Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets in Manchester Review ★★★★★

Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets in Manchester was a night to remember for many reasons. The band were on top form, they sounded and looked great, the planned and unplanned jokes were great, and there was an amazing treat for Syd Barrett fans. Read on for pictures, videos and stories about the concert.

15 Nick Mason psychedelic colours
15 Nick Mason psychedelic colours

Setting the Scene

Nick’s rather accomplished Saucerful of Secrets band played at Manchester’s O2 Apollo, an art deco venue opened in 1938 with a capacity of up to 3,500. Given the age of the venue, you might have thought Pink Floyd would have played here, but Nick’s band are the only ones from the Floyd family to have performed at the venue. That said, Pink Floyd has played in the city many times, for example I attended Roger Waters last year where a Manchester Bee landed on poor Roger mid show, and David Gilmour back in 2006 at Bridgewater Hall. A city of much heritage.

Over to the band then and their reason for being. The idea for the band came about when guitarist Lee Harris, formerly of the Blockheads, approached bassist and Pink Floyd collaborator Guy Pratt about forming a band to perform Pink Floyd’s early psychedelic material. Vocalist and guitarist Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet and keyboardist Dom Beken, also joined the band.

22 Lee Harris slide guitar being Syd
Lee Harris slide guitar being Syd

There are not many bands out there doing covers of the early days of Pink Floyd so there was definitely a gap in the market for revisiting the amazing material they recorded. Not just strong songs, but a whole scene being recreated for younger fans who weren’t even born then, me included. The early days of Pink Floyd are covered in great detail in the Early Years Box Set.

Quality Sound

Opening with Astronomy Domine combines a rather thunderous set of drums, a big fat driving bass, soaring electric guitars and swirling keyboards, to combine together to make a grand old opening! I wonder if the early Floyd concerts felt as thunderous?

Performing in Manchester the band were now 7 gigs in to the tour, therefore they were sounding nice and tight and well rehearsed. However, this didn’t stop a couple of bum notes being played and Nick starting his comedy speech about the gong at the wrong time in the setlist. More on that later. Given the relatively low key nature of these gigs, this became a great moment of comedy.

One thing that did stand out was the excellent guitar work from both Lee Harris and Gary Kemp.

Gary Kemp’s improvisation on his electric thingamabob sounded trippy and otherworldly. I am rather a fan of being lost in reverb as was Syd Barrett when he started experimenting with his Binson Echorec – a piece of electronic kit that recorded the guitar then played it back with a slight delay making the sound swell. That piece of equipment was central to Pink Floyd’s early sound. Gary’s box of tricks he used on Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun (I think its a GURUS Echosex 3) sounded like the dog’s proverbials!

10 Gary Kemp improvising
Gary Kemp improvising on his GURUS Echosex 3

Lee Harris also had an amazing gig. He had the guitar in all locations around the body striking poses that a professional dancer would be proud of! All in the name of getting Syd’s experimental sound spot on, but with Lee’s own slant put on it. Lee is a really fantastic guitarist and brings raw talent to the role.

Playing these smaller venues allows for a much more improvisational approach like the early days of Pink Floyd when they would play to only a handful of people in the early hours of the morning. When you are playing to a click track with the stage synchronised to the millisecond, there is no room for deviation.

Joking as an Aside

Tricky Bass players joke got the audience laughing with a friendly dig at Mr Grumpy Waters. Roger is well known to be a perfectionist and quite controlling… which is to say the least. Nick made the joke that he had only ever played with two bass players and both were tricky! Have a listen below to Nick giving a bit of stick to the other half of the rhythm section!

There was a great gag about Roger Waters phoning for his gong back. Nick “borrowed” Roger’s gong and has never returned it! Roger used to use it on stage during earlier live shows to great effect. However, Nick had started the gag a song too early because he couldn’t see his set list properly – Guy had to tell him he had come in too early. Nick said that he needs glasses but refuses to use them because they would damage his pride. Enjoy the gag in the video below and a little of Set the Controls with beautiful gong work.

