The appeal of most cover bands is their ability to mix imitation with innovation; they model themselves after the originals but, because they aren’t the originals, they also add their own aesthetic. No one really expects their versions to stay too true to their inspiration. However, The Australian Pink Floyd Show is different; nostalgic parents and their children don’t flock to see the quintet (plus guests) merely play Pink Floyd songs – no, people pack the venues to watch them play Pink Floyd songs perfectly. And on October 30th, at the Tower Theatre in Upper Darby, PA, that’s just what they did.
Abbreviated TAPFS, the troupe formed in Adelaide, South Australia in 1988. And, like Genesis tribute band The Musical Box, they are world renowned as the definitive emulators of their idols. Combining astounding lighting, audio clarity and a big screen that simultaneously displays photos of Pink Floyd and updated versions on familiar imagery (album covers, memorabilia, etc), it’s pretty close to seeing the real guys live thirty years ago.
The set list spanned almost their entire discography (from Meddle to The Division Bell), which not only served to appease fans who have a favorite album or two but also to exemplify just how much Pink Floyd changed over their career. Jumping from earlier psychedelic and looser compositions to the more progressive and cerebral middle period and then the more commercial final albums in one night ignited a new appreciation for their range.
TAPFS opened the show with two expected classics from Wish You Were Here, “Shine On Your Crazy Diamond (Part I) and “Welcome To the Machine.” Surprisingly, in between those two tracks came the latter era gems “Learning To Fly” and “High Hopes.” While many fans dismiss Pink Floyd after Waters left, TAPFS showcased that the band was still very good when they became a trio.
Continuing to mix up the chronology, the band ventured into “The Fletcher Memorial Home” from The Final Cut (which is really a continuation of The Wall), “Pigs” from Animals, and then “One of These Days” and “Echoes” from Meddle. While the audience loved what they’d heard so far, Pink Floyd’s arguably two most popular albums, Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, hadn’t been acknowledged…yet.
When the chime of clocks introduced “Time,” and then the minor piano chords segued into “The Great Gig in the Sky,” the crowd went into frenzy. Before launching into the obligatory “Money” (which featured incredible dual guitar solos), TAPFS paid tribute to Syd Barrett on the screen as they replicated “Wish You Were Here.”
The audience was just as excited when they heard the helicopter whirl and angry teacher introduction to “The Happiest Days of Our Lives,” which of course melted into “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II).” And what would a Pink Floyd tribute be without perhaps their biggest song, “Comfortably Numb” (which bassist Colin Wilson dressed as a doctor for).
As an encore, the band played “Run Like Hell” and Wilson added more theatrics by putting on the famous black fascist outfit from the film version of The Wall. By the end of the night, lighters were moving in the air and people were standing up, singing and chanting as if they really were at a political rally. It was endearing to see people who’ve grown up with the music be so moved by seeing it live again, somewhat reliving their youth.
Again, the show isn’t so respected because of what they play; it’s how well they pull it off that truly impresses. Each note and nuance was dead on, from the background girls singing to the crazy keyboard timbres to, for the most part, the vocals. Colin Wilson in particular was eerily similar to Waters as he sang his parts with full force. It’s clear that the band spent a lot of time getting everything as close to ideal as possible, which is simply miraculous. For over two hours, fans of Pink Floyd joined together at the Tower Theatre and embraced some of the most important, distinctive and best rock music of the last few generations, and if you closed your eyes, you’d swear the real band was playing.