January 25, 2013
Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars
Above all other bands, Pink Floyd live concerts were a feast for the eyes and ears – a true spectacle combining finely-crafted progressive music and a grand scale high-tech theatrics. At their best, they blended these elements perfectly and their shows were in a league of their own both aurally and visually. With this in mind, any band that exclusively covers Pink Floyd faces a massively daunting task in trying to recreate what going into the “Floyd void” was like. It’s a Davis versus Goliath situation that requires one hell of a slingshot.
Out of the trifecta that currently dominates the Faux Floyd scene – The Machine, The Australian Pink Floyd show, and Brit Floyd – the New York City-based Machine has been tackling this task for the past 25 years making them the band that’s been in the game for the longest span of time. And for good reason: on a musical level, they’ve really mastered the Floyd back catalog with a degree of virtuosity and meticulousness that borders on the realm of the uncanny.
This phenomenon was clearly on display at the Ridgefield playhouse who were treated to a broad-ranging set list that not only included many of the well-known song staples from mega-selling LPs “Wish You Were Here”, “The Wall” and “Dark Side of the Moon” but also from almost every other Pink Floyd album – including ones from the David Gilmour-led “Momentary Lapse of Reason” and “Division Bell” albums. To the delight of the assembled masses, the band delved into the epic “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” from 1977’s oft-desired but seldom heard in live performance “Animals” album – songs from which the Floyd themselves last performed during the 1978 tour supporting that album. Even the title track from the last studio album to feature Roger Waters, “the final cut” as well as the first song of their encore set, “Careful With That Axe, Eugene”, were there to please the fanatics who hungered for the deepest of deep tracks.
As a band, The Machine rarely takes any liberties with the songs; they’re pretty much note-for-note renditions of the classics that the Floyd committed to vinyl for over 30 years. When they do break the mold, however, the results are mixed. In general, the excursions work best when they involve softer more hushed tones, such as shifting into acoustic mode mid-way through 1994’s “Coming Back to Life” or adding a spacey outro jam to “Money”. Things don’t fare as well when the band cranks their amps past 11, as was evidenced during “Echoes” in a spacey Grateful Dead-style jam that disintegrated into a cacophony of swirling keyboard looping. It was an ear sore – one compounded by its bisecting a track that is one of Pink Floyd’s most defining and sacred songs.
On a visual level, however, the show lacked the true spectacle of latter era Floyd mega-shows. Sure, the iconic circular movie screen was there for all to see but, like the rollercoaster that’s shut down undergoing repairs the day you’re at the amusement park hoping for the thrills that it can usually provide, it remained dormant throughout the vast majority of the show. And while the fog machines were clearly working overtime, there were no lasers to be found – only a bank of Vari-lites that frequently maneuvered themselves to point directly at the crowd. This had the effect of making the band difficult to see due to the need to squint and occasionally turn away completely.
Overall, The Machine’s show was a worthwhile one – but could indeed use a fair degree of fine-tuning to truly provide an approximation of what the total Pink Floyd experience was all about.