A friend was incredulous when he received the information that I'd be reviewing the Machine at Artpark. "Wait -- you're going to review a cover band?" he asked.
Well, yes and no. Since Pink Floyd doesn't exist anymore, the Machine is more of a repertory ensemble than it is a cover band. Just as Beethoven, Mahler and Stravinsky are performed constantly minus the input of any "original members," so have bands like Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead and Peter Gabriel-era Genesis spawned scores of bands dedicated to re-creating their music. Why? Because the demand for hearing that music in a concert setting remains immense.
Tuesday, the Machine helped Artpark cap a stellar season of free Tuesday shows with twin sets of Floydian magic, replete with an awesome light show and lasers that turned the Lewiston Gorge into a majorly psychedelic landscape. The place was packed, although I have no confirmed numbers to report, and the assembled seemed to be wholly into it.
This was the Machine's third appearance at Artpark, and like its predecessors, Tuesday's show was partly brilliant and partly a tad disappointing. Though just about everything was performed impeccably -- there were a few surprising hiccups here and there, it must be noted -- the choice of set list was a little disappointing. This might seem a quibble to some, but the finest Floyd material is not always the most obvious, and for much of set one, the band's choices seemed to be a bit too obvious.
A set one "Fearless" was a gorgeous touch, but much of the rest of that short first set fell flat. "Hey You" was nice and sounded inspired, but "Keep Talking" -- despite the inclusion of a stellar guitar solo -- killed the pace, as did a lengthy "On the Turning Away."
Floyd was never known for its rapid tempos, to say the least, but too many plodding ballads in the same set is a buzz kill. "Money," replete with mid-tune reggae breakdown and short "space" jam, led into "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)," and felt like a cliche, even if both were well-played.
The second set, with the benefit of darkness, started off in a mind-melting fashion with a fantastic "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," all liquid, languid tempo, gorgeous guitar playing and stellar light show. But moving from that brilliant piece into the post-Roger Waters era song "One Slip" was certainly a slip-up. The moods of the two songs -- both epic in their own right -- made strange bedfellows. Things got better with a midset series of songs from "The Wall," which picked up the pace a bit, and "Wish You Were Here" back into "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" was very nice. Things felt a bit scattered, though.
"Careful With That Axe, Eugene" into the "Dark Side of the Moon" coda was a nice touch and helped prove that the Machine can dig much deeper than the obvious.
In all, this was a lovely way to conclude what has been an excellent season of free shows at Artpark. The Machine wasn't perfect, but the band did a good job of summoning the Floyd's majesty.