The Pink Floyd Experience in Jozi – 2011

By Jacqui Thompson

You must have been on the dark side of the moon if you haven’t heard or sung along to at least one song from the British supergroup Pink Floyd. PULSE, by New Zealand’s The Pink Floyd Experience, is the latest show to pay homage to the band whose career peaked twenty to thirty years ago and is on stage at The Mandela at the Joburg Theatre in Braamfontein.

It’s the second visit to South Africa by The Pink Floyd Experience which was created by and features New Zealanders Darren Whittaker, Glen Ahearn and Stan Gratkowski.  Huge fans of the Brit band which was formed in 1965, the trio produced their first Pink Floyd tribute show The Wall in 1997 which toured New Zealand, Australia and then South Africa in 2005.

I went to that concert.  Apart from the fabulous music I enjoyed seeing such a wide spread of people and ages in the audience. From kids who must have been born decades after the release of The Wall to excited retirees whose eyes shone with nostalgia as they talked about their memories of the sixties and seventies when Pink Floyd reigned supreme, and music was something you could really listen to, “not like the noise they play on the radio now.”

That concert was magnificent, complete with white wall, irresistible grammatically incorrect choruses and a strutting Nazi-like Gratkowski belting out Roger Waters’ lyrics. We all chanted how we didn’t need no education and exhorting everyone to tear down the wall! It was exciting stuff.  There was the same diverse mix of ages for PULSE.

PULSE pays homage to Pink Floyd’s Division Bell album both from an audio and visual point of view. The title refers to the bell rung in the British Houses of Parliament when a vote is to take place. The 10-piece band, Gratkowski on lead vocals and three back up singers do the original songs justice, particularly What Do You Want From Me. The staging, lighting and the graphics on the large screen behind the band are a faithful rendition to the original concerts. But for me, the first half would appeal to hardcore Pink Floyd fans addicted to their guitar heavy, psychedelic rock phase. I wanted more lyrics to sing along to.

The second half eclipsed the first (pun intended). It featured songs from The Dark Side of the Moon, one of my favourite albums of all time. Even being tone deaf I think I sound pretty good when harmonising to Us and Them. I couldn’t believe I remembered all the lyrics to Money which I hadn’t sung along to in years. Time had the audience attempting to emulate the song’s clock sounds. Not very successfully. By the time the last song was played – Run like Hell – we were on our feet, whistling and stomping for more. Two encores later and the male members of the audience air guitared out (it’s a guy thing) after trying to keep up with the super talented Darren Whittaker, we slowly filed out.

Everyone looked a little faraway, like time travellers wrenched from a younger, more easygoing time when mortgages and divorce didn’t exist and you lived for Saturday nights.

I spotted a few accountant-looking types still playing air guitar and making accompanying noises to the music in their heads as they headed for their cars. Ah, memories are made of this!

The show runs until 4 September at the Joburg Theatre in Braamfontein.