Over half a century since he first played there, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason returned to London’s Roundhouse venue — scene of one of the band’s most legendary first shows — Monday night (Sept. 24), accompanied by his new supergroup Saucerful of Secrets.
Pink Floyd famously opened the venue on Oc. 15 1966, performing alongside The Soft Machine at an “All Night Rave” to launch the underground newspaper International Times.
The gig, which was Pink Floyd’s debut to a paying audience of more than 50 people, was attended by a who’s who of counter culture Sixties London (Blow Up director Michelangelo Antonioni, Marianne Faithfull and Paul McCartney among them) with acid-laced sugar cubes said to have been handed out to punters on the door.
A poster from the night, which was billed as a ‘pop-op-costume-masque-drag ball,’ is proudly on display in the refurbished railway depot declaring: “Bring your own poison. Bring flowers and gass [sic] filled balloons, SurPRIZE for the shortest & barest.”
Almost 52 years later, the sight of Mason once again performing Pink Floyd songs at The Roundhouse — then prone to power cuts; now slickly modern with excellent sound — was one for fans to savor.
“As you know now, we are not the Australian Rogers Waters. Nor are we the Danish David Gilmour’s,” joked the 74-year-old, stepping out from behind his drum kit after a thunderous opening salvo of “Interstellar Overdrive” and “Astronomy Domine” – both from the band’s 1967 debut The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn.
He went on to say that his new live project Saucerful of Secrets, named after Pink Floyd’s 1968 album, was born after he had “finally given up waiting for that phone call from Roger [Waters] or David [Gilmour],” adding that he was “thrilled to be back at The Roundhouse.”
“I don’t know if any of you were here with me in 1966?” asked Mason, recalling Pink Floyd’s first performance at the venue on the back of a hand cart. Responding to an excited scream from a female audience member, he deadpanned, “It wasn’t that good. [But] it really launched our career at the time, so it’s an important place. I’m very pleased that we are now the oldest boyband and we will continue.”
Returning behind his kit, Mason, smartly dressed in trousers and a white shirt, proceeded to lead his bandmates — long-time Floyd and Gilmour bassist Guy Pratt, Blockheads guitarist Lee Harris, keyboard player Dom Beken and Spandau Ballet guitarist Gary Kemp — through a thrillingly raw 90-minute set of his band’s early psychedelic rock, spanning Floyd’s early albums.
Notable highlights included a searing “Lucifer Sam” and the visceral white noise rush of “Set The Controls For The Heart of the Sun,” while early singles “See Emily Play” and “Arnold Layne” were reborn with a fresh intensity and power.
There were also revivals of languid instrumental tracks and dazzling, semi-improvised psychedelic guitar wig-outs that harked back to the loose structures and unconventional time signatures changes of the Syd Barrett era. Psychedelic-style back projections added to the sense of cosmic time travel with Pratt and Kemp ably sharing vocal duties throughout.
Paying tribute to band leader Mason, Kemp — who recalled seeing Pink Floyd perform live in London in 1974 — called the drummer “a nicer, funnier, less egotistical man than you could ever hope to meet. He truly is the heartbeat of Pink Floyd.”
“I hope you’ve enjoyed this as much as I have,” said a clearly delighted Mason prior to an electrifying two song encore, culminating in 1968’s “Point Me At The Sky.”