"TAPFS are a phenomenon to be witnessed live" says Jerry Ewing, Editor of Prog Magazine
April 21, 2011 at 5:55 PM
“The Papp Laszlo Sport Arena in Budapest is also known, thanks to its smooth, shiny, rounded exterior, as The Pebble. Named after Hungary’s three-time Olympic Gold Medal winning boxer Laszlo Papp, it is not only the home of the Hungarian national ice hockey team, but also the premier music venue in the nation’s capital. In the coming months, the hall’s cavernous interior will resound to the sounds of Faithless, Slayer, Megadeath, Shakira, The Gypsy Kings, Sting, Roxette, Santana and Roger Waters’ own version of The Wall. Tonight, however, Budapest is witnessing something a little different.
Secreted away in the labyrinthine maze of corridors backstage, two unassuming Australians and a cheerfully amiable Brit are seated facing a Prog grilling. Their quietly thoughtful answers betray the fact that, while Prog is reliably informed that local press coverage is always guaranteed, their name rarely surfaces in the pages of what one might term the more ‘serious’ music press, save for adverts plugging their many, and evidently successful live shows.
These men before us are Jason Sawford, Colin Wilson and Colin Norfield. In general not names to normally bother the collective consciousness of Prog’s readership. The first is founder member and keyboard player with The Australian Pink Floyd Show, the band we are in town to witness. Wilson is the bassist, who joined Sawford, and fellow founder member, guitarist Steve Mac (apparently the very quiet member of the band – he doesn’t do interviews) in 1992. And Norfield is the ex-Pink Floyd sound engineer who is back with this tribute colossus for a second stint, having already toured with them in 2004 and 2005.
The presence of Norfield seems to indicate that a desire for authenticity that is very much key to TAPFS existence. The tribute act boom of the 90s, wherein a band seemingly only had to release one record and a tribute band in their ‘honour’ seemed to spring up, might be in the distant past, but with ticket sales nudging the million mark worldwide, and having performed in such salubrious UK venues as The O2, Wembley Arena and the Royal Albert Hall, business is clearly good for this particular act. So much so that Prog is in a position where it’s difficult to ignore the phenomenon, even if it does mean allocating space in the magazine to a band who are essentially making a living performing someone else’s songs.
“I completely understand that thinking” concurs Sawford after a short, vaguely embarrassed silence after we’ve asked them if they feel guilty about depriving a band who have penned their own material of potential coverage. “But on the other hand we can’t deny that there are a lot of people who wish to come and see what we do. And, obviously, Pink Floyd themselves aren’t out there doing it anymore, and it’s unlikely that they will be either. Yes, Roger’s out on the road doing The Wall, and David (Gilmour) might go back out on the road. But they’re unlikely to do the entire Floyd show which is what we do our best to replicate”.
For the record, TAPFS, who have been called “The best tribute band in the world” by no less an organ than The Sunday Times, are a phenomenon to be witnessed live. For starters, there’s none of that “Tonight, Matthew...” tackiness that comes with certain tribute acts who try to ‘look’ like their heroes as well as emulate them musically (the Queen ones spring immediately to mind). TAPFS’s own performance, as elegant and dynamic as the real things for the most part, is frequently overshadowed by their stupendous stage show. The giant circular screen, for so long a staple of any Floyd event, looms large over the band members. Later in the second part of the show, Sawford tells the audience to don the 3D glasses that are placed on every seat in the auditorium as a blaze of 3D stereographic visuals (supplied by Harry Potter effects man John Attard) assault the senses. Later, a giant inflatable pig (thankfully a lot closer to the Floydian beast of yore than the piggy bank-sized 3D effort – the only let down of that section of visuals) will, eyes-blazing, hover menacingly over the audience for One of These Days, an inflatable psychotic teacher looms large for The Happiest Days of Our Lives/Another Brick In The Wall Part 2, while at the culmination of the night’s events following an impressive Comfortably Numb and Run Like Hell, a huge inflatable pink kangaroo bounces onstage with delight as applause rings throughout. It’s enough to make you almost forget that you haven’t been watching Pink Floyd, but a surrogate band. A delicious irony given so much of Floyd’s work was centred around themes of communication.
Backstage later, Norfield is explaining just how impressed he is with the show that TAPFS have put together. Even had we not just witnessed the earlier spectacle we can understand why he feels this bunch of Anglo-Aussies (only Wilson, Sawford and Mac hail from the land down under) deserve not only more respect than they are perhaps accorded by certain territories (he means the UK), but also the attention of the man who handled front of house sound on The Division Bell tour and worked on Gilmour’s On an Island tour.
Even more impressive though is what bassist Wilson has to relate. “We’d just played a gig at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls and this bloke popped his head around the dressing room door. It was David Gilmour. He was really complimentary, told us he’d never had a chance to see Pink Floyd perform live and had really enjoyed it. He was very approachable and even asked us if we’d like to play The Division Bell end-of-tour party. It was kind of surreal. Although we couldn’t actually end up doing that, we did play at his 50th birthday party”.
Such unfettered patronage is clearly the stuff of dreams, but also goes a long way to validating the work that an outfit like TAPFS undertake. Others, and there are many (over 25 UK Floyd acts, including Think Floyd who formed in 1994, can be found on the internet) are not always so lucky”.
Category: In The Press
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