Dean Rossi, drummer for the Pink Floyd tribute band The Floyd, shares what the project means to him in his band bio: “Playing Pink Floyd is an incredible experience. It brings me back to the way it made me feel when I first heard the magic of their music. My goal is to do the same for our audiences. Playing and working with the incredibly talented musicians and technicians in The Floyd tribute is a dream come true.”
There is a certain element of risk that faces every tribute band. Taking on the re-creation of a legend means if you can’t pull it off, your efforts will result in ridicule rather than praise. Some bands are pretty easy. There are a bunch of those who make good livings covering the Grateful Dead. Just play the licks everybody knows and you’ve got plenty of extra space to improvise. Assemble four reasonable musicians that can also harmonize and even The Beatles are a pretty soft target. Pink Floyd, on the other hand, is an astronomically bigger bite of the elephant.
Saturday night at Cargo Concert Hall in downtown Reno, The Floyd pulled their brave homage off in spectacular fashion. Not only did they carefully plan and execute the technical nuances of a band that floats in the loftiest of rock music’s ether, but their joy and passion for the brilliance of Pink Floyd was evident from the beginning.
Local artists kicked off the evening with moving and heartfelt covers. Tyler Stafford offered a solo “Pigs On The Wing,” Joel Ackerson and Grace Hutchinson paired for “Mother,” and were joined by Kate Cotter and Eric Anderson for “Goodbye Blue Sky.” The performances created a comfortable friends and family atmosphere and a palpable sense of anticipation was in the room as The Floyd members took their places onstage.
The band’s newest member and Swiss Army knife, Jeff Laakso cheerfully led them vocally into opener “In the Flesh!” Adorned in a marching band conductor hat and shades, he playfully engaged frontline performers Curt Mitchell, Vince Gates and Lisa McCuiston one by one to shake off any of their opening night nerves. It would be his only lead vocal of the show, but Laakso’s presence was felt over and over from his position in the rear of the band as he moved freely between featured saxophone, guitar and keyboard parts.
Joining him in the second row and sequestered on three sides by various keyboards in the stage right back corner, Rob Lawrence provided much of the critical foundation that many Floyd songs ride upon. I wish we’d seen him featured just a bit more. Anchoring the band from his position in the opposite corner, the aforementioned Rossi played with the power and precision that articulate the tone of Pink Floyd’s compositions. It was clear that Rossi, who is also the driving force behind the production team that strives to recreate the Pink Floyd experience, studied the tonal specifics in each song based on the amplification of his kit and the sound quality he achieved. His work on “Us And Them” and “Any Colour You Like,” as examples, showed both careful countenance and booming crescendo in the dualized movement of the compositions. Rossi missed none of the thunderous drumming signatures in song after song that Floyd fans count on, and I saw more than a few aged air-drummers gleefully playing along with him in the crowd.
The three artists occupying the front row were as solid as they were diverse in their styles. Curt Mitchell was the extrovert of the group, contributing vocals on a handful of numbers while slinging his Stratocasters with moxy and rock guitarist attitude all night long. His precise work on classic and edgy slide guitar parts were tasty, as well. Vince Gates is the cerebral leader of the troupe and handled the bulk of the vocal duties. Gates astutely delivered his rendition of Roger Waters’ expressiveness, as well as the husky whisperings of David Gilmour. I appreciated his efforts to not overplay the vocal but to stay relatively neutral while laying comfortably in pitch. You won’t mistake him for Waters or Gilmour, but there are absolutely no awkward or jarring moments. It was easy to let my mind slip into simply enjoying The Floyd experience with Gates’ capable phrasing and timbre as your shepherd.
All three of the players up front showed their instrumental versatility with each swapping lead and rhythm guitar as well as bass duties, depending on the tune. But a few songs required a specific skill set in order to perform them at all, and without the tremendously talented glue of Lisa McCuiston, they simply couldn’t include some Pink Floyd essentials. Not only does she lend her harmonies, guitar, and bass throughout, but her rendition of the most famous vocal in the annals of Pink Floyd history on “The Great Gig In The Sky” was one of the most anticipated and gloriously delivered of the evening. Hair on the back of your neck stunning, and whatever thought you had, drink you were sipping, or words you were about to speak simply ceased for that 3 minutes. Her range and intensity captivated everyone in the building, and the crowd heartily showed its appreciation to the modest McCuiston.
The Floyd takes on what may be one of the most difficult tribute tasks imaginable, and does it very well. No detail within a reasonable budget has been spared. Lasers, both starkly projected and blended together with fog to create a visual cocoon, are employed, concurrent with sonic accents from the sides and rear of the venue. The sound effects Floyd fans all know, such as helicopters, children’s voices, animals, and men screaming of pudding are all present. Every attempt has been made by Rossi, and the able audio/visual crew to achieve the best experience possible.
If there was one thing that was certain, it’s that this is truly a labor of love. All six members clearly put loads of time in to hone the authenticity of their performance, and they also appeared to have a blast when the moment arrived. We should consider ourselves fortunate to have The Floyd call Reno home. If you’re a fan of the legendary band that was named after a pair of Carolina bluesmen (Pink Anderson and Floyd Council), don’t miss the chance to see this interpretation.
– Michael Smyth
- The Floyd
March 31, 2018
Cargo Concert Hall
- Set 1
In The Flesh!
Another Brick In The Wall 1
Happiest Days Of Our Lives
Another Brick In The Wall 2
Another Brick In The Wall 3
Goodbye Cruel World
Great Gig In The Sky
Have A Cigar
Wish You Were Here
- Set 2
Us And Them
Great Gig In The Sky
Run Like Hell
Shine On You Crazy Diamond