First gig for me this year and it was a freebie! It was because I won tickets from the local newspaper that sponsors this venue that I was at the Echo Arena, for the debut show from the newly-branded 'Brit Floyd'. The name may be new but many of the personnel involved are not; most of the musicans and crew are drawn from the better-known Australian Pink Floyd Show which has been touring the world for several years. The Aussie show is still a going concern and so we now have a situation where there are two large-scale Floyd tributes doing the rounds; indeed the Aussie act is slated to play this same place in two months' time, whereas this act will return in the Summer. Great news if you are a Floyd fan, and there are many of those in this city.
With it being a new project, and because the event was being filmed for a future DVD release, the organisers were keen to encourage people along. As previously mentioned, I was here because of a prize draw and actually only found out the day before the show that I'd won tickets. However the tickets were on general sale for a tempting £10 and, depending on when you booked, you either got the £10 back in the form of discount for the upcoming Summer show, or if you'd already booked for that show then they included a free ticket for this launch show as well. Given the low price for this show you could be forgiven for thinking it was a low-budget affair, but on arriving at the arena gig-goers were confronted with two huge inflatables outside the venue, of the Teacher (from 'Another Brick In The Wall') and a pig, sadly not flying overhead but tethered to the ground. The sight of these giant inflatables suggested we were in for a full-on Floyd live experience. On entering the arena it became clear that the venue has toughened up its policy in line with other arenas - we were searched before entering and also had to get past a sniffer dog! (The dog would only have found a Raisin & Biscuit Milky Bar on me, and he was not getting that!) Given the reputation of Floyd fans for being fond of 'herbal' substances, perhaps we should not have been surprised that the arena went to such lengths. Once inside, I found myself on the arena floor in the standing section. Only about half the capacity was in use this night, and there was plenty of space to stand in and so I chose a spot about halfway back, to get a reasonable view of the musicians and also of the visuals. The show was meant to start at 8pm, but came on about ten minutes past the hour. A huge roar went up as it became apparent that the show would start with 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond', with one of the two guitarists playing a drawn-out introduction to the song. Once the whole band appeared, there were a lot of them! Two keyboard players, two guitarists (one of whom was also sharing lead vocals with the bassist), a drummer and a percussionist/saxophonist, and four female backing singers. Of course there was a large screen overhead showing visuals as the band played. The set was broken up into two parts; they mixed up material from the classic period with later material such as 'Learning To Fly' and 'High Hopes', the latter being accompanied by the original promo video. The rendition was so accurate that you could have been forgiven for thinking you were hearing the record - until you looked away from the video screen and down at the band. Everything was being performed on the stage, right down to the gently-tolling bell that chimes throughout 'High Hopes'. Equally impressive renditions of 'Mother', 'Welcome To The Machine' and the instrumental 'One Of These Days' followed before the first part ended with 'Pigs' - and an inflatable pig duly made its entrance to the left of the stage.
The only real quibble I had during this first part was not with the band; there was a group of lads stood near me who forgot they were at a concert and seemed to think they were in the pub, chattering constantly throughout the set. I fail to see why anyone would take the time and trouble to go and see a band only to pay scant attention to them when they're playing, but clearly their conversation was of paramount importance. So I and my friend moved closer to the stage for the second part of the show to get away from them, hoping there were a few more dedicated fans where we went to. The floor was not jam-packed and so it was no problem to get within a few feet of the front. When the band reappeared they performed 'Echoes' in its entirety, something which went down very well. This part of the show was a real crowd-pleaser; 'Time', 'Wish You Were Here' and 'Money' were just some of the best-loved Floyd songs given an outing here. 'Great Gig In The Sky' was done here, which gave one of the four female singers a chance to do her best Clare Torry impression. The set ended, predictably enough, with 'The Happiest Days of Our Lives/'Another Brick in the Wall Pt 2' (whereupon the second verse of the latter actually had a choir of schoolchildren appear to sing 'We Don't Need No Education'!) and of course 'Comfortably Numb', where the bassist had handed his four-string over to the sax player, and donned a white coat to play the 'doctor'. The solos were split between the guitarists and both gave near note-perfect renditions. That produced huge cheers from the crowd but also a mass exodus; the set ended just after 11pm and many streamed out without waiting for an encore. When they did come back, to perform 'Run Like Hell' (and send out huge black beach-ball things into the crowd) the hall was emptying as people left - presumably to catch trains or buses back home!
Despite the late finish the debut show from this new project was a success; the production was extremely professional, the set ran smoothly, the visuals worked well and the band is obviously made up of excellent, experienced musicians totally familiar with Floyd's work. For a tenner this was a great value night; for nowt it was even better! Brit Floyd's tour proper will commence in April - it calls at many British towns and I recommend checking it out if it's anywhere near you.
Shine On You Crazy Diamond 1-5
Learning to Fly
Welcome to the Machine
One of These Days
Great Gig in the Sky
Wish You Were Here
Us and Them
Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2
Run Like Hell