Imitation and musical thievery are pretty standard in the current world of mainstream music, but when The Machine took the stage last night to perform the music of Pink Floyd, they drew a precise and deliberate line between impersonation and authentic tribute.
The Machine performs Pink Floyd. At the Blue Ocean Music Hall, Salisbury MA. Additional dates in New England follow: At Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT, July 5. At Paramount Theater, Rutland, VT, July 20. At Mountain Park, Holyoke, MA, July 21. At Gathering Of The Vibes, Seaside Park, Bridgeport, CT, July 22, 6:30 p.m.
By Kathleen Burke
Tribute bands proffer an interesting breed of musician. Some shoot for full reproduction including costuming, stage presence, and any affectation associated with the original songwriters and performers. Quality of musicianship often ranges from solid to non-existent. (A friend of mine recently saw a man dressed in full on 80’s Rod Stewart regalia “perform” with nothing but a cassette deck in a boom box.) Imitation and musical thievery are pretty standard in the current world of mainstream music. But when The Machine took the stage last night at the Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury, MA to perform the music of Pink Floyd, they drew a precise and deliberate line between impersonation and authentic tribute. The Machine honors Pink Floyd with each show and pays homage to a band who to this day has sold more albums than Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, and Katy Perry combined. Pink Floyd’s iconic album Dark Side of the Moon remains the number two top-selling album of all time, just behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
The Blue Ocean Music Hall, part of The Pavilion on Salisbury Beach complex, is definitely out of place amongst the run-down, honky-tonk arcades, bars, and pizza shacks whose best days are more than likely behind them. Opened in 2009, Blue Ocean Music Hall is a spacious venue lined on one side with ocean-front ceiling to floor windows. Cabaret style tables and chairs allow patrons to sit comfortably while watching the show, which was more than appropriate for the blue collar, 50-somethings who dominated the audience. Table service and a walk-up bar offered food and beverage options, and the room was surprisingly comfortable despite the full house. The venue was obviously built with detailed attention to acoustics, and its half-moon shape allows each seat to be roughly 50 feet from the stage. Though it’s about an hour from downtown Boston, I recommend Blue Ocean Music Hall. The Pavilion manages to class up Salisbury Beach, which, considering the fact that there is a huge strip club directly behind the venue, is not the easiest task.
The Machine opened the first of two sets with the slow build of the approximately 12 minute song “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” from Floyd’s 1975 album Wish You Were Here. Keyboardist and vocalist Scott Chasolen flawlessly executed the textured synthesizer parts written almost 30 years ago by the late Rick Wright. When lead singer and guitarist Joe Pascarelle sang the first lines, the crowd erupted. It was apparent that many of the folks in the audience had seen Pink Floyd, which sadly isn’t possible anymore, and there was a palpable sense of relief when it became obvious the band was about to provide an experience as close as possible to an actual Pink Floyd concert. Bass player and vocalist Ryan Ball rounded out the exceptional, three part vocal harmonies while drummer Tahrah Cohen provided backbone for the group and kept each song tightly in the pocket.
Psychedelic lighting and a hearty dose of fog machine are fantastic touches. I really love the fact that the band stayed back-lit and shrouded in fog. There were no spotlights or stage-front guitar solos, no rock star imitation to cheese the show up. The Machine kept it tasteful and humble, announcing after the first song that “we are called The Machine, and we play Pink Floyd music.” Selections ranged from well known hits such as “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” (including a fist-pumping, mostly mustachioed sing-along) from Roger Water’s 1979 concept album The Wall, to deep cuts such as “Fearless” from the album “Meddle” released in 1971 and the kooky “Bike,” from Pink Floyd’s 1974 debut The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
When the second set began, the crowd was well pickled, and it smelled like more than a few of the original hippies in the audience had taken a nature trip out to the car. In short, it became a party. Towards the end of the set, bassist Ryan Ball switched to the 12-string acoustic guitar for a gorgeous rendition of “Wish You Were Here,” Waters and Gilmore’s poignant love letter to the mentally destroyed Syd Barrett. This was one of the highlights of the show, and the band added in a second chorus for the nostalgic audience to sing. The Machine triumphantly closed the night with “Comfortably Numb,” arguably Pink Floyd’s biggest hit. The crowd sang the song in its entirety along with Pascarelle. The band chatted with some of the more eager fans at the foot of the stage after the close.
It is no surprise to hear that this New York-based foursome has been playing together for over 20 years. Their musical skills are top notch, and they have clearly studied the music of Pink Floyd with care. If you are a fan of Pink Floyd, I recommend The Machine without reservation. They are a respectful, expert tribute to one of the world’s most iconic rock bands.