I used to have a strange hang-up about seeing classic-rock idols play live. My rationale was rock is a young person's game, and I didn't want an older, more corrupt version of the voices singing of rebellion and hedonism ruining the CDs and cassettes worn out from repeated use.
I got set straight a dozen years ago when I saw Paul McCartney, at 68 years old, play a blistering three-hour set. Since then, I've been playing catch-up, making a reverse bucket list of seeing my favorite artists before they leave this world. I caught Tom Petty and Steely Dan right before they headed for the great gig in the sky. I'm still kicking myself for missing Eddie Van Halen's last show in South Florida in 2015.
However, my biggest concert regret happened in 1994 during high school. Pink Floyd and Pearl Jam were in town the same week, both on a school night. My parents allowed me to go to one of the shows. Because of my ageist dogma, I chose Pearl Jam.
Don't get me wrong, Eddie Vedder's middle-of-the-road grunge anthems are alright, but how did I pick Pearl Jam over Pink Floyd's cosmic psychedelia greatness? My friends who made it to the Pink Floyd show at what was then Joe Robbie Stadium (present-day Hard Rock Stadium) were only too glad to brag about what I missed out on.
And just when I thought the regret was over, a couple of years ago, someone told me that Pink Floyd's '94 show was the best concert they ever attended. The person reminisced that after consuming psychedelics, they "ran up to the stage. They played 'Hey You,' and my buddy pointed to the sky and said, 'We're going to take off. This place is a rocket ship.'" Even without mind-altering substances, Pink Floyd's music is powerful enough to transport you to another world and make the fantastic seem real and the real fantastic.
That Pink Floyd concert at Joe Robbie Stadium only featured three of the four core members. Still, unless you had a ticket to the Live Aid 2005 concert in London, where the four members played a quartet of songs, that was the closest thing to an honest-to-God Pink Floyd concert you could experience in the last 40 years. And with original frontman Syd Barrett and keyboardist Richard Wright shedding their mortal coils, the "real" Pink Floyd can never truly be replicated — but that hasn't stopped many from trying.
Seemingly every act in the rock 'n' roll pantheon currently has a tribute band with a pun-tastic name imitating their hits for audiences desperate to hear a faithful rendition of songs from their youth. Bands like AC/DSHe or the Rolling Clones mostly play in smaller venues. However, Pink Floyd has two competing cover bands that sell out large digs. The Australian Pink Floyd Show will stop at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on September 3, complete with a laser light show and close to a dozen members. And earlier this year, Brit Floyd performed at the Fillmore Miami Beach. I saw Brit Floyd years earlier, and the band does a workmanlike job playing the hits. While the band remains faithful to the album recordings, Brit Floyd doesn't give you that giddy feeling when experiencing the actual
band perform live.
For that, you can have Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets, where drummer Nick Mason and an accompanying band have been performing early Floyd songs for eager audiences for the last few years. You also have the biggest draw, Roger Waters, whose This Is Not a Drill Tour stops at the FTX Arena on Tuesday, August 23.
Waters left Pink Floyd in the mid-1980s. He filed some acrimonious lawsuits about who could perform under the Pink Floyd name but continued to tour to massive crowds. Most of his performances focused on the 1979 epic double album The Wall
, later adapted into a movie and an opera. Largely composed by Waters, the album's 26 songs made the personal universal.
Universal not just in the sense that his lyrics had you relate with an impossibly successful rock star still dealing with the trauma of his father dying in World War II, but also universal in the cosmic sense. From the beginning, Pink Floyd could manipulate your ear like very few other bands. Songs like "Comfortably Numb" and "Is There Anybody Out There" sound so unlike anything else they almost seem to be composed by extraterrestrials. To get that full grandeur, it's worth investing in vinyl or even CD copies of Pink Floyd's music since the compression necessary for streaming lessens the impact noticeably.
This is why I'm especially eager to finally hear what a Pink Floyd member sounds like making music in a live setting. Will Waters be able to replicate the majestic sounds he once recorded? Early setlists from his tour feature plenty of Pink Floyd songs not only from The Wall
but also from Wish You Were Here
and Dark Side of the Moon.
I won't miss out this time. I want to see if one of the band's originators can still help me achieve take-off.
Roger Waters. 8 p.m. Tuesday, August 23, at FTX Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 786-777-1000; ftxarena.com. Tickets cost $51 to $221 via ticketmaster.com.