The Machine

The Calvin Theater Northampton MA

December 3 2016

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We jogged from the great show at the Iron Horse with Puddles Pity Party (review here) to the Calvin Theater just a block or two away and got in half way through the first set of the Machine, the premier Pink Floyd tribute band in the US.

While it was not sold out, the house had a lot of people there.  We got in time to feel the transition from Time into Breathe.  This seemed to be the end of the group of songs that would start the show because the band’s de facto leader, Joe, gave a welcoming sort of speech.  He mentioned that the Machine had been playing Northampton for decades and that they were going to delve deep into the Floyd catalog, feeling very comfortable in front of this crowd.

This was my third time seeing the Machine.  The first time was in Keene and also had Joe on guitar and vocals.  That show was almost exclusively an exact rendering of Pink Floyd, varying very little from the original material.  I saw them again in Keene some three or more years later with a different player on bass and vocals, and while they certainly were giving a thorough and exacting representation during that show, too- there were times when they departed from the recorded versions of the songs and would add a bit of their own flair and style into the material.  So I was curious when I heard that Joe had returned to the band, if they would stick to the original script or continue to have the Machine’s fingerprint on the material and its execution.

A sweet and contemplative version of If came next and felt like a nice and rare treat.  The helicopter sounds took over immediately after If was done and the opening riffs of Another Brick in the Wall shook the walls of the theater.  Another rarety in Syd Barret’s Bike came next with keys man Scott Chasolen taking the lead.  It was very energetic in its brief two minutes.

Two selections from the album Animals ended the first set in Pigs on the Wing into Pigs with all of the energy and emotion that song requires.

Set two started with a selection from A Momentary Lapse of Reason, the seldom heard Sorrow. This song gave the band ample opportunity to stretch out and provided some moments for Joe to explore the tone and depth of his guitar distortion.  Hey You was nice and set up the next selection beautifully.

The Final Cut may have been the highlight of the show.  A raw and emotional song to begin with, the delivery was filled with all of the angst that you need.  Joe Pascarell really connected with it and he captured the attention of the entire audience.  A really cool connection was when an audience member supplied the “Woohoo” that is very quietly inserted into the recorded version of the song, providing an audience participation that authenticated the material that much more.

This show really felt like an intimate affair for the Machine and the audience.  Less a tribute show than a meeting of friends and fans that night.  Part of it was the banter from stage, part of it was the relaxed feel emanating from the band.  Sure, it was a very faithful reading of the material, but it also felt like a house party where this band happened to be playing and that they happened to be playing all Floyd.  It just felt like there might be a fireplace off stage with a rug and a dog, very comfortable for the listener without losing any of the authenticity and quality of the performance.

My wife was mesmerized by the drumming of Tahrah Cohen who held it down behind the drum set, driving the band with energy and intensity.  My son, experiencing his third show by the Machine at age fourteen, seemed connected and mesmerized throughout.  The lights added to the effect of the show throughout, but this night was about the music and the connection between band and audience more than special effects.  The warmth coming off stage was more than I had experienced before when seeing them.

Let there be more Light from A Saucerful of Secrets was a true rarety.  Wish You Were Here had a nice audience sing a long section at the end.  Shine on You Crazy Diamond parts 6-8 allowed bass player Ryan Ball to stretch out on lap steel which was very cool to see.  Ball shows little emotion on stage, but you can tell he was really giving it his all.  Careful with that Axe Eugene was angsty and dark.  But the band brought the light back around for the finale with Comfortably Numb.

There was only the briefest of pauses before the band came back for the double encore.  You could tell that we were getting the best of the Machine when they pulled out the first song that Gilmour sang lead on with Julia.  The classic and standard Money closed the show.

Video of Comfortably Numb from the video channel of Gerry Desrosiers.

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