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Concert Reviews:
Pink Floyd drummer revisits early days in stunning Fillmore show

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2019

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DETROIT -- Nick Mason made things clear at the beginning of his Tuesday night, April 9, show with his Saucerful of Secrets band at the Fillmore Detroit.

"We are not the Australian Roger Waters or the Danish David Gilmour," the drummer quipped, referencing his Pink Floyd bandmates. "Or the Antique Road Trip," he added with a smirk. But Mason and Saucerful of Secrets did play an hour and 50 minutes of music that could be considered well-aged, by any standards -- and delivered it in magnificent fashion.

The 75-year-old Mason launched Saucerful of Secrets last year to perform Pink Floyd's earliest music, from 1965-72, before the worldwide sensation of "The Dark Side of the Moon." Most of the 20-song set hadn't been played in five-plus decades, and at least one -- the only partly finished "Vegetable Man" -- was never played live by Pink Floyd. But rather than merely pay tribute to those less-celebrated days of yore, Mason and company -- a crack crew that included Spandau Ballet guitarist Gary Kemp and longtime Pink Floyd touring bassist Guy Pratt -- breathed fresh life into the songs that brought them up to date and offered new insights into what Pink Floyd was doing before the majority of its fan base began paying attention.

Chief among those was the role of Mason himself. Often consigned to the background and certainly eclipsed by Waters and Gilmour, on Tuesday Mason demonstrated not only what a fine, inventive drummer he is but also how integral his playing was in Pink Floyd's makeup -- "the heartbeat of Pink Floyd," as Pratty put it -- whether he was cracking his rack toms or adding accents on cymbals or, during "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" and "A Saucerful of Secrets," on gong.

Mason, along with his Saucerful bandmates, also proved to be a friendly and witty host for an enraptured Fillmore crowd filled with enough die-hards to chant along with the ascending chord patterns of "Fearless." Though the commentaries were brief they gave the show more personality than Pink Floyd sometimes would show during an entire tour; Kemp even told the crowd that when he first saw the band in 1974 he couldn't take his eyes off Mason "because he was the only thing moving on stage." Mason, meanwhile, talked about the BBC banning "Arnold Layne" because of lyrical content, while Pratt talked about how he and all his friends owned the 1971 "Relics" compilation because "it was half the price of all the other Pink Floyd albums.

When it came to the music, however, the quintet was deadly serious as it ran through stunning renditions that blasted off with the pairing of "Interstellar Overdrive" and "Astronomy Domine" and over the course of the night carefully other space-rock epics such as "Obscured By Clouds," "Atom Heart Mother" and "One of These Days" with more compact psychedelic pop tracks such as "Lucifer Sam," "Remember a Day," "See Emily Play," "Bike" and, yes, "Arnold Layne" and even "The Nile Song," which Pratt introduced as "dumb-ass rock 'n' roll." The troupe also took a moment during the show to, rightly, acknowledge the late Syd Barrett, the short-lived Pink Floyd frontman responsible for so much of what it was playing.

Saucerful's production was more Grande Ballroom, where Pink Floyd first played Detroit in 1968, than Pontiac Silverdome, where the group last performed in 1994 -- but it still adhered to that band's high standards. The elaborate mix was clean and blended in sound effects for trippy extra layers of sonic fun. The light show was significantly more modest but still engaging, with projections splashed a rear-stage scrim that housed the group's logo.

But the up-close and in-your-face setting made Tuesday much more about the sound than the sights, which made for nothing less than a tremendous and nearly perfect show. Pink Floyd may be dry-docked, probably for good, but Mason and Saucerful shined a spotlight on an often overlooked part of the group's history, which is as important as Waters and Gilmour playing the group's 70s hits in their shows.

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