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Brit Floyd kick off series of Floyd related events in New York Print E-mail
Written by Ed Lopez-Reyes   
Friday, 22 April 2016

Brit Floyd - New York, April 2016On Friday, April 8th, Brit Floyd made a stop at New York City's Beacon Theatre (a venue that saw David Gilmour perform in 1984, and more recently Roger Waters for Stand Up For Heroes), deploying a set that pays tribute to David Gilmour's work with Pink Floyd, performing rare tracks from the band's catalogue, and launching New York City into a week of events anchored around Gilmour's sold-out shows at Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden...

A strange thing happened in Gotham this month: a handful of events with a Pink Floyd connection descended upon it in full force over the course of just a few days. David Gilmour was booked for shows at Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden. Preceding them, Gilmour's wife, Polly Samson, was scheduled as a guest on Damian Barr's Literary Salon at the Ace Hotel with author Jonathan Lee and a special guest (Gilmour) in tow. Following and capping off these events, Guy Pratt was set to perform in a rare one-off stand-up appearance at The Slipper Room.

For a few days, being a Pink Floyd fan in the United States would feel similar to being a Pink Floyd fan in the United Kingdom, where spurts of band-related activity unravel from time-to-time and, seemingly, in bundles.

If anything could add to the blend of British and Pink Floyd flavors that was taking over New York City, Brit Floyd was the perfect fit.

And so on Friday, April 8th, Brit Floyd played at New York City's historic Beacon Theatre, kicking off this unusual period of Pink Floyd activity, which shaped the mood at the gig: audience members in the theatre foyer discussed which of the three upcoming Gilmour shows they planned to attend and debated Samson's event's sold-out status while others learned of Pratt's upcoming comedy show.

This was as close as Brit Floyd would come to crossing paths with the Gilmour machine during its North American tour: each band's performance in neighboring venues separated by just one day and a mile-and-a-half of blocks. The only predictable detail about the Brit Floyd show was that there would be no special appearance from said machine: Brit Floyd would be playing that evening in New York City as Gilmour played his last in Chicago.

In the past, Brit Floyd has been joined by at least two Pink Floyd veterans. Most recently, while in Los Angeles in 2015, by saxophonist and rhythm guitar player Scott Page and earlier, while in Liverpool in 2013, by bassist and vocalist Guy Pratt, who has been touring with Gilmour since last year. That meant that during this show Brit Floyd would plow through its set-list in its purest form, delivering their product to a more highly concentrated strand of Pink Floyd devotees than usual, and in a city where shows are often elevated in status by special guests and other unusual gimmicks.

Brit Floyd delivered. It delivered far more than a musical appetizer for this army of Pink Floyd enthusiasts: the Continuum Tour has featured a comprehensive sampling of Pink Floyd's different eras (as usual) but also a blend of deep tracks (such as Yet Another Movie) and tracks that, though popular, have not been dusted off for Gilmour's recent tours (such as Learning to Fly). Brit Floyd is giving Pink Floyd fans the opportunity to hear songs that have not been played live for at least 22 years (in some cases far more) and this served as one of two great book-ends to a week of Pink Floyd events in New York City.

The band's Continuum Tour set leans heavily toward Gilmour's strengths: a hybrid rooted in the A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell tours (in terms of sound), it is as much a tribute to Gilmour's work in Pink Floyd as it is a tribute to the band itself.

The show kicked off with Signs of Life and Learning to Fly; the band's million-dollar set bathing the audience in lights and effects and commanding their full attention from the get-go, their performance seamlessly flowing from one song to the next.

High Hopes, the third track on the set, would be the first of a number of songs that Gilmour has included in his own Rattle That Lock Tour shows. This track was followed by the second of that overlapping set of songs, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, which most clearly illustrated Brit Floyd's discipline as a unit. Bassist and vocalist Ian Cattell sounds uncannily similar to Roger Waters on the original studio version while guitarist, vocalist, and musical director Damian Darlington and fellow guitarist Edo Scordo delivered powerful tributes to Gilmour's guitar work on the piece. This was followed by Poles Apart – another Gilmour-era gem that has become a rarity in live performances.

