The Australian Pink Floyd Show is widely accepted to be the best tribute band to any band and have kept the music of Pink Floyd in a live setting alive.
Floyd’s guitarist David Gilmour invited them to play at his 50th birthday party where both he and Floyd’s keyboard player Rick Wright joined them on stage.
Since their formation in Adelaide in 1988, the show has developed into a multi-media extravaganza with a magnificent light show, including lasers, backdrop films and inflatables (however, they have adapted everything to reflect Australia as instead of a pink inflatable pig, they have a kangaroo).
Pink Floyd’s drummer Nick Mason once said: “They are probably better than we were.” And a few years ago the Aussie musicians introduced 3D imagery, which is something that the original band never got around to.
Their note-perfect renditions of Pink Floyd classics means that The Times described them as ‘the gold standard’.
The band is still headed by founder-members Jason Sawford on keyboards and guitarist Steve Mac.
Just ahead of their annual UK tour, entitled ‘The Best Side Of The Moon’, Sawford tells me that the band is on top form.
“Yes, everything is going well, we’ve just got back from a US tour and I’m still a bit jet-lagged, but we’re all looking forward to touring around the UK again.”
It’s quite a big band, with a line-up that Pink Floyd themselves would be proud of. Along with Sawford and Mac, there is Dave Fowler as second guitarist, drummer Paul Bonney, bassist Ricky Howard, singer Chris Barnes, Mike Kidson on saxophone and a trio of backing singers in Emily Lynn, Lara Smiles and Lorelei McBroom.
And, keeping it in the family, Lorelei’s sister Durga actually was a backing vocalist with the original Pink Floyd.
Sawford, a life-long Floyd fan, is responsible for the intricate keyboard sounds that are only really possible to recreate live due to the improvement in keyboard technology, but there are some songs that can cause problems.
“Yes, but sometimes it’s how things are on the day. For instance, the song Sheep from the ‘Animals’ album is quite challenging. We are doing it on this tour. Usually I can play it OK, but if something goes wrong – if you lose concentration of something technical goes wrong, then it can be difficult.”
As the tour is entitled ‘The Best Side Of The Moon’, can we expect an emphasis on ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ – Pink Floyd’s masterpiece from 1973?
“We’re doing the album in its entirety. The promoters like us to do it and it’s a very popular album. Most people know it all and we have revamped a few things.”
And what else can we expect to hear?
“We’re also going to do a selection from ‘Wish You Were Here’ and quite a bit from ‘The Wall’.
“And,” he adds, “we hope to do a Syd Barratt number – Arnold Layne.”
Sawford has been playing Pink Floyd music with the band since it started 29 years ago. Does he find it tedious?
“No, not at all. The thing about Pink Floyd music is that it’s interesting to play and it always sounds fresh. And when you go on tour, you’re in a bubble and we all great great satisfaction as you can see the happiness on the faces of the people who come to see us.”
And Sawford does have a favourite song amongst the great body of work.
“It’s difficult as there a lot of great songs, but if I had to pick one I’d say ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, I just love the opening.”
Next year sees the 30th anniversary of The Australian Pink Floyd Show. Is anything special being planned?
“We have thought about the anniversary,” says Jason. “We are trying to assemble a set list with some new songs and new video material.”
He concludes: “When I started the band I didn’t think I’d still be doing it 30 years later and to have brought Pink Floyd music to a new generation of fans, it’s a source of pride to me as the music means so much to them.”
The Australian Pink Floyd Show will appearing at the First Direct Arena, Leeds on Thursday October 12. www.aussiefloyd.com