There is no cooler head in the music biz than Nick Mason. The venerable drummer of Pink Floyd several years ago decided he wasn’t quite done with the music business. With the blessing of his Pink Floyd bandmates, he recruited a supergroup to perform the early Pink Floyd albums on the road, sharing the wonderfully psychedelic and powerful listening experience of Floyd prior to 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon.
The extraordinary effect of attending the recent concert by Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets at DC’s Lincoln Theatre was twofold: the audience was submerged in a frankly beautiful sonic experience, and the band delighted with their strong personal bonds and soothing chemistry.
Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets of course took its name from Pink Floyd’s second album, Saucerful of Secrets. And that album enjoyed some time to shine at the Lincoln Theatre on Sept. 27.
At the end of the first set, Nick and his English company perform “Remember a Day” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.” Other than Nick himself, the draw for me in this quintet is the pairing of guitarist Gary Kemp (of Spandau Ballet) and bassist Guy Pratt (personality and prolific session player). The two men share a chummy bromance, and they perform and play off each other quite well in performance. (Gary and Guy team up outside the band for a podcast, The Rockonteurs.)
For “Remember a Day,” Gary kicked the song off to a gallop on his guitar and Guy took lead vocals. Nick Mason was a steely presence throughout the show on an elevated drum kit. Although Nick’s visage often appeared very serious, he clearly was very much enjoying himself. His smile broke through during moments he finished a particularly remarkable drum roll. He also appeared very deeply proud of his band, seemingly filling roles as part legendary bandmate, part father figure to musicians who got hooked on his music as young teenagers.
Nick starts “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” on a gong mounted behind his drumkit, and his bandmates gathered imposing sounds for the hazy, lumbrous signature tune. Guy remained on lead vocal, and the performance of the song was both relaxing and yet vaguely anxiety-inducing at the same time.
Watch Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets perform “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” live on YouTube:
The other two members of Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets also were compelling performers. Guitarist Lee Harris may be otherwise best known for his tenure in The Blockheads. He kept rhythm aside Guy throughout the show, and he sounded wonderful. He also has a reputation as a bit of a scholar of the music, as Nick Mason is in the habit of asking Lee at the beginning of the show, “When I was I first here, professor?,” referencing back to his early Pink Floyd performances. In the case of the Lincoln Theatre, Lee informed the audience that Pink Floyd landed in DC for a show at the Lisner Auditorium (not too far away at all from the Lincoln) on Nov. 16, 1971.
Keyboardist Dom Beken has been best known for his video game and film scores, making him an ideally suited member of the atmospheric Saucerful of Secrets. Seriously, the soaring and arresting compositions require someone with Dom’s approach and cerebral capacity to give them their full life.
As a band, Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets demonstrated easy chemistry and a strong brotherhood from the start of the show. Early in the set, the group tackeled “Fearless” from the 1971 Pink Floyd album, Meddle. The song had a loose and easy gait and an almost country sound to it as Gary sang lead and the band soothed the audience. It’s a song that really showcased the band’s excellent teamwork, and you could hear the melodic threads woven by each member into the whole tapestry. Lee fashioned the song’s unique melody from stage right and Dom sprinkled elegant keys throughout the number.
Watch Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets perform “Fearless” live at The Roundhouse on YouTube:
Watching a performance of Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets is a wholly immersive experience, and it’s a great way to embark on a journey of the mind for a splendid evening of engaging music and bright musicians. While the Lincoln Theatre was full of Floyd diehards, I would even suggest that those with no knowledge of the band’s early work would find a show to be an uplifting and transformative experience. And you’ll walk away feeling a bit of the awe that Nick Mason’s bandmates feel for him. The entire performance simply happily clicks.
Here are some photos of Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets at the Lincoln Theatre in DC on Sept. 27, 2022.