In Concert: Nick Mason Pours Chicago a Saucerful

Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, The Chicago Theatre, April 4, 2019.

“After twenty years, I got tired of waiting for the phone to ring.”

Always quick with a quip, drummer Nick Mason tossed off that one during the first lull in his new band’s voyage through Pink Floyd’s early catalog.  Dryly diplomatic and subtly duplicitous (it’s actually been 25 years since Mason last played in North America, 14 since the Live 8 Floyd reunion), it was nonetheless revealing.

In recent years, Roger Waters has trotted his favorite era of Floyd (first The Wall, then a Dark Side of the Moon through Animals-based set) around the globe; David Gilmour toured his solo album Rattle That Lock, then decided to auction off his guitar collection for charity, keeping the door firmly shut on nostalgia following Rick Wright’s passing.  Mason, on the other hand, has dug deep into the history of the band he co-founded — prepping the massive box set The Early Years with Gilmour, then working on the touring memorabilia exhibition Their Mortal Remains.   So when Blockheads guitarist Lee Harris and post-Waters Floyd bassist Guy Pratt suggested a group focusing on the pre-stardom Floyd repertoire, Mason was itching to give it a whirl.

It’s a great idea.  Freed from the expectation of playing the hits, Saucerful of Secrets dives headlong into a rich stream of psychedelia, prog and pastoral balladry, setting back the clock to when Pink Floyd’s audience had no idea what was coming next.  And there’s something for everybody here: trippy blues barrages “Interstellar Overdrive”, “Astronomy Domine” and “One of These Days”; the whimsical Syd Barrett-led singles “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play”, along with Barrett’s later, profoundly disturbing “Bike” and “Vegetable Man”; hushed, acoustic post-Barrett meditations like “If” and “Green Is the Colour”; the bludgeoning rock of “The Nile Song” and “Childhood’s End”; and extended free-form explorations of “Atom Heart Mother”, “Let There Be More Light” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”.

Tackling this wide range of material, the quintet was tight enough to keep the audience engaged, but loose enough to veer into clamorous group improvisation as the mood (frequently) struck them.  Pratt and rhythm guitarist Gary Kemp (best known as the main songwriter for Spandau Ballet) divvied up the lead vocals and drove the tunes forward, with Pratt cracking occasional jokes about absent Floyds during breaks; Harris spun off one obliquely creative solo after another on a bevy of guitars; Dom Beken captured Rick Wright’s spectrum of tasty keyboard colors and open chord voicings to perfection.

But ultimately, it was Mason’s show.  Sometimes damned with faint praise like “the best drummer for Pink Floyd,” his fine playing reminded me of Ringo Starr  (another criminally underrated drummer) onstage.  Self-deprecating about his lack of technique in interviews, Mason turns any limitations into assets by laying down an immovably solid beat, leaving plenty of space for his fellow players, and embellishing the grooves in simple, ear-catching ways (his malletwork on tom toms being the most famous example).   His reward?  Finally getting to play the gong on “Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun” for this tour. (Mason’s spoken intro: “Roger Waters is one of my best friends, a brilliant musician, a brilliant songwriter — and not good at sharing.”)

So unlike later Pink Floyd tours, including The Division Bell outing I saw in 1994, Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets isn’t about the spectacle (though the light show was fabulous), or the star power.  Rather, it’s about the music — and about the accomplished crew of players that bring these neglected Floyd gems alive in the moment, headed by the drummer who’s somehow become the most stalwart conservator of his band’s legacy.  For the 3,000 appreciative fans that rewarded Mason and his compatriots with a tumultuous standing ovation, that was enough.

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
  • A Saucerful of Secrets
  • Point Me at the Sky

— Rick Krueger

On Tour in 2019: Nick Mason Plays Early Pink Floyd!

