Brit Floyd is a Pink Floyd tribute band, but to call them such diminishes what they have really achieved. They formed in 2011, and have been performing the Pink Floyd catalogue ever since. The brainchild of now musical director Damian Darlington, it has evolved over the years to become a grand spectacle closely mirroring a Pink Floyd concert. Brit Floyd is more of a passion project honoring the music and performances of Pink Floyd than just a tribute.
Upon entering the Wind Creek Event Center in Bethlehem, PA, you encounter a cavernous black space more like an oversized gymnasium than a theatre. However, the stage is raised enough that everyone has a good view and the acoustics are surprisingly good.
I was immediately struck by what lay in front of me on the stage. An immense circular screen sits dead center and is surrounded on all sides with rows of guitars in racks, keyboards, drums, microphones everywhere and a sea of lights. Lighting rigs on gimbals, hanging from the ceiling, circling the screen, and a couple of projectors in case the thousands of lights are not enough.
People are slowly filtering in, running up to the front to get a selfie with the currently lifeless dark stage, chatting about nothing and everything, and just creating an anticipatory hum. Ages range from 20-100. There are people who have been listening to Pink Floyd since the Syd Barrett days and people who know them from The Division Bell (Columbia Records) and A Momentary Lapse of Reason (Columbia). There are people who discovered them after that from their parents’ record collection. Any minute now something is going to happen to bring all of those thousands of lights to life.
Everyone is settling in, seats are filling up, and then darkness. The crowd roars to life as the ethereal strains of ‘Cluster One’ filter through the room, a deeper cut from the Division Bell that allows everyone a glimpse of what is to come. The lights are dancing and setting a mood, the performers are silhouettes on the stage, and the sound is crystal clear. I make a note to go to the merch table to see if there is a program that lists the lighting director and people on the soundboard. Someone should read their names as a silent thank you. One song in, and I am impressed with their work.
Now that everyone has settled in and had their preview, they launched into ‘Learning To Fly’ to the clear delight of the crowd. As the song progresses and the lights do their dance, the screen is filled with images and it becomes evident that Brit Floyd is very faithfully reproducing the extraordinary experience of a Pink Floyd Concert. It’s a spectacle where the lights, pictures and music combine to create a whole larger than the sum of the parts. The performers on stage are there to add a soundtrack to a visual explosion and not as the main focus.
With everyone in the audience now focused on the stage, Darlington addresses us with the obligatory “It’s great to be here in Bethlehem” and remarks how grateful they are to be touring again after a year of lockdowns and craziness. He is clearly telling the truth and introduces the next song ‘High Hopes’ featuring a slide guitar that Darlington plays masterfully.
Wait, what’s going on? Have they forgotten Roger Waters’ contributions? My fears are quickly put to rest as the first notes of ‘Welcome To The Machine’ echo through the room. All the while, lights go in every direction, images appear across the massive circle dominating the stage and lasers paint waves and colored grids in the fog of the room.
Progressing through some more familiar songs we hit ‘Time’ and then the lights pause. A white light illuminates one of the backup singers who has been dancing and filling in notes as the first piano chords of ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’ plaintively emanate from the stage. This may be the only point during the evening where the performer takes priority over the spectacle. Eva Avila faithfully recreates every note, wail, shriek and moan of the Clare Torry original. By the end, the audience is on their feet for the amazing performance and the raw emotion that she put into it.
‘Summer ’68’, ‘Another Brick In The Wall I and II’, and ‘One Of These Days’ close out the first set and we are given 20 minutes to use the restroom, get another beer and maybe check in on Facebook to brag about where we are. Discussions are taking place about the theater, the set choices so far, and some are noticing how painstakingly faithful the performance is to the original versions.
The second set begins much like the first. The lights dim, the grateful crowd cheers, and a single pinging note rings out. Instantly recognized by almost everyone there as the beginnings of ‘Echoes’; a 25 minute epic that took up the entire second side of the 1971 album Meddle (Harvest/EMI) from back in the days when everything was on vinyl and had 2 sides.
The evening continues with a blur of hits and deep cuts and even a couple of pieces from The Final Cut (Harvest/EMI). Lights, sound, and images come together to create an experience like nothing else except a Floyd Concert. Before we know it, we are listening to ‘Comfortably Numb’ as the doctor attends to a nearly comatose Pink onstage. Every light comes together as the final notes of a blazing solo completes the set. The audience stands cheering for more and is not disappointed as an encore of ‘One Slip’ and ‘Run Like Hell’ complete the evening.
Truly a master performance made even more difficult by an audience that knows every note before you play it. Any minor mistake would be immediately noticed and remembered. Brit Floyd rises to the challenge of faithfully recreating what Pink Floyd has already done while keeping it fresh by choosing different versions of songs from various live performances.
Even before the death of Richard Wright it was pretty clear that the original members of the band wouldn’t be getting back together to perform. Brit Floyd fills that gap and I’ll definitely be in attendance the next time they come around. Maybe by then they will have added a flying pig.
Buy tickets here: https://www.britfloyd.com/tour-dates/253-2021-north-america
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WORDS: MATTHEW KOCHEK
PHOTOS: KIM HANSEN PHOTOGRAPHY