The Pink Floyd Experience
I'm not sure why there should be something thrilling about seeing a giant inflatable radio-controlled pig emerge from the back stage of Overture Hall and then float out, almost beatifically, over the crowd, hovering in front of the elegant balconies, but there is. Or maybe "thrilling" is the wrong word. It's kind of cool. At the same time, you feel kind of silly for thinking, "Cool, here comes the giant pig."
Enjoying The Pink Floyd Experience -- essentially an elaborate tribute band -- could be seen as a guilty pleasure. Which is too bad, because the music is completely deserving of being called thrilling '- much more so than the pig, or the light show.
While watching the show at Overture Hall Friday night (Jan. 18), as Floyd's ominous, rumbling, reverbing, thwacketing bass lines filled the hall (and they really did fill it), it occurred to me that this is music that is meant to be performed. It's music that can't be contained in an iPod or properly conveyed via earbuds. It is music that wants to be heard, seen and felt, preferably through the balls of your feet and up through your spinal cord. And so the amplified sound of helicopter blades whanging and the world's loudest cash register ka-chinging are not merely overkill; they're as much a part of the texture of the performance as the cannons are part of the 1812 Overture.
If the most authentic kind of rock and roll experience is, say, catching a pre-Nevermind Nirvana at an O'Cayz Corral, then this is manufactured... but if rock is, like the rest of entertainment, a spectrum of choices, then The Pink Floyd Experience is more like going to see The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra perform Mozart: "The Pink Floyd Experience performed selections from Pink Floyd's The Wall, Wish You Were Here, The Dark Side of the Moon, and other works." The band's performance of Dark Side in its entirety underlines that.
Overture Hall as a venue underlines it too, makes it more "music being performed" rather than "a rock concert" '- an event where you can't see, the sound sucks, people stand the whole time, and security guards keep dragging the dancers out of the aisles and telling you not to stand on your chair. (Of course, there's also a kind of participatory frenzy at a great rock concert that really can be transforming.)
No danger of that here. Everybody sat nicely. Everyone could see. It was comfortable. It's a tradeoff. And it's a tradeoff that the crowd, largely in their 40s and 50s, seemed ready to make. Many had their teenage kids in tow, and while you would hate for them to think that is is what a rock concert is, they'll figure it out soon enough.
Bass player Gus Beaudoin and saxophonist Jesse Molloy were standouts, but the whole band was nearly flawless. A few years back, another group, "the Australian Pink Floyd," played the Overture Center and brought along three female backup singers who really kicked Dark Side of the Moon up a notch, but PFX made do with the sax.
The songs were the hits '- from "Have a Cigar" to "Sheep" to "Comfortably Numb" -- save for an early song, "Astronomy Domine," that the band played as a tribute to founding Floyd member Syd Barrett, who died last year.
And Overture Hall was packed. Long live Pink Floyd.