As announced on — appropriately enough — October 31, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason will bring his new band Saucerful of Secrets (or, in an example of Mason’s typically dry wit, “Not The Australian Roger Waters”)  to North America in the spring of 2019.  The tour will mark Mason’s first live shows in the Western Hemisphere since Floyd’s Division Bell extravanganza prowled the continent’s football stadiums back in 1994.

With the blessing of both Roger Waters and David Gilmour in his back pocket, Mason is focusing on pre-Dark Side of the Moon Floyd; setlists for SoS’ shows have included tracks from Piper at the Gates of Dawn, A Saucerful of Secrets, Atom Heart Mother, More, Meddle and Obscured by Clouds,  along with early Floyd singles and B-sides.  In Mason’s words, “With the help of some like-minded friends, I have embarked on a voyage of discovery of the music that was the launchpad of Pink Floyd and my working life.  It seems too early to retire, and I missed the interaction with other musicians.”

Debuting with four small London gigs this past May, Saucerful of Secrets completed a European theater tour in September.  The North American tour will be similar in scope, with Mason and his cohorts (Blockheads guitarist Lee Harris, Spandau Ballet guitarist/vocalist Gary Kemp, post-Roger Waters Floyd bassist Guy Pratt and Transit Kings keyboardist Dom Beken) bringing their show to 2500-3500 seat venues.

Presales for the first block of shows have already begun, with public sales starting on Monday, November 5.  Tour dates are listed below; more info is available at Ticketmaster.

March 12, 2019 – Vancouver, BC @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre
March 13 – Seattle, WA @ The Paramount
March 15 – San Francisco, CA @ The Masonic
March 16 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern
March 19 – Phoenix, AZ @ Comerica Theatre
March 21 – Denver, CO @ Paramount Theatre
March 24 – Dallas, TX @ The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory
March 25 – Houston, TX @ Jones Hall for the Performing Arts
March 27 – Miami Beach, FL @ Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater
March 29 – Atlanta, GA @ Tabernacle
March 31 – St. Louis, MO @ Stifel Theatre
April 1 – Milwaukee, WI @ The Riverside Theater
April 3 – Minneapolis, MN @ Orpheum Theatre
April 4 – Chicago, IL @ The Chicago Theatre
April 5 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Old National Centre
April 7 – Columbus, OH @ Palace Theatre
April 8 – Akron, OH @ Akron Civic Theatre
April 9 -Detroit, MI @ The Fillmore Detroit
April 11 – Buffalo, NY @ Shea’s Performing Arts Center
April 12 – Wallingford, CT @ Oakdale Theatre
April 13 – Boston, MA @ Orpheum Theatre
April 15 – Montreal, QC @ Place des Arts
April 16 – Toronto, ON @ Sony Centre for the Performing Arts
April 18 – New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre
April 22 – Washington, DC @ DAR Constitution Hall

(And yes, having experienced The Division Bell-era Floyd in concert at the late unlamented Pontiac Silverdome — the only rock show I’ve ever attended where, even at full volume, I was able to go without earplugs for the entire night — I grabbed a ticket for the Chicago stop today.)

If you want a generous sample of what Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets has to offer, check out their recent Copenhagen show:

— Rick Krueger

2018: Reasons to Be Cheerful …

… If you’re a prog fan, that is.  Some of what’s in the forecast for the rest of the year:

3.2, The Rules Have Changed Robert Berry’s one-man tribute to and posthumous collaboration with Keith Emerson; released August 10.  Details and a teaser track here.

Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin, Star Clocks.  I’ll be writing more about Stewart & Gaskin’s music soon; suffice to say it’s some of the best intellipop you’ve probably never heard.  (With Gavin Harrison on drums, no less.) The new album is out August 17; pre-order it and investigate their back catalog at Burning Shed.

The Pineapple Thief, Dissolution.  Bruce Soord and the TPT crew are joined by Gavin Harrison — him again! — as drummer and co-writer.  Released August 31. Details and a teaser track here; check out Sonic Perspectives’ interview with Soord (which hints at a possible 2019 US mini-tour) here.

