Photos by JOSH PELTA-HELLER
Sooner or later all British men turn into Michael Caine and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason is a very British man. But, judging by his masterful helmsmanship of Saucerful Of Secrets at The Met Philly Saturday night, the 75-year-old Mason’s chops remain undiminished by the passage of a half century-plus since Floyd’s inception. Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets is, for those not in the know, the titular drummer from Pink Floyd joined by some Floyd org alums, plus the guitarist from Spandau Ballet (don’t ask), performing songs from The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn — Floyd’s 1967 debut/psych masterpiece — and the six albums that directly followed Syd Barrett’s slow dissolve into madness. It is a long-neglected period of the band’s oeuvre that deserves patient reconsideration and expert curation, because there is plenty of psych-folk-pop gold in them thar hills.
Mason is still the double-kick Birmingham slammer of yore, able to shift between full-bore bash n’ crash rock n’ roll like “Astronomy Domine” and “The Nile Song” and the strangely nuanced time-keeping of Floyd’s more idiosyncratic fare such as the tribal tom work on “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” and the crisp martial trills of “Arnold Layne.” Plus, he can bang a gong like ringing a bell, and make it toll for thee. Likewise, his assembled sidemen are capable of recreating the oblique tone colors of those oddball recordings with note-perfect fidelity. “One Of These Days” was so dead-on it sounded like the Platonic ideal of “One Of The Days.” And Nick and Co. perform these songs with the unalloyed joy and reverence they both deserve and require.
Philly fought hard for its right to party in the Classic Rock wars of the ‘70s and like the Rolling Stones and The Who, Floyd has always had a special place in this city’s battle-scarred heart. The near-capacity crowd delighted as Mason regaled us with between-song tales of Philly Floyd shows past: like the time in ‘68 when the then-largely unknown-in-America Floyd were sandwiched on a bill between Procol Harum and The Who at JFK stadium and a downpour turned them into the de facto headliners. Afterward, Mason and Syd Barret (!) went out on the town and had “a late night” (which, translated into American, means “got shitfaced”) with Keith Moon, ending up at WMMR for a bonkers live-on-the-air interview. Or the time at JFK in ‘87, when the flying pig somehow got filled with water and wound up “pissing” on the crowd mid-flight. But nothing matched the pure, stoned immaculate bliss of the long-suffering Floyd faithful finally getting to witness deathless psych touchstones like “Lucifer Sam” and “Bike” and “Fearless” performed live a jillion dorm room bong sessions after their conception by the man known as “the heartbeat of Pink Floyd.” It was the best of all cosmic jokes and I’d like to think that somewhere over the rainbow and beyond the dark side of the moon the madcap laughed. I know I did. — JONATHAN VALANIA