Concert Review: The Machine, Ridgefield Playhouse – Ridgefield, CT

The Machine
Ridgefield Playhouse
Ridgefield, CT
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.

Concert Review: Thomas Dolby “Time Capsule Tour” Ridgefield, CT

Thomas Dolby
“Time Capsule Tour”
The Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield, CT
March 31, 2012

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

“I keep hearing about artists who have made a big comeback album after 2 years. Try two decades.”

Yes, indeed: it’s been 20 years since Thomas Dolby released his last disc comprised of original material, 1992’s “Astronauts & Heretics”. And it’s been 30 years since the release of his signature hit song, “She Blinded Me With Science”, in 1982.

None of the elapsed decades seemed to make any difference whatsoever at the Ridgefield Playhouse stop of Thomas’ appropriately-named “Time Capsule” tour, though. Throughout the entire show, Dolby more than adequately proved that his abilities as both a musician and a songwriter have not diminished one iota over the course of time that he’s been largely absent from the music scene. And he’s still one hell of a storyteller, both in terms of lyrics and between-song recollections and anecdotes that are full of his distinct British wit and accessible sophistication.

Even though Dolby may be dismissed by most as an 80’s one-hit-wonder, his musical catalog has always showcased a myriad of musical styles and influences – all of which he handles with a degree of mastery that makes each foray its own wonderful little aural journey. The cross-section of songs played in Ridgefield readily displayed this as Dolby bounced from quiet piano ballads (“Love is a Loaded Pistol”) to ethereal jazz crooning (“The Flat Earth”) and even some toe-tappin’ knee-slapping country bluegrass (“The Toad Lickers”).

Unlike his one-man “Sole Inhabitant” tour in 2006 in which he surrounded himself on three sides with an array of techogadgetry and delivered songs entirely synthesized, Dolby brought along a backing band this time around. Comprised of drummer Matt Hector and guitarist Kevin Armstrong (with occasional appearances by opening act bluegrass musicians Aaron Jonah Lewis and Ben Belcher), his musical entourage added the right level of instrumentation to Dolby’s songs – never overpowering the maestro’s keyboards but never slipping too far into the background as to become irrelevant.

The 110-minute, 16-song set concert touched upon all of five of his studio releases, including his most-recent release, “A Map of the Floating City”. There was even time for one mega-obscurity: 1986’s collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto, “Field Work”, a song that had never appeared on a Dolby album until the 2009 reissue of his debut disc, “The Golden Age of Wireless”. And, of course, a little bit of “Science” was thrown in for good measure.

It’s refreshing to have Dolby back on the scene performing music that’s every bit as powerful as it was decades ago as well as new material that easily matches the caliber of his earlier work. In a day and age that seems to produce so few virtuoso musicians, Dolby’s “Time Capsule” is a pill that, when taken, reminds us how rich and rewarding pop music can be when prescribed by someone as gifted as he genuinely is. One can only hope that Thomas doesn’t go on another multi-year sabbatical. I’m going to need a refill sooner than that.

To read Dave’s interview with Thomas Dolby, please click here.
To read Dave’s review of Thomas Dolby’s “A Map of the Floating City”, please click here.

For more information about Thomas Dolby, visit