Review: Nick Mason's Saucerful Of Secrets @ Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre

Nick Mason's Saucerful Of Secrets played Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre on 19 September, 2023.

It is 2023, right? The opportunity has arisen for a once-in-a-lifetime moment to witness irl the material of one of psychedelic and prog rock's greatest exponents, Pink Floyd, with the performance featuring a direct lineage to that esteemed band via Nick Mason's Saucerful Of Secrets.

The setting Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, on a coolish (for Queenslanders) spring evening (19 September); the crowd a patchwork of enthralled baby boomers and Gen Xers with a small smattering of millennials (mostly tagging along with older, most likely family members).

As the crowd gathers, taking their seats in the rapidly filling arena, static radio, '50-'60s radio-style broadcasts and walkie-talkie conversations play over the PA, creating a broken-beat, trippy-psych soundscape.

With Mason taking his place atop the raised drum kit (and the only constant member of Pink Floyd throughout their history), he is joined by Spandau Ballet's Gary Kemp (who Mason declares: "[He] went from a new romantic to a prog rock god."), former Pink Floyd touring bassist Guy Pratt (he first joined Pink Floyd in 1987 for the A Momentary Lapse Of Reason tour, having been a member of ICEHOUSE in the early '80s), guitarist Lee Harris (former touring member and co-manager for Ian Dury and The Blockheads, a killer shredder, and the man who originally had the idea for what would become Nick Mason's Saucerful Of Secrets) and keyboardist Dom Beken (a programmer, arranger, producer who has worked with Richard Wright, Brian Molko, Johnny Marr and more; happy birthday too, mate).

Akin to stepping through a time portal and emerging into the psychedelic late '60s, early '70s, the skin tingles as the first tones of opener 'One Of These Days' ripple across the BCEC's expansive interior, the searing riffs, trippy analogue synths and acid-wash rhythm section forge together to create a post-psych folktronica, minimalist prog-rock landscape so familiar to any Floyd fan!

After a brief introduction from Mason, the band quickly followed up with 'Arnold Layne' before 'Fearless' entered the fray from 1971 album 'Meddle', the use of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' a spine-tingling moment even for non-Liverpool fans!

At any moment throughout the performance, one could close their eyes and feel themselves transported to another ethereal plane of existence, the notes and rhythms cascading down, across, through and from beneath the soul, intermingling with those feels one receives when completely and utterly lost in the music, absorbed by the energy and the boundless belief that endless possibilities exist.

There were quieter moments that traipse into the abstract world of co-founder, the late-great Syd Barrett melding post-folk melodies ('Remember A Day' – dedicated tonight to Floyd's original keyboardist, the late Richard Wright) with grander, embellished prog-rock symphonies ('Obscured By Clouds').

Then there are junctures that level up the mop-top feels that make you wanna bounce and bop about uncontrollably (previously mentioned 'Arnold Layne' and 'Vegetable Man' – an ode to Syd who had half-finished the song before his departure from the band in '68, and a track not played live for close to 40 years until Saucerful Of Secrets formed in 2018).

'Lucifer Sam' equally sounded like a modern twist of yesteryear, the kinda jam any post-R&B, surf-rock jam band would be proud to call their own. It completed a trio of consecutive songs ('Burning Bridges' and 'Childhood's End') that highlighted the burgeoning mainstream appeal of Floyd's earlier material and the enduring quality of the music that still sounds relevant half a century later.

Mason shared a few stories intermittently throughout the performance including BBC originally banning 'Arnold Layne' for its lyrics ("we think you're adult enough to hear it tonight,"); BBC would have banned 'Candy And A Currant Bun' as well if censors had known the song lyrics 'let's roll another one' was the original song title.

Pratt then shared a funny moment when detailing his favourite Floyd song. 'The Nile Song' was the first Pink Floyd song Guy learnt; he thought they were a heavy metal band.

It remained a favourite of his; when prepping for Dave Gilmour's 2006 tour for his solo album 'On An Island', Dave asked for song suggestions for the set list; Pratt mentioned 'The Nile Song'; Gilmour said he could play it. . . with another band; now he does, Pratt said with a hearty grin.

The performance of 23-minute prog odyssey 'Echoes' (also from 1971 album 'Meddle') was brilliant to soak up, the track meandering and morphing through multiple different soundscapes, demonstrating the creative reach of Pink Floyd, the song also a bridge to the group's more commercial hits post 'Meddle' that propelled them to iconic status.

The encore commenced with 'See Emily Play' (an apex moment from a set littered with many such skin-prickling occurrences – arrrr-rooo!) followed by the spacious, epic 'A Saucerful Of Secrets' – the near ten-minute freakout the perfect finale before the crowd (who'd already given two standing ovations) rose to their feet to salute their heroes who rewarded us with one, final sonic gift as they finished with 'Bike', a two-minute whimsical ditty that bounces with a joyful, punkish edge.

And with that, a performance stretching beyond two hours was complete, a rapturous audience showing their audible delight with the musicianship demonstrated throughout the evening and the rare occurrence to saviour such a rich catalogue of songs that have undoubtedly shaped and influenced multiple generations of musicians ever since.

Bliss Nick Mason and his Saucerful Of Secrets band members. Tonight was a trip down memory lane that also doubled as a time warp of sorts, the band onstage not a tribute act ("you can't be in a tribute band if you were in the original group," mused Mason), but a conduit to an era of music 50-plus years ago that still remains a contemporary soundscape.

If Nick Mason's Saucerful Of Secrets comes to your city, do not sleep on them. Just don't.

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