It was almost exactly one year ago that The Houston Press spoke with Chris Barnes, lead vocalist for The Australian Pink Floyd Show. He was on the road in the middle of a U.S. tour, and was eagerly awaiting the birth of his and his wife’s fifth child. Barnes would finally be introduced to “he or she” only when the gigs were done.
So, what was the gender reveal?
“Ha! That’s a good memory you’ve got!” Barnes laughs from San Diego during a current stop on the tour. “It’s definitely a boy. And he’ll be one soon!”
This year’s jaunt is dedicated to the 50th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s best-known record, The Dark Side of the Moon. TAPFS will be playing it in its entirety (plus other band material) when they touch down at the Woodlands Pavilion on August 27…exactly a year to the day they were last there.
Barnes remembers that his initial exposure to the music of Pink Floyd was via the Relics early material compilation, but he vividly remembers what happened when he heard Dark Side for the first time.
“I got it on CD, I must have been about 15 and listened to it on my own, just sitting on my bed. And…yeah…what a journey!” he laughs. “I kind of knew the direction they were going in and had heard ‘Money’ on the radio. But I didn’t expect it could be such an all-encompassing album.”
He says that the album’s lyrics are “still relevant” and that it’s the “perfect balance” between the narrative vision of Roger Waters and the music that he played with bandmates David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright.
It also boasts one of Classic Rock’s most famous covers (by the design firm Hipgnosis), was on the Billboard 200 album chart for 736 non-consecutive weeks, and to date has sold about 45 million copies. A recent book was just one media product that marked the Golden Anniversary, along with an official deluxe box set.
Barnes says that his relation to the album has morphed over the years. Initial favorite track “Time” has through the years changed to “Us and Them.” And he says that whole suite of songs that begins with that through “Any Colour You’d Like,” “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” is his favorite segment to perform in the current show.
“That’s a magical journey. And when we get to that, everyone’s going full force onstage, the girls are singing beautifully, and me, Ricky, and Dave are singing in harmony,” he says.
“And the audience are on their feet and signing along. Then you get to the heartbeats and the voice and we’ve been on this roller coaster for 45 minutes. I sort of fell in love with the album again.”
The Australian Pink Floyd Show began 1988, with Aussie co-founders Jason Sawford (keyboards) and Steve Mac (guitar/vocals) still in the lineup. It’s filled out by Barnes, Paul Bonney (drums), David Domminney Fowler (guitar/vocals), Ricky Howard (bass/vocals), Luc Ledy-Lepine (guitar), Mike Kidson and Alex Francois (saxophones) and vocalists Lorelei McBroom, Emily Lynn, and Lara Smiles.
The band has been given the stamp of approval by at least one important person on the Pink Floyd story: singer/guitarist David Gilmour. In fact, he hired the band to play his 50th birthday party in 1996, where members of TAPFS mixed onstage with the real deal.
And while TAPFS is by strict definition a tribute or cover band, they are actually more of an experience. In addition to the music, there’s a full-on light/laser show, special effects, projected film, and even an inflatable or two. This being the Australian Pink Floyd show, though, means there’s a bopping giant kangaroo instead of a pig.
“The phrase ‘tribute band’ kind of brings the image of some blokes in a bar wearing wigs and impersonating the Beatles or something,” he offers. “But we’re not trying to look like them. We’re sort of invisible playing this music, and the show is the experience. It’s a full trip.”
As for the actual Pink Floyd, the 2014 release of The Endless River effectively marked the final “new” disc released under the group name. Though Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason resurrected the moniker for the 2022 Ukraine benefit single “Hey, Hey, Rise Up!” (featuring Ukrainian native singer/soldier Andriy Khlyvnyuk). Mason still plays occasional gigs with his early-Floyd cover band A Saucerful of Secrets.
And singer/bassist Roger Waters continues to play live, currently on the massive “This is Not a Drill” tour. Waters also mixes it up with Gilmour in the press about Floyd-related news and often makes politically charged statements about current events. Waters even recently made a “re-recording” of the band’s most famous record with The Dark Side of the Moon Redux. It will be out on October 6.
As to his opinion on the project—with only “Money” having been released to date, Barnes says he’s all for it.
“I see why he’s doing it. I saw him recently in concert, and he opens with a version of ‘Comfortably Numb’ that’s really low and downbeat. Basically, if it’s someone from Pink Floyd releasing any music, I want to hear it and see where they are,” he says.
“And with Roger, whether you agree with things he says or not, he puts on one hell of a show when he goes out. And I get the impression that Nick Mason likes the new version too. So good on him! And I hope that some [archival] live stuff comes out as well.”
Outside of TAPFS, Barnes is also (along with Domminney and Fowler) a member of Britpop parody band “Space Potatoes.” During the pandemic with no live gigs, the “group” created many episodes of a Spinal Tap-style mockumentary called 2020 Rendezvous that is available to view on YouTube and www.2020rendezvous.com.
“At first, we’re thinking ‘Yeah! We’ve got all this time to sit in the garden and drink gin! And then it stretched on,” he says. “But we had a creative itch we needed to scratch. Just a bit of fun!”
Barnes mentions that he unironically loves Britpop (think Blur, Pulp, Suede, Elastica, Supergrass, the Verve, and Oasis) and grew up on it. He and Fowler even went to a recent Blur show at Wembley Stadium. Barnes is surprised at its current resurgence, noting that his 19-year-old daughter is now listening to the same bands he used to.
“The thing is when I was her age, I was listening to the ‘60s stuff like the Kinks and the Who and the Beatles. So, it would make sense you’d look backwards to a great period in music,” Barnes sums up. “And I think that Britpop was the last great music explosion pre-mobile phone.”
We ask Barnes what is the one thing that he knows now about being in The Australian Pink Floyd Show that he wishes he had known walking into that first rehearsal?
“Wow, that’s a good question,” Barnes says, before taking his time to answer. “Probably, I didn’t have an idea about how big a scale the Aussie Floyd operates on. So, walking into that audition, I would have said ‘Don’t put so much pressure on yourself and just enjoy it.’ It’s a wonderful organization to work with,’” he says.
“A lot of bands say they’re like a family on tour, but we really are. We’ve got two days off in San Diego and we’re all hanging out at the hotel and taking a swim and having a drink. We’re all real friends. It’s like being on holiday, traveling with a bunch of weirdos!”
Finally, we have to ask: If we end up talking to Barnes next year, will he and his wife be having a sixth child? (Note: The couple’s actual first date was at an Australian Pink Floyd Show concert, years before Barnes himself was in the band).
“Ha! No, we are not!” he laughs. “We only planned for four. The fifth was a surprise!”
The Australian Pink Floyd Show plays 7 p.m. on Sunday, August 27, at the Woodlands Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins. For information, call 281-364-3024 or visit WoodlandsCenter.org. Led Zeppelin 2 opens. $29.50-$79.50, plus service fees.
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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.