Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets – Paris Olympia 2018 (Sigma 222)

Paris Olympia 2018 (Sigma 222)

Olympia, Paris, France – September 10, 2018

Disc 1 (51:54) Interstellar Overdrive, Astronomy Domine, Nick Mason Speaking, Lucifer Sam, Fearless, Obscured By Clouds, When You’re In, Arnold Layne, Vegetable Man, Nick Mason Speaking, If, Atom Heart Mother, If (reprise)

Disc 2 (53:08) The Nile Song, Guy Pratt Speaking, Green Is The Colour, Gary Kemp Speaking, Let There Be More Light, Nick Mason Speaking, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, See Emily Play, Bike, One Of These Days, A Saucerful Of Secrets, Point Me At The Sky

If there has been one musical highlight of 2018, for me it has certainly been Nick Mason’s return to the live stage. As fans know by now, he was not part of David Gilmour or Roger Waters touring bands, no the “shy and retired” Nick Mason was fronting his own band, Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets. In a press release Mason had this to say:

“With the help of some like-minded friends, I have embarked on a voyage of discovery of the music that was the launch pad of Pink Floyd and my working life. It seems too early to retire, and I missed the interaction with other musicians. This is an opportunity to experience Pink Floyd’s celebrated and significant early body of work played live including songs from albums The Piper At The Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful Of Secrets.”

Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets is the brainchild of the former Blockheads guitarist Lee Harris who back in 2016 suggested putting a group together around Nick Mason and featuring esteemed Pink Floyd/ David Gilmour session bassist Guy Pratt. To distance themselves from Roger Waters and David Gilmour’s live set lists, the idea was to focus solely on Pink Floyd’s embryonic years of 1967 to 1972. With Nick Mason on board, they rounded out Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets with Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp on guitars and music producer/composer Dom Beken on keyboards.

Needless to say the Pink Floyd fan community was abuzz with anticipation and after the group played their earliest gigs in late May 2018 in London, I was among many who scoured the web searching for set lists and video, anything. It was not hard to find, in fact the Floyd taping community has been very generous in sharing the riches and I wondered what took so long to get a nice silver edition of one of the gigs. Well after the plethora of CD-R releases, Sigma finally took notice and now we have a wonderful release of the Saucerful’s gig at the intimate 2,800 capacity Paris Olympia.

First off the recording, a superb sounding document, the taper was close to the stage and the Olympia’s wonderful acoustics provide a wonderful lush sound. The balance is perfect and typical with many audience recordings you can hear the occasional low conversation between numbers. Overall this sounds great when you have it cranked on a Friday evening or down low on a Sunday morning. The set-list is a fan-boys wet dream, culled from the first album The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn through Obscured By Clouds, we get the hits and some nice rarities the original Floyd never played live. What is really nice about Mason’s band is that it is simple, no over-cluttered backing band giving soulless re creations of the typical rehashed glory era material. They do the Barrett era material justice sounding genuinely retro yet surprisingly fresh and the Meddle songs sound as full as they did in 1971.

The intro is a soundscape as the band take the stage and play Interstellar Overdrive, clocking in at just over five minutes it’s a perfect version, trippy outer space soundscapes interwoven with the clean sound of a telecaster, no overindulgence needed. The song perfectly segues into Astronomy Domine, both capture their original vibes quite well. In Nick’s first speech he says “We are not the Danish David Gilmour or Australian Roger Waters, we are Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets” and he goes on to say how pleased they are to be playing the Olympia. A charming introduction by Nick, he has played on the biggest stages to massive audiences and now seems genuinely happy playing small theaters to a deeper fan base. Lucifer Sam really captures the original as well as the feel of the Sixties and for a minute you wait to here Secret Agent Man…superb.

Like most Floyd fans, a song I have always wanted to hear live is Fearless, sure I’ve heard both Gov’t Mule and The Black Crowes do it live but never the Floyd. As soon as the Secrets break into it the audience is like “whoa”. Having two guitarists makes it easy, Lee Harris plays the electric, Gary Kemp plays the acoustic, both essential. The group also use the You’ll Never Walk Alone at the end of the original, really nice. This all leads into Obscured By Clouds and When You’re In, both not heard live for 45 years, the latter is really great, Guy Pratt’s bass playing is almost funky, Dom Beken’s keys are wonderfully imaginative.

Arnold Layne, what can be said but most have seen a crappy youtube video I’m sure as it was one of the first I watched of this line up, the band nail it. The first of the mega deep tracks is Vegetable Man, the Barrett track written as a follow up to See Emily Play and for inclusion on A Saucerful of Secrets but shelved and not commercially released until 2016’s The Early Years 1965-1972 Box set. Like the rest of the Barrett material, just really well done, Nick says afterwards it’s so short as it was never finished! A personal highlight is If with a great seven and half minute Atom Heart Mother sandwiched in the middle. Again Gary Kemp plays some acoustic guitar that sounds almost like a banjo and it sounds incredible and brings a smile to my face.

The second of the really DEEP tracks is The Nile Song from the More soundtrack. Like most I have dreamed of hearing it live, certainly one of the heaviest songs Pink Floyd ever wrote and the Secrets do it justice in a major way, even with a nod to the Sex Pistols thrown in. Guy Pratt gives a really nice speech as he remembers asking David Gilmour about playing The Nile Song during his Floyd tenure…we all know the answer! Green Is The Colour is a nice re-imagining of the song, it sounds contemporary with Lee Harris playing some very Gilmouresque slide and then a really nice solo as well. Gary Kemp’s speech is very nice as he speaks of working with Nick Mason, very heartfelt. Let There Be More Light is a surprise, I knew they were playing it but thought, wow, can’t wait to hear that. Last known appearance in concert was November 7, 1969!

Nick’s last speech has him telling the audience it’s his turn to use the gong, a wonderful introduction to Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun. Clocking in at over ten and a half minutes, it begins with an incredible soundscape where one feels at times you are waiting in line for Space Mountain, in a good way. Once a centerpiece of the Floyd’s set, the song was a glaring no show during the Gilmour Floyd and while Roger Waters occasionally played the song, it never seemed to go out there, the Secrets take care of that and show you can bring the song into a new decade and make it sound fresh. See Emily Play sounds a bit flaccid but the whimsical Bike remains true to Barrett’s original feel and brings a smile to ones face. There is an interesting soundscape between Bike and One Of These Days, the latter has the crowd clapping along to the throbbing Guy Pratt bass lines yet sadly no live Mason vocal line. The Storm Signal > Celestial Voices segment from A Saucerful Of Secrets is the first encore followed by a true Relic, Point Me At The Sky, surprisingly the latter is really great, kinda retro Pop sounding and a great goodbye from the band. This recording has me salivating for the Saucerful Of Secrets’ American tour as I already have my tickets!

The packaging is really nice, live shots of the band superimposed with the official tour graphic. The stage set up is nice, the small stage makes for an intimate setting of the musicians being in close proximity to each other, Nick plays a simple kit and can be well seen by all. Of course we get picture CD’s and numbered sticker, all the regular fare, all housed in a slim lined jewel case. Excellent presentation and stunning sound, Sigma have hit a home run with this release, in my book a must have for every Floydian.

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