Syd Barrett… Singing! A Highlight!

Back on the 29th May I was playing around with a new AI tool called “Moises” that lets you take a recorded album track for example, then split the sound out to individual instruments and the vocal track as separate sounds. I applied it to Syd Barrett singing Flaming because the lead vocal and backing vocals sounded different and I wanted to have a nosey. This kind of tool is useful for Karaoke to remove the singer so the karaoke singer can singer over the backing track. However, it is also possible to remove the entire band and just leave the singer! This is what Dom Beken did to great effect with a rare Syd Barrett composition from the early days of his Pink Floyd!

Dom took a very early Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett song called Remember Me which had been submitted into a Melody Maker competition. Pink Floyd failed miserably according to Nick. Anyway, Dom took the vocal track of Syd singing, and worked with Syd’s nephew Ian Barrett who provided a collage of Syd Barrett photographs. The Saucers live band then played along with Syd singing and with the Syd pictures projected onto the back of the stage. Listening to Syd singing with the live band really was an incredible effect and pleased the audience very much. Perhaps the next step would be smashing down the ABBA hologram show in London and replacing it with a Pink Floyd one instead, with AI generated holograms and a live band performing. Anyway…

Take a moment out of your day to enjoy Syd Barrett singing his brilliant Remember Me song in Manchester. Fantastic twist to the set list.

Further Observations

For a relatively low key production, the lighting and gel slide projections on the rear of the stage were excellent. The projections are made from real oil slides I believe (like when Mike Leonard did them back in the early days of the band down the UFO club in London back around 1964). Hats off to the team doing all the lighting and projections. It looked amazing.

Even though we were in the centre of Manchester, famous for their Man United and Man City football teams and bitter rivalry with Liverpool FC, Nick and the gang were brave to play the Liverpool FC chant You’ll Never Walk Alone which is part of the Fearless song towards the end. I had watched Eric Clapton in Liverpool several weeks earlier where he played a beautiful rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone just on guitar. The Everton fans, the other team in Liverpool, took great offence and did a lot of booing. It would seem Nick’s audience were a bit more forgiving.

Talking of forgiving, playing the drums for two hours is not very forgiving on your back or limbs. I used to play drums in a band years ago and its a mix of positions which can put great strain across the whole body. Nick, as an 80 year old pensioner, made it look so easy and calm. It would appear he is not old and frail like many 80 year olds, but may have secret skills to get you in a martial arts headlock if you boo in the audience! Look out!

Connections to Liverpool

Another connection to Liverpool is Dom Beken attended Liverpool’s Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA) that Paul McCartney, being a Liverpudlian, is a supporter of. Just a random connection there. Dom brough old and new sounds together for the show which gave a freshness to the old classics.

21 Dom Beken on Keyboards
Dom Beken on Keyboards

Bottom line, it was a fantastic gig by some very talented people and I hope I will see them again in future. Feel free to browse through my pictures below, and the set list at the end of the article.

Photos of Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets in Manchester

Here are my best 24 photos from the concert. I took many others but the lighting and the poor quality of a camera phone means many were not usable. Plus, I was trying to be as discreet as I could so as not to disturb other concert goers. If you have any to share from any concert over the past 60 years, please get in touch at [email protected].

Set list

1st Set:

  • Astronomy Domine
  • Arnold Layne
  • See Emily Play
  • Remember Me
  • Obscured by Clouds
  • When You’re In
  • Remember a Day
  • If
  • Atom Heart Mother
  • The Nile Song
  • Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

2nd Set:

  • The Scarecrow
  • Fearless
  • Childhood’s End
  • Lucifer Sam
  • Echoes

Encore:

  • One of These Days
  • A Saucerful of Secrets

Links – Photo Gallery of Nick Mason’s Saucerful of SecretsSaucerful of Secrets Official WebsiteNick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets Tour 2024

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