Let me be honest for a minute. I am not a die-hard Pink Floyd fan. I cannot recite the words to every song from every album the band ever made, but after being immersed in the music for near on three hours last night at Brisbane’s Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), that may well change. The Pink Floyd Experience echoes all that made the original band the epic rock and roll icons that they have become.
This six-piece band hailing from New Zealand is sheer brilliance, and quite possibly the best homage to the real Pink Floyd around! What started off as a bit of novelty for PFE frontman Stan Gratkowski has resulted in a trail of sell-out concerts across Australia over the last five years. The Back Catalogue Tour proved to be their most spectacular performance yet, and opened the band up to input from audiences with the opportunity to vote for the evening’s set list.
Die-hard Floyd fans would have been in Heaven. Opening with some of Pink Floyd’s lesser-known (to me) tracks, fellow vocallist Rob Ju (who is the band’s drummer, and also an accomplished guitarist) did well to set the mood, but it was the superb likeness of Gratkowski to David Gilmour that secures the Pink Floyd Experience’s position as an outfit to behold. Gilmour’s unique sound has been so perfectly emulated here that there would be some doubt one could tell the difference if the two played side-by-side, and Gratkowski certainly looks comfortable at the front of the band. Also demonstrating an ability to step into some rather lofty boots was Darren ‘Daz’ Whittaker who mesmerised with a perfect electric guitar performance the entire night.
Having the entire Dark Side of the Moon album played live was an experience I’ll never forget. Shine on you Crazy Diamond, Learning to Fly, Us and Them, and Wish You Were Here were belted out with such passion and precision it was difficult to not get lost in the moment. Especially with the support of a lighting and visual display that were as innovative and as over-the-top as the forebearers, and the inclusion of those very distinctive Pink Floyd sound effects; Glen Ahearn on keyboard is masterful in his role of creating such an accurate and emotive live result.
It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the sterling performances of the band’s three female vocalists, who shone in their individual performances during the demanding vocal sequence that makes up The Great Gig in the Sky.
I don’t think the concert would have been complete had Floyd-favourite, Comfortably Numb, not be played, and it was with some relief (fear that an angry mob might well storm the stage in protest) that PFE chose this musical masterpiece to close the show.
I cannot speak more highly of the Pink Floyd Experience. The musicianship, stage-performance and versatility of the band captures the essence of these great rock and roll icons, and look forward to when the train next rolls into town.
The Verdict: 5 out of 5