Madcap’s Last Laugh - Barbican Centre - 10th May 2007
Backdrop – large photo of Mick Rock’s Psychedic Renegade’s photo of Syd with blank eyes (not the photo above).
Concert starts with a blues song and the backdrop changing to the album cover of Blind Boy Fuller’s Country Blues circa 1935-1940.
Roger 'Syd' Barrett derived the name "Pink Floyd" juxtapositioning the first names of Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, he had read about in a sleevenote by Paul Oliver for a 1962 Blind Boy Fuller LP.
The backdrop changes to a write up of country blues, mentioning Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, who hail from Tennessee.
"Curley Weaver and Fred McMullen, (...) Pink Anderson or Floyd Council -- these were a few amongst the many blues singers that were to be heard in the rolling hills of the Piedmont, or meandering with the streams through the wooded valleys."
As I’m reading so the “Sense of Sound” choir are assembling at the rear of the stage.
They sing “Bike” vaguely hinting at a blues style with low harmonies, it was a good effort though some voices were slightly off key (according to the perfect musical ear of my guest).
The lightshow is across the entire stage…. I wonder how much of it is either from UFO or at least influenced by it.
The house band arrive featuring Andy Bell (Oasis) and Simon Finley (Echo & The Bunnymen).
Next up is Captain Sensible (minus that old trademark red beret) with Monty Oxy Moron on “saw”. He’s in buoyant mood… they launch into a brilliant version of “Flaming”. Just one song and they’re off.
Kevin Ayers strides across the stage, to mild applause that grows as he waves as his name appears on the backdrop. He speaks of Syd, says he’s going to be singing “Here I go” an octave lower than Syd, in his low gravely voice. He is joined by Oxymoron for the second track, which he uses an acoustic guitar, this is his own song for Syd, 'Oh! Wot A Dream’. Rapturous applause as they both leave.
Nick Laird-Clowes (ex Dream Academy) is musical director tonight. It still hasn’t entered my mind that Floyd are actually here. But I am still hopeful Gilmore and Wright are here.
Nick and the house band launch into “Baby Lemonade”, Damon Albarn (ex Blur, Gorillaz) joins them on piano.
The Bees are up next, I’ve not heard them before, but they’re warmly welcomed as was Laird-Clowes and Albarn. They do a brilliant “Octopus” … It’s at this point I could kick myself for not actually recording this show. I have a vague hope that it is being recorded though, I think I heard Ian or someone nearby saying this.
Neulander – again a link to Echo & The Bunnymen, as Adam Peters (one of the house band tonight) is joined by his partner, Korinna Knoll and perform “The Gnome”.
My favourite Incredible (String Band) appears next, Mike Heron, to huge applause now… an acoustic guitar in hand, he is joined by loads of musicians for “Matilda Mother” a very psyched up set. Quite brilliant.
Next we are suddenly given a film clip, it’s rare footage of the 14th Hour Technicolour Dream night at Alexandra Palace, N. London. There is a shot of people shooting down a slide or rather the Helter Skelter. Dancing swirling lights in a vast vast space. I used to live nearby, the Palace was huge (before it burned down in the 80’s).
Now it’s 3 women coming on stage.The backdrop announces them and I’m squirming with delight to see Kate McGarrigle’s name alongside her daughter Martha Wainwright and her niece Lily Lanken, plus Adam Peters again, on electric cello. Apparently Ms Wainwright hasn’t slept at all, she was at Covent Garden last night, her mother announces and has come from there to the Barbican. I wonder if Martha has been partying with Prince (formerly known as Squiggle) who was also in Covent Garden last night, alongside his £10,000 purple drapes he had to have shipped in from Paris, but I digress….
They play a beautiful “Golden Hair”, Kate on vocals for this.
And second song, they only learned it one hour before, so the words are placed up for Martha, who is singing. It’s “See Emily Play” and it brings rapturous applause too. Wow. She might be tired, but they pulled off a great albeit short set.
Up next is a white haired Richard Gere look alike. Yep it’s Roger Waters, the Barbican suddenly on it's feet. Waters says he needs a chair for this, as he is old. He starts chatting…. That’s when someone shouts out “Have you got it yet?” in memory of Syd’s question, but I wondered if it was a madcapslaughing person or an Astral piper for that matter. Another voice further away shouts “fuck off” and yet another “shut yer mouth”. He is blathering on a bit. But it’s interesting blathering…. He’s talking about Syd, people shut up and listen and sit down, but then some of us are older too.
Roger said something to the effect of, that he feels a little vulnerable by the small size of the Barbican stage and is much better used to large stages with lots of gear, which he feels he can hide behind (yes right), but he speaks of his own stress and also his own “sense of shame” and even “doom”. He is speaking honestly from his heart, then mentions that Syd was never stressed before his illness. Says Syd lived his life like he walked, “he kind of bounced”. He had a total lack of sense of shame which certainly added to his ability to take creative leaps or risks and said that “musically certainly, we owe Syd Barrett an enormous debt” then adds, “well I do, anyway”. Goes on to ask “What would I have done without him?” he mused and answers that he’d have probably been a property developer or something.
He plays his own song, “Flickering Flame” with little introduction to it. I assume it is about Syd. It was riotously good, for an acoustic number.
