Review and photos: Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets, York Barbican, June 12

ONE of the delights of the past few years has been seeing Nick Mason - drummer of the legendary band Pink Floyd - enthusiastically embrace performing much of the band's early material.

Mason recently told Classic Rock magazine that the band’s early, pre-Dark Side of The Moon career is “extremely varied and just as interesting”. He’s not wrong, and the Saucerful of Secrets project offers an exciting exploration of their early material.

The performance began with Astronomy Domine from the band’s debut release and was followed by sparkling renditions of the band’s first two singles, Arnold Layne and See Emily Play.

On guitar and vocals was Floyd fan Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet fame. Guy Pratt, who has performed live with Pink Floyd for a few decades and is also a regular on Dave Gilmour's solo tours was on bass and vocals. Lee Harris, the ex-Blockheads guitarist and Dom Beken on keyboards and "noises" completed the line-up that did the songs full justice.

Their early years saw Pink Floyd largely guided by their whimsical co-founder Syd Barrett but his time with the band was unfortunately brief lasting barely two albums and a few singles.

Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets, York Barbican, with Nick on drums and Gary Kemp on guitar and vocals. Photo by Dave LawrenceNick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets, York Barbican, with Nick on drums and Gary Kemp on guitar and vocals. Photo by Dave Lawrence

In York, the band surprised the audience by performing Remember Me the first of two songs introduced to the set since the previous tour. The song dates from 1965 and was originally recorded when the band were known as The Tea Set. As deep cuts go that is positively subterranean.

While both Kemp and Pratt are not renowned vocalists, both did fine jobs taking us through highlights from the Floyd’s early catalogue covering songs from albums including Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Saucerful of Secrets, Atom Heart Mother, Meddle and Obscured by Clouds.

The first set ended with a dramatic Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, on which Mason said he was pleased to be able to finally play the famous gong adding that Roger Waters played it during live performances. Then in an amusing joke, he pretended to take a phone call from a “Roger” and told him he was just having a quiet night with some friends watching Midsomer Murders.

After a short break it was back to the debut album and another new introduction to the set, the psychedelic folk of Barrett’s The Scarecrow. The powerful version of Lucifer Sam, Barrett’s ode to his Siamese cat with Kemp and Beken enjoying churning out the song’s descending guitar riff was another highlight.

The second set ended triumphantly with a 20-minute performance of Echoes, the song that revealed how the sound of Pink Floyd would develop across their later albums.

Each member had chance to shine but, it was particularly good to see Mason - who Kemp had earlier introduced as the Grand Old Duke of York - in his element, still a force behind his Hokusai inspired drumkit at the age of eighty.

An encore included a medley of Interstellar Overdrive and A Saucerful of Secrets which also hinted at a variety of other obscure Floyd numbers.

This was a hugely enjoyable show, with the band paying loving tribute to Pink Floyd’s early history. They did it both with total respect and obvious joy in a celebration of an unsurpassed era of musical experimentation.