I've seen and heard more than a few musicians perform cover versions of Pink Floyd songs. Here's my top 10 chart:
- Rockfour play Astronomy Domine. It was the first time i saw Rockfour live and it was the first song in the show. I didn't know that it's a PF song and thought that it's the best song Rockfour wrote. If you ask me now, it was the very best performance of Astronomy Domine, by any band, ever.
- David Gilmour, Rick Wright, Nick Mason, Dick Parry and a bunch of other guys play a lot of PF songs, including a complete performance of Dark Side of the Moon. They even released it on a 2xCD called "Pulse". Their cover version of Astronomy Domine there comes second only to Rockfour's.
- My friend Sasha Abramovich plays and sings Wish You Were Here at a department trip to Negev.
- My boss Amir G. sings Wish You Were Here at a department trip to Negev with Amir Aharoni on the piano. Actually it was Yitzhak Klepter's "Tzlil Mechuvan", which has very little to do with Pink Floyd, but this band's members had ego issues similar to PF's. It was a pretty good performance, though.
- Fred Durst sings Wish You Were Here at the 9/11 telethon somewhere in between God Save America, Amazing Grace and Living on a Prayer (believe it or not, Bon Jovi did that really, really well). In retrospect, he sang that even worse than he sang Behind Blue Eyes, but it seemed that at the moment he meant it.
- Thom Yorke sings Wish You Were Here with Mark Linkous. Actually Thom is barely audible at all, but putting his name on it helped sell the compilations on which that performance was included.
- Amir E. Aharoni plays Shine On You Crazy Diamond (parts I-IX!) to his parents and their friends. They all said that they liked it, they probably lied, and even though i knew it, i "interpreted" it as a request for an encore and played an abridged version of Dark Side of the Moon. The heartbeat + noises thing in the intro scared the shit out of them. Like what, don't they know there's supposed to be an intro with heartbeats and noises?? OK, they don't, but it's their problem.
- A band dressed in white suits in Las Vegas plays Dark Side of the Moon to a crowd of RV renters. They play pretty well, but the crowd is quite indifferent.
- Billy Corgan plays the whole of The Final Cut with Eric Clapton on the guitar and Martin Gore on the bass.
- Someone called Roger Waters sings some PF songs to a big crowd, which for some reason keeps applauding, even though he can't sing at all and his band treats the songs with a profound lack of skill and respect. I don't know why, but he even released it on a 2xCD called "In the Flesh".
I made up numbers 8 and 9, but even if they were real, they would still sound better than the performance of "Dark Side of the Moon" by The Blues Messengers last night at the Tsavta hall. If you can read Hebrew, better don't believe the critic who praises them there. Someone probably paid him.
It's not that they can't play. Chelly Sigalski, the lead guitarist and The Blues Messengers' founder can play at least as well as the Kley Zemer salesman in Hadera. There are two problems though: First, with his greasy hair and black suit he looks just like a pimp, which is not really compatible with Dave Gilmour's kind druggy look inside Dark Side's sleeve. Besides, he got the riffs and slides totally wrong. Getting the first few seconds of Breathe properly are crucial to the overall quality of the performance and his disrespect to them made me wonder if he ever listened to the record at all. An if he did -- did he like it? How can it be possible to play Dark Side of the Moon without even trying to recreate that perfect slide guitar sound? Instead of sliding he just played chord after chord. The delay (or whatever) effects were more or less correct, but it's the slides that make the difference. Now, even before the slides there's The First Chord. That magical first chord of "Breathe" that's supposed to come crashing in the listener's face was rendered by The Blues Messengers as a yet another powerchord. During the whole concert Chelly didn't get even one slide properly. I know all these subtleties all too well and when a cover band plays them, they should either play it 100% perfectly or give the music their whole new interpretation, but anything in the middle is insolence.
And then there's the singer. Danny Shushan looked like a pimp even more than Chelly. In fact, he posed a very strong resemblance to the strange man that defecated on Woody Allen's character's sister in Crimes and Misdemeanors. His diction is perfect - every word he read in the lyric sheet was pronounced letter-by-letter, just the way it should not be. The original singing is cohesive; Dave and Roger sang songs, not words, but why should Danny care? He knows English, he can read and he can speak; to hell with respecting the original masterpiece. Breathe. Breathe. In. The. Air. Don't. Be. Afraid. To. Care. And. Everything. Under. The. Sun. Is. In. Tune. Shut. The. Fuck. Up. You. Fucking. Pimp!!
There were tolerable points. Speak to Me, On the Run, Any Colour You Like. OK, they're instrumentals and without Danny "Pimp-Man" Shushan everything sounds better. Then there was The Great Gig in the Sky, for which i was naïve enough to expect that they would bring one of the Black Hebrews in place of Clare Torry. Instead, the keyboards player sang, and to my amazement, his vocals, although heavily processed by various reverb effects, were nevertheless far better than the Pimp's. And then there was the über-kool Ilan Virtzberg, of the "Good Vintage (Batzir Tov)" fame. He doesn't look like a pimp, he plays his guitar well and without any pomp, but he's overshadowed by Sigalski and Shushan.
I swear i tried to enjoy it, but i couldn't wait for that torture to finish. Everything was heavy handed and clumsy. The saxophone on Money was barely heard and the melody was completely wrong. When playing a classic rock song, the saxophonist is supposed to recreate, not improvise. The singing on Money and Us and Them was Shushan's nadir. Eclipse was dull and particularly hurt by his enunciation and the lack of the very necessary gospel choir.
But then came the good surprise: After the less-then-average Dark Side of the Moon, Danny Shushan suddenly screamed: "Ein, zwei, drei, vier", and "In the Flesh" began. During its first seconds i prayed that they won't play the opening chords twice, solo-Waters-style, but will stick to the album version - and they did. Thank God, thank you so much. From this moment on the show became more than tolerable and towards then end it even rocked. Their abridged performance of The Wall was far better than of Dark Side, mostly because it didn't require a lot of good vocals, but rather fanatic screaming, which Shushan accomplished much more gracefully then Bob Geldof in the film and essentially as good as Waters himself. I think that old Roger would be pleased. Ilan Virtzberg shined when he was finally allowed to sing on Hey You, which Hadar enjoyed, because she knew that song well (she's not a Floyd expert like me). This was essentially a good, long encore, and the only weak point was the out-of-place Have a Cigar, which suffered from the same problems as Dark Side: It was totally uninspired and Sigalski didn't bother to recreate the unique guitar riff sound, just playing some chords instead. But the grand finale was excellent; Just as i expected it was "On the Run", energetic and true to the original.
Cover bands can be good. Eggroll handle much harder Genesis, Yes and King Crimson songs to the very last note, drum solo and guitar effect and Magical Mystery Tour play Beatles perfectly and make the crowd ecstatic. What went wrong with those Blues Messengers? I cannot put my finger on it, but it's probably the deadly combination of pomp, disrespect to the originals, and the unsuccessful seat-only location. I know i don't want to see them again, at least not in this lineup.
At least Hadar wore her beautiful red dress from Rome.