Soft Machine, Hidden Details.  The pioneer psych/prog/jazz-rock collective is back for a 50th anniversary world tour — and they’re bringing a new album with them!  Three members from the 1970s versions of the band plus sax/flute progger Theo Travis (Robert Fripp, Steven Wilson, David Gilmour) tackle new compositions and a couple of vintage classics.  Released September 9; watch for a Soft Machine retrospective series from me during the run-up. Tour info herepre-order options for the album and a sample track here;

Yes featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin & Rick Wakeman, Live at the Apollo.  The “unofficial” version of the band (albeit one with two “classic era” members plus the musical mastermind of 90125) weighs in for the band’s 50th anniversary year.  Released September 9 in various audio and video formats; details and a teaser here. 

Coming soon from In Continuum: the debut album by Dave Kerzner’s new supergroup, with contributions from: vocalist Gabriel Agudo (Steve Rothery Band / Bad Dreams); guitarists Fernando Perdomo (Dave Kerzner Band), Matt Dorsey (Sound of Contact) Randy McStine (Sound of Contact, The Fringe) and John Wesley (Porcupine Tree); drummers Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, The Aristocrats), Nick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train, Spock’s Beard) and Derek Cintron; and special guests singer Jon Davison (Yes) and guitarist Steve Rothery.  Release date TBA; more info here. 

Coming soon from King Crimson: Based on the liner notes in Crimson’s 2018 Tourbox, we can anticipate: a reissue/revamp of the band’s 2001 album, The ReConstruKction of Light; a related, more exhaustive box focusing on the era of the ProjeKcts and the Double Duo Crimson, Heaven and Earth; and a fresh concert set from the current Crims, Live in Mexico. Release dates TBA.  Meanwhile there have been rumblings from Robert Fripp ruling out Europe for Crimson’s 50th anniversary tour in 2019.  Does that rule in the USA?  Stay tuned …

Coming soon from Marillion: deluxe edition of Clutching at Straws (release date TBA); mass market reissues of the Racket Records live sets Happiness is Cologne, Popular Music (U.S. release in September), Live in Glasgow and Brave Live (U.S. release in November).  Clutching rumors to be found in the Lucy’s Friday Questions group on Facebook; live reissue info is here and here.

Coming soon from Steven Wilson: Home Invasion Live at the Royal Albert Hall, with guest appearances by Richard Barbieri (Porcupine Tree), Mark Feltham (Talk Talk), Dave Kilminster and Ninet Tayeb.  (Oh, and a Bollywood dance company).  Release info for the video TBA;  details here.

Bonus round from the Pink Floyd camp: Nick Mason expects to tour the USA next year with his new band Saucerful of Secrets.  The group’s set of early Pink Floyd classics (from the albums Piper at the Gates of Dawn through Obscured By Clouds) went down a storm in London earlier this summer; they embark on a European tour in September.  More info on the band and Mason’s box set reissuing his solo albums here.

— Rick Krueger

When Pink Floyd was a Classic(al) Band

pf-live-at-pompeiiOver the past several months, I’ve been rather taken with Pink Floyd.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved the band. . . as far back as I can remember, their music was a part of my life.  Certainly, in my little town in central Kansas, I could hear someone or some station playing Floyd at any time.  As I’ve had the chance to mention before, our local planetarium played lots of Laser Floyd.  I heard them so much and so often that I started to take them for granted.

Several months ago, I picked The Wall up after years of not listening to it.  There was a time I thought it was a masterful work of art.  I still think it’s brilliant, but it’s way too depressing for me to pick up casually.  If I’m in a good mood, I certainly don’t want to be brought down by the album.  If I’m in a bad mood, I don’t need it to bring me down any further.

There’s no doubt, however, that its message of anti-fascism and anti-conformity influenced my own thinking on the world profoundly.

Continue reading “When Pink Floyd was a Classic(al) Band”