Friday, 14 February 2014

Floydian Hits

At the beginning of this month New Zealand tributes to Pink Floyd and Stonehenge collided with spectacular results.

The hills were alive, with the sound of ...Pink Floyd.

February is here, and with it, summer – hopefully. We’ve made a resolution this year to make time for recreation, not only in terms of taking more time off and seeing more of the country, but also in making time for activities which aren’t work related. We’ve booked a number of Arts Festival Events but coming up first was a concert, with a difference.

Eclipse are a New Zealand Pink Floyd tribute band, and the venue for their outdoor concert on Saturday was Stonehenge Aotearoa, not a replica of the famous Salisbury stone circle, but a working monolith observatory especially designed and constructed for the southern sky.

It is perched atop a privately owned hillside in the Hinakura range, with a magnificent view of the Wairarapa valley and the entire length of the Tararua range, and on this particular evening the sun shone from a cloudless sky as it dipped gradually behind the distant ridgeline.

This was the first event of its kind to be held here, restricted to two and a half thousand people due to the relatively modest area available. A large stage was set up beside the ‘stone’ circle and a light show of international standard was promoted as one of the main draw cards. As is often the case with music of this vintage, a wide age range was represented in the capacity crowd, and the better-than-forecast weather seemed to bring out the more agreeable side of everyone’s nature. A friendly atmosphere was palpable.

The sun sinks behind the Tararua range.  Stonehenge Aotearoa  is
just out-of-shot, to the right of the stage.
The music of Pink Floyd is something we all seem to absorb by osmosis, before some choose to become fans and seek it out. I first became aware of them through their arguably most commercial phase when any old radio station would happily bang out “…we don’t need no education…” so I possibly wasn’t introduced to Pink Floyd at their best. Fortunately I have friends who were, and still are, far more proactive at seeking out new (and old) music than I am, and Wish you were Here, Dark Side of the Moon and others gradually joined my internal playlist. In short, I was by no means knowledgeable, or a fan, but felt I was at least on a head nodding, foot tapping acquaintance. Rose claimed to know nothing about their music, but as the night went on the exclamation: “I know this one…” was heard more and more.

From opening with Learning to Fly, appropriately under a clear, encircling sky, to encoring with Comfortably numb, while many tried to find their cars under blazing Wairarapa starlight, Eclipse seemed to satisfy all with their sincere and full-blooded depiction of music which covers several generations. We were in full agreement with the approving ageing rocker sitting behind us who had seen many a real Pink Floyd concert in London, and felt that although the lead vocals didn’t quite have the maturity of the original, the distinctive guitar work was spot on. 

Fortunately, it was still enough for the dry ice to help produce effects like this.
Less expected ‘geeky’ highlights for me included detecting a snatch of the Doctor Who theme during the opening instrumental of One of These Days (apparently long-speculated about, but it’s definitely there - Floyd were apparently BBC Radiophonic Workshop fans). I was also irresistibly shot back to 1980 with memories of John Mills’ Bernard Quatermass in a dishevelled hounds-tooth jacket and proto-new agers chanting about “ring-stone round”, as a blazing column of light shot out from the centre of the Henge during the truly spectacular light show. 
Glad we were here.

"Huffity, puffity, ring-stone round..."

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