The Australian Pink Floyd Show has upped the ante each time it tours — from quadraphonic sound, to spectacular light shows, to immersions in entire albums, such as Floyd’s classic “Dark Side of the Moon.”
Now the group, one of the world’s largest international touring tribute bands, is taking a cue from Hollywood. The band’s North American tour, which heads to Palace Theatre on Saturday night, is billed as The Australian Pink Floyd Show in 3-D — complete with the glasses that theaters give out at 3-D movie showings.
“Every year we try to think what else we can do — we’ve done whole albums in the past,” said keyboardist and founding member Jason Sawford from a tour stop in Kansas City.
“We thought we’d experiment this time around with the visual aspect. Lasers, lights — we have all those things, so we thought we’d try to go one step further. It’s a bit of an experiment, really. We got in contact with a guy who does special effects in Hollywood, John Attard — he worked on ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Shrek.’ We got Attard involved, and he produced material for us to use.”
The Australian Pink Floyd Show in 3-D
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Palace Theatre, 19 Clinton Ave., Albany
How Much: $55-$25
More Info: 465-3334, www.palacealbany.com
Stereographic images are projected onto screens during the band’s performance, combining ideas reminiscent of Floyd’s classic artwork along with original footage created specifically for the Australian Pink Floyd Show.
“It’s like going to a cinema, but on the road, in a way,” Sawford said. “There’s some animation, kind of stuff that’s a bit reminiscent of ‘The Wall’ or the ‘Dark Side’ stuff, and some ideas reminiscent of Pink Floyd that we produced ourselves. We also got something for part of ‘Careful With That Axe, Eugene’ that we thought of doing ourselves — we have these exploding televisions, with all the particles coming out in the audience.”
The band — which today includes Sawford; guitarists Steve Mac and David Fowler; bassist and vocalist Colin Wilson; drummer Paul Bonney; saxophonist Mike Kidson; and vocalists Alex McNamara, Emily Lynn, Lara Smiles and Lorelei McBroom — introduced the 3-D element earlier this year in Europe.
For this year’s touring, the band has put together something of a Pink Floyd greatest hits package that includes songs from all of the band’s many eras — from the late ’60s Syd Barrett-led group, to the classic lineup featuring Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason, to the later period without Waters.
“There are more unusual songs that we’re doing as well, so it gives us a lot of flexibility as to what we can play,” Sawford said.
“We can actually represent the early period, all the way up to the post-Waters stuff like ‘Division Bell.’ Of course, we do ‘Dark Side,’ ‘Wish You Were Here,’ ‘Animals,’ the classic albums like that, so it’s a very representative set and it should satisfy all kinds of Pink Floyd fans.”
There are some new songs in the Australian Pink Floyd repertoire as well, including the “Division Bell” track “Coming Back to Life” and the Barrett-era “Arnold Layne.” The group is also revisiting some songs that it hasn’t performed live in a while, such as the near 20-minute epic “Dogs” off 1977’s “Animals,” and another “Division Bell” song, “What Do You Want From Me.”
“We like to sort of mix the songs up a bit so that one will flow into another,” Sawford said. “There’s no particular order — we’ll do ‘Shine On [You Crazy Diamond]’ and then go into something newer, then something older.”
The Australian Pink Floyd Show has always tackled material from all eras of Pink Floyd’s career, ever since Sawford and Mac first answered an ad for the group in 1988. Given the many different styles of each Pink Floyd era, re-creating it all can prove challenging.
“Each period has its various challenges,” Sawford said. “Sometimes, the early stuff — it’s stuff I really enjoy, but trying to get that kind of sound, get those authentic vintage sounds in the mix going, can be quite challenging. But no particular period is harder than the other; they all have their various approaches, I guess. When we do a Syd Barrett song, for instance, it’s a very raw sound, which is different than something from [the latter periods], which is more refined I guess.”
As a five-piece, the band got its start as a local group touring throughout Australia, while the original Pink Floyd was in the twilight of its career. Sawford actually remembers the first song the band learned being “Dogs.”
“I wasn’t quite familiar with it at the time, and it’s this massive 20-minute song,” he said. “So we were quite ambitious, even then.”
In 1993, the group began touring in the U.K., and saw its profile hit new heights. By 1994, the band had met the real Pink Floyd, and was invited to perform at Gilmour’s 50th birthday party. At that show, the original Pink Floyd jammed with the Australian group for a few songs.
“That was quite nerve-wracking, but it was a lot of fun — we actually played a set list that [Gilmour] specified, and we learned ‘Lucifer Sam’ by Syd Barrett,” Sawford said. “We performed this set, and towards the end of the set, some of the members of Pink Floyd came towards us. Richard Wright played Hammond organ while I played keyboards. It was a fantastic memory.”
Even with Pink Floyd’s split in 1994, the Australians still find themselves discovering new things about the band’s music nearly every time they tour.
“It’s a never-ending process learning about it,” Sawford said. “Even just listening to the studio albums — ‘Oh, Rick Wright is doing this on keys; I haven’t heard that before.’ It’s amazing what you discover through repeated listenings. And of course there’s a mass of bootlegs and videos to explore which we can draw ideas from.”
After two decades, the band is still excited about preserving Pink Floyd’s live legacy, both for longtime fans and those who never got to see the real thing live.
“I think, in one way, it’s the satisfaction of knowing that we’re preserving a great form of music that means a lot to so many people around the world,” Sawford said. “From fans who have had the opportunity — who have seen them perform live in some sort of context, and remember seeing them the first time around, to people who don’t know much about them and are seeing and hearing this music for the first time — it feels that we’re preserving something important.”
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