During the intermission before show starts back up, Syd’s paintings are on view, on the backdrop interspersed with Mick Rock’s 'Psychedelic Renegades' photos.
The film of BBC1 interview with Hans Keller is shown, to much laughter and applause, sadly the volume is too high, it is distorting and it’s hard to work out Keller’s words, but Syd is clear as a bell.
Back on stage now, is Nick Laird-Clowes with the brilliant house band. “Chapter 24” is the song, very very psyched up, light show was a little blinding, every time “sunrise” was mentioned we were treated to a rolling intense lights in the eyes.
Vashti Bunyan with Gareth Dickson is on next… she appears slightly nervous. As the song begins the film to Scarecrow is shown up to where Syd places the Scarecrow in the water. Vashti sings a very beautiful “Scarecrow” a few octaves higher than Syd would have, again Adam Peters is hauntingly on cello. Followed by “Lovesong” a truly beautiful elegy.
Damon Albarn appears with David Coulter on harp/saw – he is smoking I notice. Before he starts he says one of Syd’s relatives is with us tonight, and asks can he come down and say a few words. He says it’s his nephew, I know it must be Ian Barrett. Very surprised to see the guy behind me get up and walk on stage.
Wow. First he smokes some of the spliff Albarn has offered to him and drinks from his bottle of lager.
Basically he thanks all for this night, says that he is sure Roger is up there watching. Says he has so much to thank him for.
Ian Barrett is sitting behind me…. And is now talking non stop, what was in that spliff?
Albarn says he loves this song, says it is a pre rap and that if we know the words we can all sing along. It is “Word song"/"Untitled Words” and I presume for the audience the words are up on the backdrop. It’s a good song for sure. Talk about juxtapositioning of words.
Out comes Captain Sensible again for the next song “Astronomy Domine” before he starts he says his son is named after Syd, “spelt the proper way of course” and says his son is a great guitarist and to look out for Syd Sensible. He describes himself as Syd’s number one fan (where’ve I heard this before). Astronome Domine is amazing, psychedelic, Captain suggests the words mean something, in particular I see waters underground or ICY WATERS underground… I don’t know what he meant, but it made me laugh to think of Water's iciness.
Robyn Hitchcock enters in his dark blue spotted shirt. Raucous applause, everyone knows who he is, “Terrapin” is next. He is a very accomplished guitarist, he has a presence on stage and is totally at one with Syd’s song. Next up joined by John Paul Jones and Ruby Wright (on saw – psyched up saw that is) for "Gigolo Aunt". Hitchcock says Syd knew the value a good A chord….
Chrissie Hynde storms onto the stage with Adam Seymour. She says she is very pleased to be here tonight, apologises for singing Syd’s songs with an American accent and says they are going to be using 2 small amps on stage now, rather than the ones in use this evening. A small dig at not needing roadies…. She’s chosen two songs off of Madcap Laughs “Dark Globe” and “Late Night”.
Joe Boyd is on stage now, explaining that the art director (?) from the Barbican approached him with the idea of a tribute for Syd, in fact persuaded him it had to be done and dragged in Nick Laird-Clowes to help with the huge task ahead of trying to organize musicians who said they’d love to but couldn’t because they were touring or gigging or had problems. In the end says Boyd, it was Chrissie Hynde that galvanized the whole event. Her amazing energy, and her persuasive talents made this evening what it is. Joe Boyd backtracks and thanks the lighting people from the original UFO club and early Pink Floyd shows.
He is sounding lugubrious talking about Syd but admits it is a difficult process for him, although he acknowledges how fortunate he is working with very rare spirits of which Syd Barrett was one. He admits to not playing Syd’s solo work until about six months ago, due to the pain of losing Syd. And remembers a haunted evening in '67 at Peter Jenners house. Syd was there with guitar in hand, he played Joe six songs, asked him did he know of anyone who could use them. Says these songs all went on the solo albums, doesn’t say which. Adds that Syd was full of life that night, it was a very memorable evening. But the next time he saw Syd, he was totally unresponsive on stage standing with his arms down on stage, off his guitar, staring deadly into space. He remembers Syd for his fearlessness, bravery and his adventurous spirit. That Syd personified the era and gave so much to it. He finally states the year from 66-67 was magick. Then thanks Pink Floyd for helping keeping Syd Barrett’s name and memory and music alive and goes on to welcome David, Nick and Rick – aka Pink Floyd onto stage.
Wow, most of us weren’t expecting that! They do "Arnold Layne". Stunning with the backdrop of the stage and the light show… Then they’re off and the Barbican are calling for encore.
Jugband Blues Video is up on the wall, while the choir and most of the musicians (not Roger Waters) are back on stage with Pink Floyd and the finale “Bike”. It was 10.30pm and we’ve just had 2.5 hours of Syd songs, of Sydness, we don’t want it to end but it does, the lights are up and we’re off, in a daze, wishing we’d been there back in 66-67. Many here tonight could well have been though.
To me it doesn’t matter one jot that Pink Floyd did not include Roger Waters, they weren’t here for that, they were here to remember their founding member and inspiration.
The last photo up on the backdrop is one of Syd back to the camera, walking away. I am reminded of those Hampstead shots of Nick Drake. It's like he only had a limited time and he was off. Dreaming perhaps.