Mac Floyd – The Great Gig in the North

It’s not often I go to a concert these days.  Well, not one that doesn’t involve one or more of my children playing an instrument/singing the songs their music teacher has carefully rehearsed with them over the preceding months. It’s not that concerts don’t happen in Shetland – we’ve thriving folk, jazz and blues festivals up here – it’s just that with 5 kids it’s hard to find the time to do these things.

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The last year, though, has been pretty excellent.  I’ve seen Fish play a very intimate gig, Status Quo dropped in on their way between two venues to play the biggest hall in Shetland (but still probably smaller than their warm-up room), and on Saturday night my wife and I escaped the kids to see Mac Floyd, one of the few remaining Pink Floyd tribute bands still touring.

Back in the mists of time, a date so far in the past we’ve got students younger than it here at the college, a date when – my kids would have you believe – dinosaurs still roamed the earth, we saw Pink Floyd play Earl’s Court in London.  This was October 26th 1994 and the concert came after a long coach trip from Edinburgh for 2 poor students.  We stayed at the very convenient Earl’s Court Youth Hostel and saw the most amazing 3 hour set of our lives.  Music stretching across Pink Floyd’s entire catalogue, from “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”, through most of “Dark Side of the Moon”, chunks of “Momentary Lapse of Reason”, “Wish you were here” and “The Division Bell”.  It was, quite simply, magic.  The memory of the entire audience singing along to “Wish you were here” will go with me to my grave.

And that, I thought, was that.  Won’t see Pink Floyd play again.  A couple of years later, Think Floyd stopped touring.  I’ve never managed to be in London at the same time as the Australian Pink Floyd during one of their runs at the Royal Albert Hall.

Fast-forward to the 40th anniversary of “Dark Side of the Moon” and an advert in the Shetland Times for Mac Floyd taking that album, and other bits of Floyd’s work, on tour.  Tickets purchased immediately.  I deliberately held off buying the 2 albums they’ve got out (www.macfloyd.co.uk if you’re interested) in case I was disappointed.  I wasn’t.  I was blown away.

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The first half of the gig ranged from “The Division Bell” back to “Meddle” and beyond.  The only album they didn’t play a single track from was “Momentary Lapse of Reason”, which is a shame since “Sorrow”, “On the Turning Away” and “Learning to Fly” are some of my favourite Floyd tracks.  The second half held the whole of “Dark Side of the Moon”, the encore “Wish you were here” and they finished on “Comfortably Numb”.

This is the first time I’ve seen a tribute band.  Sure, the part of David Gilmor is played by two people – one who sounds like him and one who plays like him.  The two ladies on backing vocals belted out “The Great Gig in the Sky” better than Pink Floyd managed themselves back in 1994.  If you closed your eyes and let the music wash over you, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference.  And the memory of the whole of the audience singing along to “Wish you were here” (and every other track that night) will go with me to my grave.

It’s also the first time I’ve been to our new entertainment complex – the Mareel –  to see a concert.  As a venue, I think it’s excellent.  The acoustics in the hall did the band justice, the bar had bottles of Dogma and BrewDog’s Punk IPA on draft (quite simply amazing on an island where people tend to buy their beer based on the colour of the tin – either red, or yellow with a large red T on it).

Mac Floyd tour dates have been added to my list of “Things to check when I go away on holiday/training courses”.  Their albums now sit on my phone.  I hope it’s not a question of “if” they come back to Shetland, but “when”.

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

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