"What a refreshingly honest blog about listening to music through hi-fi. So happy to see views based upon the enjoyment of music rather than so-called sound 'quality'." - Peter Comeau, Director of Acoustic Design at Mission / Wharfedale

Thursday 24 March 2011

Thinking Floyd vs The Aussies

Enjoyed UK Pink Floyd tribute band Think Floyd at the Dartford Orchard Theatre last night.

I've had the pleasure of seeing / hearing The Australian Pink Floyd show on a number occasions.  Sorry to start this review with the competition, but its very relevant as it gives me a baseline for comparison.  Unfortunately I've never seen the real thing, but I have been to see the Aussies with a friend who has seen the real thing.

So the baseline is this:  the Aussies are incredibly close to the real thing - note perfect, sound effect perfect, timing perfect and the whole light show with inflatables and lasers is absolutely stunning - being a 2/3rds scale replica of the last Earl's Court show captured on the Pulse DVDs. A stunning show and one that plays very large venues and has the audience singing along and on their feet for some tracks.  They're a 6 piece band with 3 female vocalists and they have all the kit you can think of to recreat the exact synth and guitar sounds faithfully.  Thoroughly recommended.

So how do Think Floyd compare, given they are a 5 piece including the female vocalist?  Well, you might think this is a cop-out but to be honest I think there isn't really a comparison to be made.  And I'm going to illustrate that by making comparisons before a conclusion!
The band
lead guitar - Richard Morse
bass - Lewis Hall
drums - Steve Farmer
keys - Robert Gerrard
female vocals / sax - Hayley Sanderson
 clearly enjoy what they're doing.  The synth sounds aren't exact copies, the vocals (from lead and bass guitar) are not facsimilies of the originals, the guitar solos are not exactly copies, some of the songs have different arrangements (e.g. the curtailed ending to Run Like Hell) and the light show is on a significantly smaller scale.  So that's the comparison - Think Floyd are not and exact copy of the real thing where as the Aussies certainly are.

So does that mean they weren't good?  Does it mean I didn't enjoy the gig?  No, it absolutely doesn't.  Its difficult to describe.  But here's an observation - I must've seen 10 or so people in an audience of several hundred who were under the age of 30.  The Aussie's have a much wider range of ages in their audience but Think, well at least on a Wednesday evening in Dartford, seem to attract a distinctly late middle age and over type of audience.  And I find that odd as it kind of contradicts the difference between the bands.  I'll come back to this in a few lines.

So how do the band sound?  Well, they're great, they clearly love the music and they work very well together.  It's an edgier, somewhat more raw and earthy sound compared to the real thing (as heard on CD or as interpreted by The Aussies) and generates a more rocky, rhythm driven version of the songs.  Its excellent, with my personal favourite being the drummer - with a much more limited kit his skills in recreating the feel of the percussion is breathtaking.

The first set ranged from some early Syd Barrett psychedelia through a few tracks from The Wall, Division Bell and Wish You Were here, filling an hour in total.  The second half kicked off with the entire Dark Side of the Moon album, very faithfully reproduced including many of the sound effects timed in very well.  As part of this, of course, the band played The Great Gig In The Sky - a real test for the band and for female vocalist Hayley Sanderson.  And this track summed up the whole show for me really - if you think of Clare Tory's original and the Aussie's reproduction of this track, then the vocals I would describe as being sensual or sensuous.  With Think, Hayley's vocals are superb and really push on the emotional front, but they're raunchy rather than sensuous.  And that sums up the difference for me - Think do the emotion in a more rock focussed edgy way, adding a bit more of themselves into the music whereas the Aussies generate the emotion through faithful reproduction of the originals.  So back to the audience - and here's what I found somewhat confusing.  Why is it that Think are rocky and edgy but the audience all remainded seated and intently listening like they were comparing a 1979 Sondek with and Ittok arm versus the same Sondek with an SME arm, whereas the Aussie's audience are on their feet and dancing / clapping / singing along?  Weird.

The second set finished off with some more from The Wall (Run Like Hell) and Wish You Were Here.  There were 2 encores, finishing up with Comfortably Numb when suddenly, the audience remembered some of the lyrics and maybe 1 in 4 were singing along.  As we left the theatre there was that buzz you get from an audience that had enjoyed the gig - lots of smiles and chat about favourites, checking on the next tour dates etc.  And you get to meet the band - they man the merchandise stall after the show.

The show isn't massive, but the lights / smoke / mirror ball etc. are enough to create the right atmosphere.

Recommended?  Billing themselves as the definitive Pink Floyd experience probably isn't entirely accurate - I would say the Aussies could claim that one. For any Floyd fan, Think are absolutely recommended - and half price compared to The Aussies!

p.s. seen in the audience, a black t-shirt with a picture of Darth Vader's helmet on the front with a beam of white light hitting it from the left and splitting out into a rainbow from the right with the script "The Dark Side".  Made me smile.

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