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PINK FLOYD REFORM AT SYD GIG!

Floyd The Barbican Hall, London. May 10, 2007. A night dedicated to celebrating the music and genius of late Pink Floyd leader Syd Barrett. Joining an all-star cast that included Chrissie Hynde, Damon Albarn, Martha Wainwright, John Paul Jones, Robyn Hitchcock, Vashti Bunyan and many more, the Floyd emerged from the shadows to pay their own respects. MOJO’s Mark Blake files this eye-witness, backstage report on a night filled with the Madcap’s spirit…

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Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones swaps horror stories with Robyn Hitchcock. Eating dinner in the backstage area of London’s Barbican Hall, Jones recalls Zeppelin drummer John Bonham’s hi-jinks on a plane, while Hitchcock recounts R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck air-rage incident. Elsewhere, Chrissie Hynde tucks into a bowl of vegetables and scans the room looking for a spare seat. Everybody is instructed to tidy up their empty plates before disappearing to perform on stage. What would Syd Barrett, a man who once said he joined a pop group to get away from rules, have made of such domesticity, or tonight’s concert in his honour?

Later Barrett’s nephew, Ian, is reluctantly dragged on stage by Damon Albarn, looking as bemused as his late uncle might have been by the homage. It’s that sort of night. A little ramshackle at times but full of fun; much like its subject, a man who once described himself as having an “irregular head”. The pressing question is whether any of Syd’s more regular-headed ex-bandmates will be making an appearance.

So, in the meantime, we get Kevin Ayers, Captain Sensible, Vashti Bunyan and The Bees  doing their favourite Syd songs. The show’s co-producer Nick Laird-Clowes, once of ‘80s pop wastrels Dream Academy, does a showstopping version of Floyd’s Chapter 24. Dinner guests John Paul Jones and Robyn Hitchcock exhume Syd’s solo song Gigolo Aunt, and the first goosebump of the night arrives when Kate McGarrigle, daughter Martha Wainwright and niece Lily Lanken combine voices on See Emily Play, all the while to a moving collage of dripping oil slides and cosmic colours courtesy of Pink Floyd’s original lighting wizard.

The Floyd finally show themselves. Sort of. Waters appears, loping on stage to offer a self-effacing speech (“Without Syd, I’d probably be a property developer or something.”) He then goes and spoils it all by performing one of his own grim solo compositions, Flickering Flame.

Thankfully, the second half of the show commences with priceless footage of the young Waters and Barrett being interviewed in 1967. “Why has it all got be so terribly loud?” demands their interviewer, an Austrian musicologist. Barrett replies in his best cut-glass English accent. It’s a nice reminder of the man before fame, drugs, demons and/or a genetic disposition got the better of him. The happy Syd is foremost in the mind of the Floyd’s first producer Joe Boyd when he steps up to share a few words of his own, and introduce the star turn. A standing ovation ensues when, at last David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason file on stage. Waters’ role is filled by Oasis bassist Andy Bell, who accompanies them on a rickety version of Arnold Layne. Someone shouts out for Waters. “He was here too… now the rest of us,” fires back Gilmour.

Waters is mysteriously absent, as is a too-cool-for-school Damon Albarn, when most of the guests file back on stage for a grand finale/singalong on Bike. Kevin Ayers and Chrissie Hynde appear to know the song inside out; Nick Mason clearly doesn’t. Smiling gently but looking as awkward as the Queen trying to perform Auld Lang Syne at the Millennium Eve celebrations, it’s a suitably silly ending to a charming night. Respectful but not too respectful, you rather hope Syd would have wanted it this way.

Posted by Ross_Bennett at 06:09PM | Categories: News