Artslink (South Africa, 2005)

“The Pink Floyd Experience, The Wall,” with Stan Gratowski (lead vocals, acoustic guitar and percussion), Darren Whittaker (lead guitar, acoustic guitars), Glen Ahearn (keyboards, piano), Rob Ju (drums), Ken Te Tau (bass), Roger Rangitaawa (sax), Olivia Wordsworth (backing vocals), Lynley Goodisson (backing vocals), Stephanie Hearfield (backing vocals). Venue: Nelson Mandela Theatre, Johannesburg Civic Theatre.

The days of the big open-air concert events featuring such luminaries as The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Tina Turner, U2 and Phil Collins seem sadly things of the past. Big sponsorships are badly needed if we are to attract some of music’s bigger rock stars to South Africa again – but that’s another story.

The closest South Africa music lovers will get to see another ‘real’ concert event, with big stadium aspirations, is this dazzling New Zealand production, ‘The Pink Floyd Experience – The Wall’. There is little chance of us ever seeing Pink Floyd in the flesh, though Roger Waters did pay a visit to this neck of the woods and was most impressive.

The Pink Floyd Experience comprises a group of highly versatile musicians and backing singers who have faithfully duplicated the many intricate patterns that make up the Pink Floyd sound. It’s an awesome experience to be caught up by wave upon wave of nostalgia as the band weave their spell through ‘The Wall’, ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and a clutch of other Floyd classics. Added to this mesmerizing sound explosion, is a set of extraordinary computerized lighting effects. Evocative video images are also projected onto a screen, which help highlight the song’s strong social commentary.

Two stand-out individuals help lift this ‘experience’. They are the lead singer Stan Gratkowski, whose vocal flexibility allows the many shading’s of the songs to shine through, and lead guitarist Darren Whittaker, whose dynamic musicianship imbues the various tracks with fresh impetus. The theatrics of the event, like the building of the wall, and then its destruction, is never permitted to highjack the music. It remains true to its form.

If there is any criticism it comes at the end when one expects a grand finale but instead it all ends rather abruptly. On final analysis, however, this is one trip worth taking.

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