Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets performing their Set The Controls Tour at The Royal Concert Hall on Thursday 13th June 2024.

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

Few bands have the lasting influence of Pink Floyd, with all of their albums from Dark Side Of The Moon onward being amongst the biggest selling records of all time, which makes it easy to forget 1967’s The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, 1968’s A Saucerful Of Secrets, 1969’s More, 1970’s Atom Heart Mother, 1971’s Meddle and Obscured By Clouds released in 1972.

And on Thursday night at the Royal Concert Hall, the crowd were taken on a trip down memory lane as music from all of those long forgotten albums were given an airing, after a chance suggestion by the former Blockheads guitarist Lee Harris to former Floyd drummer, Nick Mason which saw him put together his Saucerful Of Secrets band.

The band took their positions on stage to a great reception, with Mason taking his position behind the drums, Harris on guitar and vocals, Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp also on guitar and vocals, The Orb’s Dom Beken behind the keyboards and Floyd’s Guy Pratt on bass; all experienced musical veterans, to deliver a treasure trove of familiar favourites and deep cuts from this wonderfully creative era.

The crowd immediately immersed themselves into the music as three of Syd Barrett’s songs opened the proceedings. Astronomy Domine from the band’s debut release was followed by sparkling renditions of the band’s first two singles See Emily Play and fans favourite Arnold Layne which saw Kemp leading the vocals with harmonies and support from Pratt, with some really nice retro organ from Beken whilst some quirky imagery of Mason from the old days was shown behind them.

The band also surprised the crowd by performing Remember Me, a song which dates from 1965 and was originally recorded when the band were known as The Tea Set. An added feature was Barrett’s voice skilfully digitally enhanced to allow him to make an appearance. Obscured By Clouds took on a whole new life with Kemp and Harris on dual slide guitar duty and tribute was paid to Richard Wright with his beautiful song Remember A Day.

They delivered a wonderful version of Atom Heart Mother beautifully condensed to eight minutes down from the original sprawling twenty-four minute soundscape, before the first set was closed with Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun which showcased the sheer talent of Mason with his relentless beating that generated a sound that would usually require a large number of drummers and allowed him to play the gong which Roger Waters had played during their previous live performances.

After a short interval the band again took the crowd back to Floyd’s debut album for the psychedelic folk of Barrett’s The Scarecrow which was a real treat. The sublime Fearless allowed Kemp to lead proceedings on his acoustic guitar with great harmonies from the rest of the band as the intro and outro saw recordings of Liverpool fans chanting You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Also in the set was Childhood’s End before they unleashed the classic descending riff that underpins Barretts’ Lucifer Sam, an ode to his Siamese cat, which produced one of the classiest guitar riffs of all time. The set closer spot was reserved for Echoes and the crowd had been waiting for this sprawling Pink Floyd moment and rewarded it with a huge cheer. The following twenty-four minutes produced a hypnotic experience as the music soared and the band produced magnificent sounds from their instruments. As the song came to its close, the entire crowd were on their feet to deliver a well earned standing ovation.

Returning swiftly for the encores, One Of These Days and A Saucerful Of Secrets, another twelve minute trip brought the crowd to their feet again.

It would have been easy to dismiss A Saucerful Of Secrets as another Pink Floyd tribute, albeit with Mason on drums but Thursday night was so much more. Kemp was an excellent lead and rhythm guitarist who often traded solos back and forth with Harris and also had a sublime vocal range. Pratt is a truly great bass player, who’s playing looked effortless despite playing intricate bass line and Beken had the skill and sensitivity to carry off Waters’ playing. Harris is the guitar engine of the band who alongside the fluidity of his playing can unleash a power chord when needed.

But at the heart of the band is Mason, a drummer who holds everything together. He is a truly great drummer whose musicianship is nuanced, with an incredible touch and an innate sense of timing, as he performs effortlessly behind his kit.

The whole band had paid a loving tribute to Pink Floyd’s early history doing it both with total respect and obvious joy in a celebration of music that really does remain genuinely timeless.[