Music review: Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, Glasgow Armadillo

Nick Mason, right, and his Saucerful of Secrets PIC: Jill Furmanovsky
Nick Mason, right, and his Saucerful of Secrets PIC: Jill Furmanovsky
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“We are not the Australian Roger Waters, or the Danish Dave Gilmours,” announced Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason at the start of this tribute with a difference, well aware that this audience would be familiar with the high end (and maybe low end) Floyd cover bands that have prospered in the band’s touring absence.

Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, Glasgow Armadillo ****

Saucerful of Secrets is ostensibly a celebration of Pink Floyd’s early days when they were fronted by the puckish but troubled Syd Barrett. But, in practice, the setlist encompassed the group’s pre-Dark Side of the Moon years since, as Mason notes, the young band soon “ran out of Syd” who was present in body rather than spirit by the recording of their second album, Saucerful of Secrets.

Who to recruit in order to best convey this creative, influential and progressive period when the group transitioned from psychedelic pop and acid rock to the sprawling stadium beasts of the mid-70s? Chances are your fantasy Floyd tribute would not involve members of Spandau Ballet and The Blockheads, yet Gary Kemp and Lee Harris jointly tore into the cosmic guitar heroics, while Orb keyboard player Dom Beken supplied the baroque embellishments and ace sessioneer Guy Pratt provided belligerent vocals, reverberating basslines and dry humour.

It took a moment to adjust to Kemp, in particular, as space rocker rather than purveyor of slick 80s pop as the band launched into thunderous renditions of Interstellar Overdrive and Astronomy Domine in gleeful riposte to the opening sample of the professorial interviewer from 60s TV show The Look of the Week asking Barrett and Waters: “Why

has it all got to be so terribly loud?”

From this storming start, the band fluently switched to the indelible groove of Lucifer Sam, the pastoral melancholy of Fearless, the psych pop blueprint See Emily Play, the simple rhyming pleasures of Bike and the proto-punk of The Nile Song. Vegetable Man showcased Barrett’s facility for gothic fabulism while a meaty, rocking Obscured by Clouds augured the birth of future generations of astral rock travellers.

Along the way, there were nice little touches such as a recording of a John Peel introduction to Let There Be More Light and Mason’s delight at being able to play the gong (vetoed over the years by Waters) which introduced the mighty highlight of Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun. It was all terribly loud and surprisingly thrilling. - FIONA SHEPHERD