Last night I ventured out to Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa. This is where all the Broadway tours stop in Orange County. I recently saw Liza Minelli here. Eddie Izzard. Misty Copeland dances on this stage for American Ballet Theatre often. Plush red velvety seats for almost 3000 asses, it’s civilized for sure — not that it stops men from attending in shorts and flip flops most nights. But last night was, um, special, different, odd. Last night perplexed me, quite frankly, and I think I need you all to help me figure it out.
There’s this thing called Australian Pink Floyd. I love pretty much all things Australian. I’ve been there and the place holds up to its hype. Not only do they have koalas, kangaroos, Olivia Newton-John, Hugh Jackman, and Paul Kelly (essentially their Bob Dylan, but he can actually sing well), but they are home to the best dessert ever, the Lambington, So, I’m always cool with Aussies as a general rule.
Pink Floyd, on the other hand, hmmm… I went to a typical American high school and then matriculated to a party university. The Wall was rented many a night from Tower’s cult movies section (a young Bob Geldof, eye brows or no, was intriguing) and I owned Dark Side of the Moon to cue up with Wizard of Oz. But, as I wasn’t a stoner myself, I think I missed a lot of the finer points of Pink Floyd aside from the entry level hits – “Comfortably Numb,” “Wish You Were Here,” and…well, actually, if I’m being totally honest I just know The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon, “Wish You Were Here,” and I thought I knew “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” but only the radio cut, which I’ll get to later. Fake fan…I’ll accept that, though I would never use the word fan. I did, however, see Pink Floyd live once at Jack Murphy Stadium. This guy, Craig, who I knew from the BBS Board, Anarchy X gave me a ticket — probably because he felt bad for telling mutual friends he slept with me, when he most certainly did not — and well, he thought I was a fan, but he, as I already established, had a problem with the truth. Point? Pink Floyd’s okay by me.
Tribute bands as a thing though, I don’t understand. If they mash something up, like El Vez or Dread Zeppelin, I’m into that. That’s creativity. Charo Trick might be the best thing I’ve seen ever. Otherwise, a “tribute band” is just a cover band with a very limited shtick. Fine for small bars and maybe the county fair on a small side stage. I don’t knock anyone for what they find fun on stage or in the audience, but it’s not my thing.
The husband is fond of telling me that I am negative about things I don’t understand. I don’t want to be negative. Again, let me reiterate I do not begrudge anyone their fun times. And a lot of these people last night were having a lot of fun. So much fun that I can’t unsee it. And I need to work through it with y’all.
The Australian Pink Floyd Show Facts as I know them: They have been touring since the late 80’s all over the world, are known for their big 3D visual display and laser-y lights, and they are such a big deal that they were hired by David Gilmour to perform at his 50th birthday party. Though let’s unpack that for a sec…is it just me or is that weird to have a cover band of your band at your birthday party? If you were to be planning my 50th birthday, I’d love a Josie & The Pussycats tribute band (long tails and ears for hats, guitars and Marshall stacks — I want it all), but I’m not Josie, so that’s a normal thing.
Do these guys look like Pink Floyd? I don’t know what Pink Floyd looks like, but I’m going to say no. Couple of dudes were wearing Outback hats, and the main singer looked like he just came out from behind a craft whiskey bar in some bearded hipster enclave and the bass player/other singer looked like a cross between a slightly younger James Corden and some dude who also has a side hustle in a tribute to whatever band Fred Durst was in. I have a feeling it’s more about the sound…and on that note, sure, they probably nailed it. It sounded like the albums as far as my untrained ear is concerned. Which is probably another reason I don’t get it. If it sounds just like the album, why don’t you just get stoned at home and listen to all the Pink Floyd you want on Apple Music? Because let’s not kid ourselves, this was an audience of1800 mostly stoned people — or at the very least highly intoxicated on overpriced cocktails from the lobby bar.
And when I say people, I mean old people. Much like the average audience of season subscribers for the touring musicals, the medium age would be eligible for AARP. Except there were more long gray-haired, muscle shirt clad guys last night than I saw during the last two shows — “On Your Feet” or “School of Rock.” Old white dudes for days. I’m gong to say 80% old white dudes with the other 20% being their sons and their second wives. The ladies were drinking wine and wearing designer skinny jeans and stilettos and looked fabulous, which is why I’m saying second wives. First wives wouldn’t go out looking that pulled together in rocker mom chic and yet allow their husbands out in flip flops, cargo shorts, and a faded Metallica t-shirt.
At intermission (there was one 20-minute intermission between two 65 minute sets), I found myself between two groups. The first was a clustering of white dudes in their early 60’s talking about their sons’ multiple concussions from flag football and how you have to love a band with only 4 songs per album side. “Oh dude, that was the golden age to be a lead guitarist.” These guys were stoked on life. More power to them.
The other group were the mostly female entourage with a few early teen kids. They weren’t as enthusiastic.
“Are you enjoying yourself?”
“Well, I’m having a lot of time to make mental lists and I think I figured out the carpool for Saturday”
“Yeah, I’m bored too.”
I identified. Really truly, I was trying to keep an open mind, but somewhere around the third song (but how could I really tell) near the 20th minute of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” right before the sax solo, I realized my mind was cataloging this as the third most bored I’d been in my whole life. And remember, I didn’t have a smart phone until my 30’s.
“Shine On You Crazy Diamond” would go on another ten or so minutes, long enough for me to have thought it was another song and then wonder if maybe time had rewound on me. Contact high? Possibly. But the people — the old dudes — looked so happy. It was eerie how happy they looked. If I use the word “sinister”, I feel I’m overstepping, but that word did happen to pop into my head surrounded by that many white men of a certain age, especially in Orange County. As long as these guys were happy, it was all good, but what if there was a wrong note played. What if it turned ugly? The song was long enough that I had envisioned exactly how this could turn from a concert to a Republic of Gilead planning meeting.
All of the songs were all excruciatingly long. I’ll admit it, I like songs with words. I like hooks. I don’t give a shit how good you sound if it’s not catchy or I can’t sing along. I respect your art, I just don’t have time for it at this stage in my life. For this reason, I was happiest with “Another Brick In The Wall,” especially because there was a big inflatable creepy goat professor bopping along on the side of the stage. During the second set there was also a giant inflatable pink Kangaroo that hopped to the music.
Giant inflatables make me happy and should really be a part of all concerts. Nay, a part of all life.
The backup singers were great. I especially liked the one who sang “The Great Gig In The Sky.” I hope her parents paid for her to train classically somewhere nice.
I made it through the whole show. The lights were pretty, but someone’s 70-year old yoga teacher from Laguna Beach was the highlight of my visual entertainment as she danced with a combination of easy flow and fierce determination though the entire last set near the front corner of the stage. I am perfectly fine (grateful) that I will never be that woman — but I love that she exists. But bottom line here is I still don’t understand. I don’t understand why. Why is this a thing? Why do so many people pay to see such a thing? Why?
This is not rhetorical. Please, someone tell me why.