Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets @ DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC on April 22nd, 2019
Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets @ DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC on April 22nd, 2019

Live Review: Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets @ DAR Constitution Hall – April 22nd 2019

One of the greatest rock bands of all time, Pink Floyd hardly needs an introduction.  But while for most the name brings to mind the lush soundscapes of Dark Side of the Moon or the dystopian visions of Animals and The Wall, fans of the band know that they already had a long history prior to any of these groundbreaking albums.  From the band’s earliest psychedelic freakouts with founding member Syd Barrett up through the kaleidoscopic textures of Obscured By Clouds, the seven or so years before the band’s popular breakthrough were arguably some of their most creative.  Yet the band became so big afterward that much of this material is often treated as an addendum or a curiosity.  Drummer Nick Mason, the only member who was with the band through their entire run from beginning to end, is setting out to change that with his latest project, Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, a group that he has put together to celebrate this older material, playing much of it live for the first time since those early years.

Joining Mason on this venture are a crew of veteran musicians.  Bassist and singer Guy Pratt played with both Pink Floyd and David Gilmour as a solo artist since the mid 80s after Roger Waters left the band.  “Psychedelic” may not be the first word that comes to mind when thinking of Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp, but his skill and versatility were fully on display in his guitar and vocals.  Also on guitar, Lee Harris, best known for his time with Ian Dury and the Blockheads, played masterfully.  Rounding out the sound was electronic musician Dom Beken, known for his work with Transit Kings and The Orb, on keyboards.  Together, this disparate group of performers played a set that, though not note-for-note covers, remained faithful to the spirit of the songs, and looked like they were having the time of their lives doing it. Their joy was infectious.

The band opened their show at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, the final night of their US tour, with “Interstellar Overdrive,” the blazing instrumental track from Pink Floyd’s debut album  The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. From the early abstraction and wordplay of Syd Barrett found in songs like “Astronomy Domine,” “Lucifer Sam,” “Arnold Layne,” and “Bike,” to the complex instrumentals of “Obscured By Clouds,” “Atom Heart Mother,” and “One of These Days,” they covered a great deal of musical ground, with the common thread that all of it was first recorded by Pink Floyd between the years 1967 and 1972.

Projects like this, recapping the work of a band years later, frequently run a strong risk of becoming parodies or pale imitations.  Yet Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets delivered the goods, paying due tribute to the source while making the music sound as fresh and exciting as ever.  “We’ll probably be back at some stage, won’t we?” asked Kemp at one point midway through, turning to Mason for confirmation.  “Yes we will be.  I got the nod from the commander.”  It won’t be a show to miss.

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, the stage name of English singer/songwriter Sam Duckworth, opened the show for his first time ever performing in the DC area. Duckworth released his most recent album, Young Adult, last year.

Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets setlist

Interstellar Overdrive
Astronomy Domine
Lucifer Sam
Obscured By Clouds
When You’re In
Remember a Day
Arnold Layne
Vegetable Man
Atom Heart Mother

The Nile Song
Green Is the Colour
Let There Be More Light
Childhood’s End
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
See Emily Play
One of These Days

A Saucerful of Secrets
Point Me at the Sky

Photos © Matt Condon

Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly