WHEN THE warring factions of the real Floyd kissed and made up for Live8, rumours were abound about more live performances by Waters, Gilmour, Mason and Wright. However, this was not to be the case.
During the 24 years since the prog-rocking foursome last toured together, a mini-industry of Floyd tribute bands spouted up and Off The Wall from Yorkshire, UK, are one of the best. They don’t claim to be carbon copies of Floyd, but they get pretty close to recreating the atmosphere of the band’s gigs way back at the height of their success.
Famous for being one of the music world’s most innovative groups, Pink Floyd began playing together in the mid 60s. They fell firmly under the leadership of lead guitarist Syd Barrett, the gifted genius who wrote and sang most of their early material. He shared the stage with Roger Waters (bass), Rick Wright (keyboards) and Nick Mason (drums).
At first, they were much more conventional than the act into which they evolved, concentrating on the type of rock material that was so common to many mid 60s British bands. However, Pink Floyd began to experiment. Barrett started composing musical gems with wild instrumental passages, electronic screeches and eerie sounds, and, in 1966, they began to pick up an underground following.
The group landed a contract with EMI in early 1967 and made the UK Top 20 with a brilliant debut single Arnold Layne; the follow-up See Emily Play made the Top 10. Their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, also released in 1967, was dominated by Barrett’s songs and was like no other at the time – and like no other that Pink Floyd would ever make.
Piper was the only album to be recorded under Barrett’s leadership as, by 1969, he began showing alarming signs of mental instability. Dependant on Barrett for most of their vision and material, the rest of the group was nevertheless finding him impossible to work, live or record with.
At the beginning of 1968, guitarist Dave Gilmour was brought in as a fifth member, the idea being he would enable Floyd to continue as a live outfit with Barrett writing the material. However, that didn’t work and within a few months Barrett was out of the group.
Pink Floyd’s management, looking at the wreckage of a band that was without its lead guitarist, lead singer and primary songwriter, decided to abandon the group and manage Barrett as a solo act.
Such calamities would have proven insurmountable for 99 out of 100 bands, but Pink Floyd regrouped, maintained their popularity and eventually became even more successful, with Waters emerging as the dominant composer.
They concentrated on album-length works, building a huge following underground, but nothing prepared Pink Floyd, or their audience, for the massive mainstream success of their 1973 album, Dark Side of the Moon. The album made Pink Floyd superstars, became number one in the US and made them one of the biggest-selling acts of all time, spending an incomprehensible 741 weeks on the Billboard album chart.
The follow-up Wish You Were Here, in 1975, contained Shine on You Crazy Diamond, a tribute to the long departed Barrett, and The Wall, from 1979, was a huge success under Water’s leadership.
In the 1980s, the group began to unravel, each member had done solo projects and Waters had asserted complete control over the band’s musical and lyrical identity. By 1983, the band split up. However, in 1994, Floyd was back, and topped the charts with The Division Bell, their first studio album in years.
Off The Wall, comprising of Kevin Fitzpatrick on lead vocals and keyboard, Stella Fairhead, vocals and guitar, Fluff, lead guitar and backing vocals, Paul Barker, bass guitar, Dave Cottrell, drums, and Ben Appleby, saxophone and backing vocals, are all seasoned players with a wealth of experience between them.
Unlike a lot of tribute bands, they are not trying to be Pink Floyd, they don’t dress like them or have the same musical roles as the members of the original band, they are just long term fans, who enjoy playing the music. However, visually, they really push the boat out, much like the original band. From dry ice and fireworks to huge projections of Syd Barrett, all the stops are well and truly pulled out.
Anyone with a love for the music of Pink Floyd should see Off The Wall for a truly authentic concert experience. They are performing on March 3 at Pavilhão Atlântico, Parque das Nações, Lisbon, at 9pm. Tickets are available at www.plateia.iol.pt, on 290 036 300 or www.pavilhaoatlantico.pt