Brit Floyd - New York, April 2016The band's first half of the set also featured classics like Us and Them and Another Brick in the Wall Part 2, but it is their rendition of Pigs (Three Different Ones) that really sealed the deal for this audience: remarkably loyal to the original but with strong hints of where Brit Floyd departs into a territory of its own. Scordo and Darlington's playing is strongly rooted in Gilmour's style and approach but is delivered with an aggressive and ahead-of-its-time flair. Hard Rock and Heavy Metal fans familiar with Pink Floyd's influence on the genres will find this approach particularly compelling: it manages to add an edge without forfeiting the elements that matter so much to the original. It also signals how Brit Floyd might evolve over time in its rendition of these timeless classics.

The second set of the show featured all the classic tracks audiences have come to expect at a live Pink Floyd performance: Time, The Great Gig in the Sky, Money, Comfortably Numb, Wish You Were Here, and Run Like Hell – all delivered in magnificent form and eliciting some of the strongest standing ovations (a particular hat-tip to Ángela Cervantes, who draws one of the most enthusiastic responses after The Great Gig in the Sky, as well as to the overall backup singing team for incredible deliveries that were enthusiastically recognized by the audience throughout the set).

The strongest anchors in the second set were Echoes, Yet Another Movie, One of These Days, and Young Lust – tracks that really showcase the extent to which Brit Floyd's band members can adapt to the range Pink Floyd would need to cover if it were still touring and adapted to fan demand for more diverse sets. In some respects, watching members of Brit Floyd perform these tracks begs the question of how these individual musicians might fit as band members in future Gilmour or Roger Waters tours.

Gilmour spoke about the difficulty in playing Echoes with newer band members in 1987 (the reason the track was dropped from the set after a few weeks on the A Momentary Lapse of Reason Tour), stating that "the trouble with modern musicians is that they don't know how to disintegrate."

As Mark Blake's 2007 Pink Floyd biography illustrates, the track is not measured in a specific number of bars and relies heavily on instinct – particularly in the extended section in the middle of the piece. Despite these delicate nuances, Brit Floyd launches into the second set of their show with Echoes… and nails it, a great deal of it most likely due to Darlington's perfectionist approach – their performance of the song indicates relentless rehearsals, surgical transcriptions, and well-tested interpretations of different performances of the song.

One of These Days and Young Lust are powerful live tracks that are unlikely to be played by Gilmour on his solo tours but truly deserve some rotation on live sets – somehow. Young Lust was performed on the last Waters tour, during the first half of The Wall, with Robbie Wyckoff on vocals – an incredible delivery in its own right and proof that these songs are timeless. Performances of these important tracks in the Pink Floyd catalog will become increasingly difficult to come by and Darlington and Brit Floyd have managed to deliver them with the fullest musical integrity. In fact, this is probably at the root of what sustains a band like Brit Floyd's success, even when pooled with and against the intense barrage of events that stormed through Manhattan in this brief period of time.

Brit Floyd - New York, April 2016This brings us to Yet Another Movie: quite possibly one of Pink Floyd's finest moments but criminally neglected since the A Momentary Lapse of Reason Tour. The song's lyrics are (according to the scant sources that discuss its history) a statement of Gilmour's personal sojourn at the time it was recorded, dealing in some degree with the dissolution of his first marriage. The track's musical construction is one of the most profound wells into Gilmour's creative mind – apparently a composition with roots in The Final Cut era (and apparently excluded from that album in any final form due to Waters' lack of interest in the track to the extent that it was written then), which is quite remarkable in its own right considering how far ahead of its time it must have sounded. To this day, despite many critics and even band members stating that the album that features the track (A Momentary Lapse of Reason) is too profoundly embedded in the period that it was released in (the late 1980s), a case can and should be advanced that the work on it was far ahead of its time and signaled a potential sonic path for the band that may have been abandoned almost entirely and regretfully in the band's approach to The Division Bell (a great album on its own merit).

Brit Floyd drummer Arran Ahmun describes Yet Another Movie as an "epic" piece despite its simplicity. It projects vastness through its drum part: not because of difficult fills or a complex rhythmic sketch but because the arrangement breathes, making the right space for its haunting keyboard and lyrical landscape. If a moment on Brit Floyd's set captures something truly rare and special, this is it – perhaps not for most ordinary fans but certainly for those who itch for something truly obscure and representative of a depth that is not accessible through Pink Floyd's most popular and accessible vessels.

For more information on upcoming Brit Floyd shows, please visit britfloyd.com/tour-dates.

 
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