Brit Floyd, Cambridge Corn Exchange, April 2011

And so to the Corn Exchange for Cambridge’s almost annual dose of Pink Floyd tribute goodness. This year things have changed though; instead of the Australian Pink Floyd Show, tonight we see the second gig on the inaugural tour from a “new” band, launched as The British Pink Floyd Show but more recently settling on the name “Brit Floyd”.

Some of the band members – most notably front man Damian Darlington – have previously appeared in the “Australian” lineup, and long-time fans have every excuse for finding it all a bit confusing. But let’s not get hung up about this. These are tribute bands we’re talking about. And as with all tribute bands, the only thing which matters is: do they deliver a suitably authentic experience, now that we’ll never again see the band they’re paying tribute to live in concert?

Of course they do. What did you expect? The Australian Pink Floyd Show (and now Brit Floyd too) have always take the tribute act one giant step further by recreating the unique Pink Floyd stage show, with its memorable visuals. Couple that with a greatest-hits set list that you wouldn’t get from the real band even if they were touring/speaking/alive, and it’s a corkingly good night out for fans.

No, it’s not Dave Gilmour himself studiously picking out those guitar solos, or Roger Waters spitting out those grumpy lyrics (actually it looked more like Nick Clegg and Keith Allen up front). But we don’t come for the original artists; we come for an evening a bit like one with Pink Floyd, and we get it. The musicianship and vocal stylings are extraordinarily good, and more than adequate facsimiles for all but the real musos. In fact – as with most tribute bands – you get something closer to the original album versions than you probably would with the real band, who might well decide to wander off-piste into “live versions”, for better or for worse.

People come to Cambridge Corn Exchange from further afield than normal regional venues, because downstairs is usually standing, exactly as a rock gig should be. So it was a real disappointment when those who’d bought standing tickets were contacted before the gig to be told that “the promoter had decided” it would be seating throughout, and here were replacement seated tickets. I don’t know how many people sent them back, as was offered, but the venue was advertising the event heavily right up to the day, and it wasn’t quite full. Still, they did give us seats right down the front, which was an interesting experience.

There weren’t too many surprises in the set, from the opening “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” through to the “Run Like Hell” encore. We were given a handful of songs from every album from “Meddle” onwards (except the quietly-forgotten “Final Cut”) and I think the only song I’d not heard a tribute Floyd play before was “Pigs”, a relatively mediocre song which came over much better than I expected, once it got going, at least. Not a patch on “Sheep” though, which occupied the same pre-interval slot when I saw them once before, but which – sadly – didn’t get an airing tonight. “Echoes” was terrific, marred only by a stream of people coming back in late from the bar and finishing their conversations, and “Comfortably Numb” was – as ever – spectacular.

So the big question is probably “are Brit Floyd as good as The Australian Pink Floyd Show?” and on this showing, I’d have to say yes. Perhaps the only thing they need to work on is their stage presence and personality: “TAPFS” always seemed to be enjoying themselves, and even had a decent bit of banter between the songs. Brit Floyd were a lot more stiff, and need to chill out. People want great musicianship from the band, but they don’t want the whole thing to be too serious.

The Unthanks, Cambridge Junction 2, April 2011

Discussions of The Unthanks’ previous gig at the Shepherds Bush Empire loved the way the band made the large venue seem so intimate. At this one, they didn’t have to, because Cambridge’s Junction 2 isn’t that much bigger than some of the living rooms in the surrounding houses. It was a genuine treat to be so up close and personal. Whatever the size of venue though, few bands I’ve ever seen have this much of a hold over their audience and just sound so great. The audio quality was such that at times it sounded as if Rachel and Becky were whispering to you across a pillow. Beautiful.

The Unthanks performing Tom Waits’ No One Knows I’m Gone, Junction 2, Cambridge, 2 April 2011