Jason Sawford, co-founder and keyboardist for the Australian Pink Floyd Show.Photo by Ben Donoghue/Courtesy of RockPaperScissors PR
We live in a fertile time for classic rock box sets. Now, diehard fans can hear not only a well-loved album (remastered, rejiggered, etc.), but seemingly every demo, alternative take, outtake, studio chatter, and live recording from the era.
Hence, there are upcoming 4CD sets for Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and the Beatles Abbey Road on the horizon. That’s quite an expansion for records which originally clocked in at 39:43 and 47:03 minutes respectively.
Pink Floyd fans were greeted with the announcement last week of an upcoming massive 16-CD box set titled The Later Years, and consisting only of material David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright created after the departure of Roger Waters. For many Gen Xers, this era was actually their first exposure to the band, as songs like “Learning to Fly,” “On the Turning Away,” “Keep Talking” and “High Hopes” were in rotation on MTV, radio, and played on huge tours. This in turn led ears back in history through The Wall, Dark Side of the Moon, and earlier albums.
The light and visuals of the Australian Pink Floyd Show are a chunk of the experience of seeing the band.
Photo by Ben Donoghue/Courtesy of RockPaperScissors PR
Jason Sawford, co-founder/keyboardist of Pink Floyd tribute group the Australian Pink Floyd Show, is not only aware of this demographic of his own audience, but is glad that post-Waters albums like A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell are being reconsidered, and favorably.
“That material goes down extremely well when we play it, and it’s sort of that age group,” he says. “There was the Pink Floyd of the ‘60s and ‘70s, but a lot of people didn’t see them or know about them until that period in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. For them, that is their Pink Floyd. There’s a lot of good stuff on those albums, and I’m glad they’re being reevaluated.”
Founded in 1988, the Australian Pink Floyd Show is considered by many fans as the premiere Pink Floyd tribute band, with a full-on visual and audio production (complete with vocalists who channel Gilmour and Waters) that is more than reminiscent of the real deal. Though instead of an inflatable pig, they have an inflatable kangaroo as a nod to their country of origin.
The current lineup include Sawford and fellow co-founder Steve Mac (guitar/vocals), along with Paul Bonney (drums), David Domminney (guitar/vocals), Ricky Howard (bass/vocals), Mike Kidson (sax), and Chris Barnes, Lorelei McBroom, Emily Lynn, and Lara Smiles (vocals).
For the current “All That You Love” tour (the title taken from a line in the Dark Side of the Moon track “Eclipse”), Sawford says there’s some fresh things for the audience, many of whom have seen multiple shows over the years.
“There are some new visual aspects. We’ve got some new video material and start off the show with this sort of shadowy effect,” he offers. “And we cover a great selection of songs, and this time we’re exploring a bit deeper cuts to play things like ‘Obscured by Clouds’ and 'Careful with that Axe, Eugene.’ But we still play all the [best known] material.”
When tribute/cover bands first started appearing in the '80s, some fans scoffed that they were “fake” and poor representations of the groups they chose to emulate. Memories abound of pot-bellied, hi-pitched singers in bad wigs morphing into “Robert Plant.”
But now, with the inevitable advance of time, many classic rock bands have broken up, are no longer active, or have members pass away. And it’s the tribute bands (some of whom have invested much money and effort into the look of their stage shows) that keep the music alive, for a live audience. And more and more – like the APFS, are choosing to strictly recreate the music rather than attempt to “look” like the original band with costumes.
“[Tribute bands] are now becoming part of the legacy of rock music, particularly for a lot of the iconic bands like Pink Floyd. It’s like playing in a classical music orchestra,” Sawford says. “And it’s the only way for people to hear these songs in a live setting. If the music is played well enough, then it will be appreciated. It’s not so much about the personalities who are playing it."
Look out! It's the massive walking Pink Floyd kangaroo!
Photo by Ben Donoghue/Courtesy of RockPaperScissors PR
The Australian Pink Floyd Show are not the only Pink Floyd tribute band touring the nation with a large scale production. Brit Floyd – lead by singer/guitarist Damian Darlington, a 17-year veteran of APFS before breaking off on his own - just played Houston a few months ago.
“I do have my thoughts about it. And I don’t think that’s quite what really happened. We decided to change our management, and he decided to stay with the previous management,” he says. “[His take] sounds like a made-up kind of story. Our show is very good. I don’t really want to go into all that, because we had a falling out. And he can’t give the real reasons.”
Wherever the truth lies, the Australian Pink Floyd Show has been touring longer than the actual Pink Floyd. And for Jason Sawford, that in itself is still cause for wonder.
“When we started out, we didn’t expect to be going this long! It was a bunch of guys just playing [Pink Floyd music] in a band, but it just sort of took off!” he laughs. “But we’ve learned our way through, and overall it’s been a very, very positive thing.”
The Australian Pink Floyd Show plays 8 p.m. on Sat., Sept, 7, at the Revention Music Center, 520 Texas. Tickets $29.50 and up. Call 713-230-1600 or visit ReventionMusicCenter.com. For more on the band, visit www.AussieFloyd.com
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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.