The Chicago Theatre was graced with the aura of Pink Floyd on Saturday night with two full sets and an extended encore from Brit Floyd. Damian Darlington (guitar, vocals) and Ian Cattell (bass, vocals) front the nine-piece group and guided the band through a setlist that spanned the entire fifty-year catalog of one of rock’s finest bands. Rarely do I use the word “epic” to describe a concert but that is exactly what this show was. Brit Floyd incorporated major Pink Floyd concepts and paid tribute to their legacy with care and respect.
The band began promptly at their scheduled start time of 7:30pm and launched into side one of The Dark Side of the Moon to open the show. The increasing volume of the heartbeat in “Speak to Me” put the crowd in an excited state as the official show opener, “Breathe,” was executed perfectly. Angela Cervantes (vocals) took on the challenging role of singing “The Great Gig in the Sky” and she nailed it. I have been seeing Brit Floyd for years and this was the best version of “Great Gig” that I have witnessed. It was absolutely spellbinding.
As always, the band played an excellent version of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 1-5)” complete with Carl Brunsdon’s flawless saxophone solo. Following “Shine On,” the band delved into one of the many surprises of the night. I am always interested in seeing which Syd Barrett tune makes an appearance at Floyd tribute shows. While most bands select “Astronomy Domine,” I was very pleased to see Brit Floyd choose “See Emily Play” for an early first-set nod to Barrett.
While the post-Waters-era songs are always a guarantee, Brit Floyd did a very solid one-two combo of “Keep Talking” from The Division Bell and “On the Turning Away” from A Momentary Lapse of Reason. Following some brief guitar difficulties, Darlington played a very nice talk box solo in “Keep Talking” and “On the Turning Away” featured some of the best harmonized vocals of the night.
The big first set highlight was the set-closer of “Sheep” from 1977’s Animals. Cattell was spot-on with the angst-driven Waters vocals and Darlington gave a chilling take on the Lord’s Prayer in the latter half of the song. One of the most captivating aspects of this performance was how the song was played as a five-piece band just as Pink Floyd did on their In the Flesh Tour (two guitars, bass, keys, drums). Performing it with this structure gave “Sheep” the perfect raw bite that it needs without over-complication from additional instruments or vocals.
“One of These Days” kicked off the second set and set the crowd into a frenzy with phenomenal lap steel work from Darlington and fantastic drumming from Arran Ahmun (drums). I figured that “Louder Than Words” would be the selection from The Endless River and it was a nice mellow follow-up to the intensity of “One of These Days.”
Following “Money,” which featured a very nice extended jam in the middle segment, Brit Floyd played a haunting version of “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” with Bobby Harrison (guitar) serving as the driving force with his slightly sitar-emulated guitar tone guiding a strong psychedelic jam – one of the major highlights of the night.
The two-song duo of “Have a Cigar” and “Wish You Were Here” from 1975’s Wish You Were Here had the crowd roaring in approval and singing along to every word. However, it was what followed this that left me absolutely stunned.
I am not sure how many people entered The Chicago Theatre on March 21st knowing the significance of the date in Pink Floyd history. It was the 32-year anniversary of the release of one of the band’s most underrated albums, The Final Cut. Thankfully, Brit Floyd is one of the few bands that refuses to forget about this album and always includes a song (or two) in their setlists. In the past, Brit Floyd has done “The Gunners Dream,” “Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert,” and “The Fletcher Memorial Home.” However, I have always longed to hear the title track live – something that I have never seen any band do.
After the fade out from “Wish You Were Here,” the band took to the ending of “Southampton Dock” from The Final Cut – the song that segues into the title track on the album. And with Thomas Ashbrook’s (keyboards, vocals) single piano notes, Cattell began singing “The Final Cut” and delivered one of his strongest vocals of the night. This moment gave me chills. It was a moment that my father and I have been looking forward to for years. “The Final Cut” has always been one of our favorite songs and we finally had the pleasure of witnessing it in a live setting. I was blown away by the absolutely superb rendition of this incredible song.
The band followed “The Final Cut” with their always-stunning performance of “Comfortably Numb,” with Harrison and Darlington replicating the Gilmour guitar solos to perfection and Cattell dressing as The Doctor.
But the band wasn’t done. Darlington, who is also Brit Floyd’s musical director, announced that they had another album side to play. With this, the group encored with the entire fourth side of The Wall to close the night. Again, the band delivered a strong theatrical performance alongside their stellar musicianship with Cattell dressing as a dictator for “In the Flesh,” bringing the crowd to their feet for “Run Like Hell,” and using the signature megaphone on “Waiting for the Worms.”
At first, I was nervous for how Brit Floyd would pull off “The Trial.” The music, and particularly the vocals, are so intricate and complex. But everyone pulled off their role brilliantly. Cattell played the desperate Pink to perfection, Ola Bienkowska (vocals) sang the role of the wife with complete conviction, and Jacquie Williams (vocals) as the mother was excellent. As the band took to their overdriven guitars for the end the song, the graphics on the screen (the video throughout the entire performance was incredible) showed the wall come crashing down and the band took to acoustic instruments for the stripped-down closer and perfectly-harmonized “Outside the Wall.”
This band just keeps getting better and better. The setlist construction consistently displays Brit Floyd’s true creativity and the musicianship and vocal performances resemble the real thing. I sincerely thank the members of Brit Floyd for an unforgettable night in Chicago. I can’t wait for the 2016 Tour.
Speak to Me >
On the Run >
Breathe Reprise >
The Great Gig in the Sky
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 1-5)
See Emily Play
The Happiest Days Of Our Lives >
Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2
On the Turning Away
One of These Days
Louder Than Words
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
Have a Cigar >
Wish You Were Here
Southampton Dock (ending) >
The Final Cut
The Show Must Go On
In the Flesh
Run Like Hell
Waiting for the Worms >
Outside the Wall