Whether they care to admit it or not, there is a certain amount of snobbery involved among some musicians when it comes to the touchy subject of cover bands. There is a general sentiment that musicians choosing to play in cover bands are those who failed at their dreams of being a full-time musician.
Of course, it is not as cut and dry as that. Typically, cover bands are guys and girls who just want to play music. Once bitten by the bug, musicians just want to play music.
And then you’ve got the Australian Pink Floyd, a cover band, yes, but one who sees success not normally afforded to tribute acts.
Since their formation in 1988, the Australian Pink Floyd, comprised of members Steve Mac, Colin Wilson, Jason Sawford, Paul Bonney, David Domminney Fowler, Alex McNamara, Mike Kidson, Emily Lynn, and Lara Smiles has sold over three million tickets worldwide.
The group has been hailed by fans as well as original members of Pink Floyd alike, having performed at David Gilmour’s 50th birthday party. The group’s latest North American tour, the twomonth long Exposed In The Light tour, even boasts Lorelei McBroom in their ranks. McBroom toured with Pink Floyd on their Momentary Lapse of Reason and Delicate Sound of Thunder tours and is a testament to the clout that the Australian Pink Floyd holds.
The group’s Exposed In The Light tour offers fans a whole new show in many respects including lasers, lights and video effects.
Sawford, a keyboardist, has been a part of the Australian Pink Floyd since the very beginning. Between four keyboards, sound units, samplers and a digital desk, Sawford’s job is not a simple one, but it’s one that he never dreamed that he would be able to make a living from.
‘It seemed as though we were simply at the right place at the right time,’ Sawford said. ‘We developed our repertoire early on, moved to the United Kingdom and more-or-less struggled to make the band work. It was not an overnight success type of situation by any stretch of the imagination.
‘We started out playing these songs in little bars and pubs as a group of guys who got together for nothing more than fun. The show has grown a tremendous amount over the last 24 years.
‘The show we present on these international tours is a very big show. We have a huge lighting rig with lasers, screens with projections and animation and inflatable puppets including the teacher and the pig. It is a show that requires a lot of planning to figure out all of the logistics. We have come a long way from driving ourselves around with no production.’
Considering that Pink Floyd itself has not toured since the mid-’90s, the Australian Pink Floyd has stepped in to fill the void that their heroes are not actively filling. Sawford said much like the music of Pink Floyd has transcended generations, so has the age demographics that attend the Australian Pink Floyd Show.
‘Initially, I seem to recall that we attracted middle-aged guys almost exclusively. But much like the legend of Pink Floyd grew, so did the diversity of people that were coming to see our live show. We have people coming to see our show that saw Pink Floyd themselves on tour who are bringing their grandchildren to see our show. It is a testament to the greatness and enduring quality of the music of Pink Floyd and the impact that it has had upon different generations.’
Sawford said that the Exposed In The Light tour will offer Pink Floyd fans songs from virtually all eras of the band. He said that while the group has occasionally concentrated upon specific Floyd albums, the group’s current tour will serve as more of a ‘greatest hits’ show with some rarities thrown in for good measure.
‘We always enjoy covering as much Pink Floyd and offering as much variety as we can with our shows. We include material from their psychedelic era, the Dark Side Of The Moon era as well as the post-Roger Waters era.
‘Pink Floyd has such a diverse catalogue. We play a great deal of what they wrote but given the depth of their catalogue, there is still some material that we either have yet to learn or haven’t played in a very long time,’ Sawford said. A show on the scale of the Australian Pink Floyd show runs on many people outside of the band. They have a production crew including lighting and sound technicians among many others that help keep the show moving from city to city.
Sawford jokingly laments that while he feels very fortunate to be in such a successful touring group, he misses the group’s early club days. Back then, they were afforded the freedom of being much more indulgent and spontaneous with their set list choices where such freedom is tough to implement with such a big show.
‘When you have a show this big and you are playing arenas, everything has to be planned out in terms of our set list so that the production aligns with what we are playing. If there is one thing I miss about playing clubs, it would be the freedom of changing things up every once in a while. Nonetheless, we are still living a dream.’
Article published in the October 27, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript