Crazy Diamonds Shine on at the Roundhouse in London
Pink Floyd fans are having quite a year. There are several superb reissues and new projects finally getting released. One of the most surprisingly successful projects is Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets. The group, headed by the band’s founding member and drummer has been a revelation and has received deserved unanimous laudatory praise.
The band is comprised of Mason; Lee Harris, formerly of the Blockheads, who instigated the idea; Gary Kemp from Spandau Ballet; Guy Pratt, who has performed with Pink Floyd, David Gilmour and The Orb, who recorded an album with David Gilmour; Dom Beken, who also worked with The Orb and Richard Wright and who is a producer and songwriter and worked on film soundtracks.
The film and audio releases, from Sony Legacy, come from performances at the Roundhouse in London on May 3rd and 4th, 2019.
To understand the nature of this project, one must have background on the derivation of the name of the album in Pink Floyd’s celebrated history. A Saucerful of Secrets, the group’s second album, released in 1968, is one of the most unique albums in the Pink Floyd catalog. It marks the end of Syd Barrett’s involvement with the group, introduces David Gilmour as a new member and boasts the only studio track Barrett, Gilmour, Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright all appear on: “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.”
The Roundhouse in London also holds a special place in Pink Floyd history. The former railway terminal, became an arts center in 1966. The first concert held there on October 15th that year commemorated the launch of the British underground newspaper The International Times. The International Times and Britain’s other seminal underground newspaper, OZ, were counterparts to America’s Berkley Barb, San Francisco Other, East Village Other, Los Angeles Free Press and Rolling Stone. The concert, billed as an “All-Night Rave,” featured Pink Floyd and the Soft Machine. Pink Floyd would not release any recordings until 1967 and Soft Machine would not until 1968. Although steeped in psychedelia, both bands, particularly Pink Floyd, were already creating music far beyond that at-the -time trendy genre and were laying the groundwork for progressive rock.
Regardless of the name of this project, it does not merely represent the Syd Barrett era of the group, instead, it features selections from all the group’s albums before the release of Dark Side of the Moon in 1973. While there are three songs included here that were on the live album of the two-LP set Ummagumma released in 1969, no tracks from the studio disc are performed here. There are six from A Saucerful of Secrets; four from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, released in 1967, the group’s debut album that was the only entire album that featured Barrett; two from Atom Heart Mother, released in 1970; and, surprisingly, three from Obscured by Clouds, released in 1972, which drew from the group’s soundtrack for the French film La Vallée, directed by Barbet Schroeder. There are also two songs from More, the other soundtrack the group did that was released in 1969 and also directed by Barbet Schroeder.
Prior to the Roundhouse, the group performed a few warm-up gigs. It debuted in May of 2018 at the small, 500-seat London club Dingwalls before playing three nights at the Half Moon in Putney, which seated half the capacity of Dingwalls. The group subsequently toured Europe in the autumn of 2018 and North America in the spring of 2019. At the Beacon Theatre, on April 19th in Manhattan, Roger Waters made a surprise appearance singing lead vocal on “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.”
It’s great to hear so much Pink Floyd music that has never appeared on previous Pink Floyd live albums here, such as “Lucifer Sam,” “Arnold Layne,” “Bike” and “Fearless.” Other than disc one from Ummagummaas well as the 2000 release Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980–81, which features only music from The Wall, Pink Floyd has only released two live albums: Delicate Sound of Thunder in 1988 and Pulse from 1995, both from the post-Roger Waters tours. All of these albums combined have resulted in very few live performances of material from the group’s pre-Dark Side of the Moon period.
These concerts retain the ambitious genre-defying music of Pink Floyd’s pre-Dark Side of the Moon period, but the group doesn’t merely recreate the songs like a tribute band. As trippy and experimental as much of this music is, the sound highlights how melodic many of these songs are. There is also a nice balance of acoustic and electronic music. Rather than the often-grandiose spectacle of latter-day Pink Floyd, the music here, has an intimacy and immediacy.
Gary Kemp ably handles lead vocals, but Harris and Pratt also sing, and when all three harmonize it reinvigorates some of these songs in a most uplifting way.
The concert film, available on DVD (the DVD comes with a 2-CD version of the concert) and Blu-ray, is beautifully done with Imaginative effects that enhance the psychedelic experience without being heavy-handed or distracting. There are also bonus features, including rehearsal footage and interviews. During the film, interviews with the band are briefly included, particularly in the beginning, to create some context. Some early Pink Floyd footage is also included, but not enough rely too much on the original group’s history as it relates to this project.
Also recommended is to check out the boxed gatefold package of the double album. This is still music that begs to be heard on vinyl and this is a must for Pink Floyd vinyl fans.
The group was scheduled to tour in the States again in the fall of 2020, but due to the pandemic, the tour will happen sometime in 2021, when once again Nick Mason and his friends will bring Pink Floyd’s Saucerful of Secrets and so much more in for a soft landing.
Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets Official Website