Prior to former Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason’s latest band project Saucerful of Secrets, you would be hard-pressed to hear Floyd’s pre-Dark Side of the Moon songs performed live today unless it was coming from a tribute group. Material recorded between 1967 and 1972 by the legendary British group’s discography had been hardly played in decades, including from former members Roger Waters and David Gilmour on their recent solo tours.
That’s what makes Saucerful of Secrets—which consists of Mason, guitarist/singer Gary Kemp, bassist/singer Guy Pratt, guitarist Lee Harris, and keyboardist Dom Beken—such an interesting proposition. Rather than delving into the more popular Floyd works from 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon onward, Saucerful of Secrets revisit the psychedelic and experimental side of Floyd of the late 1960s and early 1970s—particularly the era inhabited by the band’s late singer, guitarist and chief songwriter Syd Barrett before he left the band in 1968. In 2018, Mason once told Billboard about launching Saucerful of Secrets: “I think we found a niche for ourselves, which is to do something that is not being done by everyone else, by the tribute bands or by Roger or David. It’s a real return to some of the improvised sections and the atmosphere of the songs.”
First formed in 2018 and named after Floyd’s second album, Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets made a return visit to New York City at the Beacon Theatre Wednesday night as part of their latest North American tour (The tour had been scheduled for earlier this year before it was postponed due to Covid concerns). In contrast to the huge arenas that Pink Floyd had been accustomed to playing in on the latter tours, the much-smaller Beacon conveyed an intimacy that recreated the feeling of seeing the original Pink Floyd perform at London’s UFO Club in the mid-1960s (a slideshow of psychedelic imagery in the stage background also lent that sense of Floyd’s past).
For over two hours (counting an intermission), Saucerful of Secrets performed cuts from Floyd’s first several albums up to 1973 as well as non-album singles. They began the evening with an explosive rendition of “One of These Days” (off of 1971’s Meddle) and the energy never let up after that—drawing from the whimsy of the Barrett era (“Vegetable Man,” “Arnold Layne”) to the progressive rock Floyd became renowned for (“Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” “Atom Heart Mother,” “Obscured by Clouds”). The major highlight of the night was Saucerful’s masterful performance of the epic “Echoes” (the original version from Meddle clocks in at nearly 24 minutes) in which every band member just shined in performing a very complex and nuanced work.
At age 78, Mason (who is the only Pink Floyd member to appear on every band album) was still in fine form behind the drum kit and even displayed his trademark sense of humor during his banter with the audience between numbers. His bandmates triumphed as well, particularly the onstage chemistry between Kemp and Pratt accompanied by Harris’ versatility on the guitar and Beken’s dazzling keyboard work that recalled the playing of the late Richard Wright.
What made this particular satisfying performance—and Mason’s current venture overall—succeed was that it faithfully recreated the sound of early Floyd but also brought something new and fresh to the table so that it didn’t merely seem like a paint-by-the-numbers imitation. For die-hard fans of Pink Floyd who had longed to hear the early material before The Dark Side of the Moon changed everything, Saucerful of Secrets may be the closest they’ll ever get to hearing these rarely performed songs done by an actual member of Floyd.
Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets’ North American tour continues through November before resuming dates in the U.K. and Ireland in April 2023.
Set List (Beacon Theatre, New York City, October 12, 2021)
One of These Days
Obscured by Clouds
When You’re In
Candy and a Currant Bun
Atom Heart Mother
Remember a Day
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
The Nile Song
See Emily Play
A Saucerful of Secrets
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