Set Your Controls: Nick Mason Revives Pink Floyd Roots

Though Pink Floyd has been retired since their 1995 “Pulse” tour (with the exception of the 2014 release of The Endless River) all three surviving members of the band have treated New York City to different flavors of the live Pink Floyd experience. Roger Waters made a statement with his present-day adaptation of The Wall at Yankee Stadium in 2013. David Glimour mesmerized Manhattan with three nights between Radio City and The Garden. This past weekend, Nick Mason propelled the Syd Barret era back into the limelight, presenting works from the band’s earliest recordings.

In comparison to large venue shows, The Beacon Theatre provided a much more intimate experience and prompted many to share stories about their first experiences seeing the band in smaller venues before the show even began – a reminiscence which become even more real later in the show.

Nick Mason and Guy Pratt performing at the Beacon Theatre

The intro riffs of “Interstellar Overdrive,” from Pink Floyd’s first album, were quick to establish the theme of the show, something to which Mason remarked upon after a couple of songs. He dismissed considering his band some sort of Pink Floyd tribute-act or a nostalgia machine. His band wasn’t a random assemblage of musicians either. Joining him on bass was Guy Pratt, who toured with Mason, Gilmour and the late Richard Wright, on the post-Waters Pink Floyd tours; on guitar, Gary Kemp, a longtime friend of Mason’s. Kemp’s familiarity and Pratt’s Floyd touring experience were evident in many aspects of the night from performance style to the band’s chemistry and character, just to name a few. It all created the genuine Pink Floyd-esque show Mason intended. Also joining Mason was Lee Harris (former guitarist for The Blockheads) who effortlessly flowed along with Kemp to re-create Syd Barrett’s sound, and Dom Beken on keys, dialing in Richard Wright’s style.

The setlist included several favorites from the early Floyd catalogue, which haven’t been played live in many years by either Gilmour or Waters, and dug into some rarer songs off those albums. Some box-sets and re-releases brought some of these songs back into the light, but other songs in the set like “Green is the Colour” and “Vegetable Man” were a treat from the realm of obscurity for dedicated fans in the audience. Pratt got his wish to pick a song to play on this tour. For Gilmour’s mid/late 2000’s tour, Pratt was given the chance to choose a song for the setlist, to which he suggested “The Nile Song.” He joked that the idea clearly wouldn’t fly as it wasn’t popular, “[that] album was half the cost of all the other Pink Floyd albums and everyone had it.” However, the heavier/louder psychedelic sound was welcomed at the Beacon Theatre and didn’t disappoint the crowd.

Nick Mason performing at the Beacon Theatre

With New York a major crossroads and hub in the music world, the unexpected can happen. Mason was telling a story about not being able to play the shiny gong behind him in the early years for “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” because of a certain bandmate that always took that job from him. During which, Roger Waters emerged from the shadows of stage right to the gasps of the audience. Without a bass in hand, Waters performed the lyrics of the song, capturing an original recording and early performances of it.

The two former Pink Floyd members had been on stage together during Waters’ The Wall tour and previously during the band’s 2005 Live 8 reunion set. But, this is the first time in many years members of Pink Floyd have collaborated on stage for one of that band’s early songs. The surviving members have reunited to a limited degree in the years since the full 2005 reunion, (the three appeared briefly on stage in 2011 with a special appearance by Gilmour) and the experience NYC got with Waters and Mason will probably be the closest thing to a Pink Floyd reunion at this point, but these moments will certainly be welcomed.

Setlist: Interstellar Overdrive, Astronomy Domine, Lucifer Sam, Fearless, Obscured By Clouds, When You’re In, Remember a Day, Arnold Layne, Vegetable Man, If -> Atom Heart Mother -> If (reprise), 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, Bike, One of These Days

Encore: A Saucerful of Secrets, Point Me at the Sky