically supported by a host of talented musicians and singers to complete this ensemble.
Rumour has that Damian and co. were invited to play at David Gilmour’s 50th birthday day party and that Damian played with Rick Wright at one stage in his career as well. If Brit Floyd are good enough for Gilmour and Wright, they must be worth a listen. Brit Floyd are not just a gifted group of musicians who manage to replicate the sound and feel of Pink Floyd, musically, but with the lighting and effects on stage, they visually replicate the feel and look of a Pink Floyd show.
With random precision, the show begun at around 20:30, with the lights dimming down, a loud, repetitive heart beat coming out of the speakers and the sharp, clear notes of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” coming out of the guitar. The audience applauded and were treated to the entire four parts of the epic Floyd melody that founded their album “Wish You Were Here”, which in essence was a song, or rather a composition, dedicated to their “fallen brother”, the first Floyd frontman and one of the founders of the band, Syd Barrett.
The guitars, the drums, the keyboards, the bass, the saxophone, the backing vocals and the lead vocals all gelled together and from the very start it was obvious that this was going to be a show that would live up to the claim of “World’s greatest Pink Floyd tribute show”. The band paid homage to Syd Barrett with another of his classic songs, “See Emily Play”, which only the true Floyd fans in the audience recognised.
For the next two and a half hours, the enchanted audience were taken on a musical journey through the greatness that is Pink Floyd, flowing through the hits (and some lesser known songs) from the Floyd catalogue.
“Money”, “Us and Them”, “Time” and “Great Gig in the Sky” brought the classic Floyd album “Dark Side of the Moon” to life on stage. “Great Gig…” was made memorable by the lead vocals provided by backing singer Ola Bienkowska who turned the epic piano-instrumental song into an emotional roller coaster with her powerful and soulful voice and received loud applause from the audience.
The cult classic “Another Brick in the Wall” (with not one, but two guitar solos), with school-choir backing vocals in the chorus got the audience clapping and eased in a couple of lesser known Floyd songs – “Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert” and “The Fletcher Memorial Home”, taken from the album that was the beginning of the end for the original Pink Floyd, “The Final Cut”. The politically-drenched satire that is “Pigs (3 Different Ones)” (with loud pig squealing sounds included) from the album “Animals” was a crowd favourite that lasted the full 11+ minutes and ended with a frantic guitar solo that Gilmour himself would have been proud of.
After the 20-minute interval, when the lights dimmed again, the crowd roared with approval as the repetitively loud “ping…..ping….” sound echoed around the auditorium. These were, of course, the sounds that introduced the Pink Floyd masterpiece that is “Echoes”. A song that took up the whole B side of their “Meddle” LP, “Echoes” took the audience on a 20 minute journey through endless musical landscapes and over guitar-driven horizons, into a galaxy of whirlwinds and miracles and back down to a rock-hard solo-shredding landing.
The focus was then turned to the masterful “Wish You Were Here” album, with “Have a Cigar”, followed by the acoustic favourite “Wish You Were Here”, which was sung in length by all 3600 dedicated Floyd fans in the audience.
In honour of Roger Waters and his “The Wall” tour which had been touring the globe for the past year or so, the remainder of the band’s set was dedicated to the 2nd half of “The Wall” album, which began with “Hey You”, “Is There Anybody Out There” and “Nobody Home”. “Vera” was emotionally sung, supported by images on the screen of the famous English singer, songwriter and actress Vera Lynn whose songs were popular during World War II. This was followed by the loud and boisterous, almost revolutionary-like “Bring the Boys Back Home”, with drum rolls and foot-marching, to boot. As any true Floyd fan would know, the next track on the album, and thus in the show, was the Floyd classic, “Comfortably Numb”, a song that was not only made famous in the film “The Wall” by Bob Geldof’s character, Pink, as he shaves his head and smashes his hotel room to bits, but also by the blistering guitar solo that leads the song to its climactic end, usually played by Gilmour atop the constructed wall during Floyd’s Wall tour in the 80’s.
This version of the song was more reminiscent of the one played by the Gilmour-fronted Pink Floyd, during their 1994 Pulse tour, which includes the epic stage lighting and giant disco ball that descends from the ceiling half way through the second solo. The song is as emotional, and the guitar creates goosebumps as when Pink Floyd play it, and at the end of it’s nearly 10 minutes, the whole of the Sava Centre rose to it’s feet to cheer and applaud an amazing performance.
The encore was another “Wall” song, “Run Like Hell”, which was also superbly played, but was a slight anti-climax to the thunderous song before it.
While it was clear from the start that Brit Floyd are a bonafide tribute band, the manner in which they performed the songs, the detail in the video animations on the screens and the precise and ambient lighting during the whole show and the quality of the musicians themselves is what has made this band so popular across the world and has sold out countless arenas to date.
Yes, they are essentially a cover band, playing someone else’s songs, but they do it with such dedication, precision and passion, that if you sit back, close your eyes and try not to think about the name on the ticket, then maybe, just maybe, for a split second (or hopefully more) you can imagine that you are sitting in the Royal Albert Hall sometime in 1976 and Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright are actually in front of you on stage, playing, jamming, improvising and changing rock and roll music forever.