Pink Floyd …..NOT

I have lived a sheltered life.  Last week I saw my first ever tribute band.

Emilia Romagna’s very own Floyd Machine offered an Italianised version of Pink Floyd live at the Rocca Malatestiana, Cesena.

Tribute bands are a relatively harmless way of celebrating groups / singers who have died (either literally or metaphorically).

Even if relics of rock are still performing they will mostly play infrequently at soulless stadium venues and even if you do get to see them (as dots in the far distance) there is no guarantee they will play all the hits. Even worse, they may want to prove their artistic longevity by subjecting audiences to new material.

In contrast, a tribute band will play an intimate venue that offers a communal appreciation of the music. That’s the experience people pay to see.  What began as a modest ‘stars in their eyes’ exercise has become a mini industry; almost a genre in its own right. And it gets bums on seats.

This outdoor venue for the Floyd show  has in the past hosted artists like Patti Smith, Youssou N’Dour, Laurie Anderson and Jan Garbarek but the forthcoming Rocca in Concerto season has four more scheduled tribute shows. These are Zen Garden (U2) , Purple In Time (Deep Purple), The Rose (Janis Joplin) and Steppin’ Razor (Bob Marley).

I can’t help but feel such programming is a step backwards but, not for the first time, I am probably in the minority. None of those aforementioned ‘big name’ artists attracted a crowd equal to the one that turned up to witness Floyd Machine.

The band deserve credit for approaching the task professionally; they don’t do things by halves either – they take the trouble to research the instrumentation of the original recordings and at the end of July, at Piadena, they are recreating the complete stage show of The Wall.

They opened with One of These Days from Meddle but most of the set is taken from selections from Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall.

They did nothing from Syd Barrett era, although their website states that their repertoire does include one cover of Astronomy Domine.

Their musicianship is excellent and fulfilled the main (only?) objective of sounding as close as possible to the sacrosanct recorded versions. Of course, any deliberate deviation would have been viewed as disrespectful – the applause here is for the ability to replicate a sound.

They try their level best to erase traces of an Italian accent from the vocals with mixed results. The ‘h’ sound remained the biggest obstacle and was bypassed entirely by misread lyrics to Wish You Were Here (rendered as “how I wish you were real”).

The low point was a prog-rock  monstrosity lifted from Atom Heart Mother; the highlight was a spectacular rendition of The Great Gig In The Sky with Valentina Cacciaguerra reproducing Clare Torry’s voice as instrument performance to perfection.  This was the only moment when I felt the emotional engagement matched the technical prowess.

It was my first ever tribute show and quite probably my last.