So you thought you might like to go to the show
They say ambition beats genius 99 percent of the time. But what happens when both succeed? That’s what most would say about Pink Floyd. You had the genius of Roger Waters for the compositions and the genius of David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason on their instruments.
You also had the ambition of the band. It takes some nerve to create several conceptual albums (Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, among others) that have marked generations of music fans. There was also the ambition of the live show, with its theatrics, lights, video projections, the cast of musicians and everything else that went into presenting the ultimate performance.
It also takes a lot of ambition for budding musicians to want to recreate the sound and spectacle that is Pink Floyd. Fortunately for Arizona residents, Phoenix’s Shine On Floyd is that ambitious.
They sent us along as a surrogate band
Though the original Pink Floyd was just a four-piece, the band augmented their live show with several musicians, especially during the 1980s and 1990s, to have all of the intricate parts of their music represented. Shine On Floyd recreates the extended Pink Floyd line-up to do just that.
For starters, you have bassist Scott Fresener. Scott is considered the “mature member” of the group (in physical age. Whether he acts his age or not is another story for another time). He is also a veteran musician, starting his career in the 1960s and having performed locally and nationally. He is also the man who started Shine On Floyd and takes on the incredible task of the video production and editing for the show to give it that authentic look and feel associated with Pink Floyd.
For any great Pink Floyd tribute, you need the sound of David Gilmour, both vocally and on the guitar. For that, we have Bryan Laurienti. Bryan originally joined the group as a secondary guitar player (much like the role of Tim Renwick on the Floyd tours of the 1980s and 1990s), but was quickly promoted to lead guitarist and vocalist once Scott discovered that he could deliver note-perfect performances of Gilmour’s parts and vocals. The find of the century!
Rounding out guitar duties is Mike Jackson. A veteran of several cover bands, Mike is as meticulous as Bryan, making sure that all the subtlety and nuance of those classic guitar parts are well represented. Besides playing a mean guitar, he is also responsible for making sure that all of the audio for Shine On Floyd is properly coordinated. No easy task when trying to emulate a Pink Floyd show.
Behind everyone, you have the duo of Andrew Smith on keyboards and Jeff Bowen on drums. Andrew, a schooled musician and former music teacher, is very exact in his performance, nailing Richard Wright’s parts and sounds (from piano to classic synth sounds, to the modern tones of the post-Waters albums). Jeff has a deep pocket and drives the band with the same groove and taste as Nick Mason. Combine this with Fresener’s bass, and you have the musical makings of a great Pink Floyd show, creating the perfect wave for the others to ride on.
Pink Floyd travelled with several utility musicians, including a saxophone player and background vocalists. Romn Paras happily fills the saxophone role, playing a mean horn on songs like “Money” and “Us And Them”, bringing true musical authenticity to the group.
Rounding out the group is the pairing of Jewell Hill and Amy Shugar on background vocals. These were essential in Pink Floyd’s last tours, filling out the sound and space. Both ladies help recreate that magical sound, filling out the vocal parts with their soaring harmonies. Watch out for Jewell during “Great Gig In The Sky”, it’s the stuff of legend.
Lights! Turn on the sound effects! Action!
Musically, Shine On Floyd delivers the goods in spades. The group performs note-perfect renditions of classic Pink Floyd material, ranging from the early Syd Barret era, all the way to The Division Bell.
Beyond the music, there is a visual expectation when one goes to a Pink Floyd show. Shine On Floyd does not shy away from this challenge, incorporating multiple screens (including a recreation of “Mr. Screen”, the round screen ubiquitous with the group), film footage, animations and a fantastic light show! The group also brings costumes to the fold, from the doctor in “Comfortably Numb”, to the quasi-Nazi attire from the movie The Wall.
There’s even a large, inflatable pig! Though I don’t think they bought it from Pink Floyd’s yard sale...
Unlike other tribute acts, Shine on Floyd showcases the music and stage show experience. The group doesn’t use period-correct instruments or attempt to resemble the band they’re imitating. For them, it’s about the music and the means they have to perform it with reverence. None of this detracts from the fact that if you want to see what a Pink Floyd show looks and sounds like, this is as close as you’ll get!
The show must go on
Shine On Floyd has played several venues around the Phoenix area (including their debut at the famous-but-unfortunately-closed Joe’s Grotto), as well as around the country, performing in places such as Arkansas and around California! Notably, the band played a huge tribute show at the iconic Cow Palace in San Francisco.
You can keep up with where they will perform next via their website at https://shineonfloyd.com/. You can also follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/shineonfloydusa. In the meantime, you can hear plenty of Pink Floyd (among other classic rock greats) right here on The Well!
Music and Guitar Writer