In previous articles, we have considered the link between live music and HiFi audio reproduction. As the impact of the pandemic recedes, gigs that were cancelled, in 2020 and 2021, have been reinstated. This week, the re-arranged Nick Mason and his Saucerful of Secrets gig at the Manchester Apollo finally took place, scene of my first ever music concert back in 1979 (Jethro Tull).
Since the acrimonious split of Pink Floyd, there have been various ways to enjoy their music. Only once has the band been re-united, for the Live 8 concert in 2005. Roger Waters tours under his own name, and plays a mix of his solo material and Pink Floyd tracks. David Gilmour has the legal right to use the Pink Floyd and toured and recorded with Nick Mason and Richard Wright, until Wright’s death in 2008.
Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets is a more recent project, dating from 2018. Not only does it feature Nick Mason, but the band includes Guy Pratt, who is Richard Wright’s son-in-law and has played with both David Gilmour and Roger Waters on their post-split tours. So arguably Saucerful of Secrets is another expression of Pink Floyd post-split rather than a tribute band like the Australian Pink Floyd Show.
There is much more about the band in the Rockonteurs podcast, where Nick Mason talks with Guy Pratt and fellow band member Gary Kemp. The other members of the band are Lee Harris and Dom Beken. One of the defining features is the focus on the pre-Dark Side of the Moon catalogue, with an emphasis on the songs of Syd Barrett, one of the founding members of Pink Floyd and regarded as their founding genius by many before his drug-inspired descent into mental ill-health. A further throwback to this era is the smaller scale of gigs, playing in 2,000 seater provincial theatres rather than large arenas.
And so to Manchester on a rainy Friday evening. The first thing that strikes you is that the audience is basically made up of bald old men. It’s a sad realisation that you are one of them. The first consequence of this is that the queue for the gents’ toilets is enormous, whereas the ladies is apparently almost empty. This is a consequence not just of audience demographics, but of the prevalence of enlarged prostates and the amount of beer consumed. There is a group near the front about half the age of the rest of the audience who stand out like a sore thumb and even include some women. It turns out that Guy Pratt’s son is at Uni in Manchester and has bought some mates along. Overall, the audience looks remarkably similar to a HiFi show!
Sitting just along from the sound desk, the sound is very good. The advantage of being in a theatre rather than an arena, although one that is not always realised! The centrepiece of the playlist is Echoes, from the 1971 Meddle album. This is one track that does feature on David Gilmour live in Gdansk, but the perfomance here is much more stripped back featuring some remarkable musicianship to create some of the effects needed.
Listening to the 2020 recording of a concert Live at the Roundhouse reveals what Echoes adds to the set, and how much the show is enhanced by its presence. A Saucerful of Secrets does feature on the recording and is used as an encore in the live show. Comparison with the 1969 Live Pink Floyd recording featured on Ummagumma, the performance, illustrates Nick Mason’s claim that they seek not so much to recreate the original performances as to re-interpret them. The increased emphasis on guitars in the Saucerful of Secrets gives the track a different feel, but it retains the powerful crescendo to the end of the track that is the essence of the track.
For a full gig review from this tour, you can read Peter Smith’s review of the Newcastle concert at https://myvintagerock.com/