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Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets at O2 Apollo. Credit Simon A. Morrison
Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets at O2 Apollo. Credit Simon A. Morrison

Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets: Review

Home » Reviews » Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets: Review

The sonic raindrops of ‘Echoes’ ripple out across the banked seating of the Apollo and I have something of an acid flashback… only, there is no LSD involved and this echo bounces me back to a moment I wasn’t even in, the first time. This wonky feeling is somewhat further bent out of shape by the fact I am currently hooked up to a 24-hour blood pressure monitor and that, somewhat like a ticking time bomb, I can go off at any minute, an electronic beep emanating deep from a pocket to signal the cuff will be expanding like a boa around my upper arm, to take its regular reading. I’m not sure if the visuals from the backdrop are in time to the music from the stage, or that in some cosmic way my personal electronics are interfering with the signalling; my own controls set, somehow, for the heart of the sun. It’s a trippy, distorted, dented feeling… and that is entirely as it should be.

Full disclosure: I did not arrive at the Apollo with my critical gears in neutral. I am a Floyd-fan…  my controls were already set for the heart of the sun… they already had me at hello. Origin story: In the early 1980s, an errant uncle appeared from Australia, took me to a London record store and bought me an album – Dark Side of the Moon – and changed my life. A black vinyl slice of popular culture, a prism bouncing fractured light that I found both fascinating and bewildering as an early teenager. I’ve seen various variations of Floyd live since then, including at Live 8, when they ‘got the band back together’. And in 2022 I co-edited the Routledge Handbook of Pink Floyd, spending years immersed in their music. So this could never be an impartial review. But at least I’ve laid my cards out on the table.

Pink Floyd, as an entity, have been through many phases and this latter incarnation –Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets – is a strange contraption built, it seems, in his garden shed from bits of other bands and junkyard metal and old electronics and good intentions; all powered, at the flick of a switch, from some elemental electrical source. Here’s one example of this strangeness: After deaths and departures, the Floyd drummer could claim to be the only continuous element in that shape-shifting band. And yet look up the set-list for tonight’s gig and you’ll see it’s all credited as Floyd ‘covers’, as though he had nothing to do with it. Meanwhile, self-appointed frontman of Pink Floyd – Roger Waters – is long gone and, in fact, the bassist who replaced him in Floyd, and who also plays tonight – Guy Pratt – could claim to be part of Pink Floyd for longer than Waters. And how to then further explain the presence in this already peculiar band of the songwriter who drove Spandau Ballet – Gary Kemp – these days not so much a new romantic as an old romantic. How to explain?  Maybe the point is not to even try… perhaps it shouldn’t work… but it just does. So true. Funny how it seems.

The cosmic ontology of this particular band is to play the early stuff – the wonderful Syd Barrett-era Floyd I discovered much later than Dark Side, unearthing weird and wonderful sonic treasure, magic lyrical potions – but also through to early David Gilmour-period Floyd (up to Dark Side, I guess). Here, the more whimsical, fairytale, psychedelic edges of 60’s Floyd were smoothed off by Gilmour’s honey vocals and precision guitar bends… and a planet of somnambulant, supine stoners found their soundtrack.

Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets at O2 Apollo. Credit Simon A. Morrison
Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets at O2 Apollo. Credit Simon A. Morrison

So earlier on in the evening we tend to get the more trippy stuff. Barrett was a visionary – even before any further chemical acceleration and alteration – and tracks like ‘Remember A Day’ and ‘Lucifer Sam’ sound bright and important, coming up to 60 years after their birth. I love Barrett’s rich imagination; I love the crazy (before the crazy, maybe, became the problem). Although not played tonight, my kids grew up thinking the utterly bonkers ‘Bike’ was a twisted nursery rhyme, as I played it so much. But the first two singles – ‘Arnold Layne’ and ‘See Emily Play’ – are dusted down tonight, appearing very early in the set. This is niche Floyd but there is no sense of over-complicating – this is already a tribute band to someone who was there; no need to bend this post-modern conundrum further out of shape. For the Gilmour period, we get tracks including ‘Obscured by Clouds; ‘One of these Days’ and a complete rendition of ‘Echoes’, the extended piece that is the whole second side of 1971 album Meddle. Lee Harris (previously with the Blockheads) is credited by Nick Mason for putting the whole project together and he does indeed provide a very faithful impression of Gilmour’s guitar work. Kemp and Pratt share vocals, with Kemp a more accomplished guitarist than many might credit, based on the vainglorious pop pomp of his Spandau past.

Between songs, the band members swap stories and share amusing anecdotes. Mason is not beyond a couple of digs at his erstwhile band ‘leader’, Waters, and also ‘remembers the day’ – the first time Floyd played Manchester, as part of a Jimi Hendrix tour. Pratt says it’s his favourite city (with apologies, in this review, to residents of those closer to the home of this website). The Manchester crowd is a mass, grey-haired flashback creature in aging T-shirts largely held together by good vibes, and with the median age of a morgue. And that’s not to be pejorative… because I’m not helping that demographic. Psychedelic swirls of colour on the backdrop screen mimic the oil projections of early Floyd gigs at clubs like UFO. The band dig out an old beat track ‘Remember Me’, with Barrett’s vocals separated so that this band can play along with him once again as old childhood photos of Syd, donated by his nephew, are played on the screen. It’s a special moment … and whatever the Frankenstein nature of this band – you are just happy that someone flicked the switch and brought it into life, neck bolts and all.

And behind it is Mason, forging it all from his memories and his drums, double bass drums mic’d up so that beat is always robust and chunky, the ground underneath it all. One can only imagine what it is like for Mason to still be behind the drums, playing that first Floyd music now far into the 21st century; remembering the band mates who have fallen, now only hinted at, behind the grass in English fields, in footage played out during the track ‘Scarecrow’. From the earth to the stars, Pink Floyd have, then, been through these many phases –as many phases, in fact, as the moon. And as we leave the Apollo and head to a nearby hostelry to debrief, we turn back to see, high above the venue, that there is indeed a bright moon, almost full, in a crepuscular sky.

Our moon, as we know, has a dark side. But that is for another time, another review, and another band, entirely.

Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets was at O2 Apollo on 19 June 2024.

Simon A Morrison
Written by
Simon A. Morrison

Dr Simon A. Morrison is a writer and academic who has reported on the music scene everywhere from Beijing to Brazil; Moscow to Marrakech. He currently works as Programme Leader for the Music Journalism degree at the University of Chester. His books include Discombobulated - a collection of Gonzo ‘Dispatches From The Wrong Side’ published in the UK and US by Headpress.

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Simon A Morrison Written by Simon A. Morrison