Blue Floyd, a touring collection of Southern rock all-stars now covering the works of lethargic art-rock gods Pink Floyd, stopped by the Birchmere on Thursday. The project comes courtesy of Southern California-based musical entrepreneur Michael Gaiman.
Gaiman also fathered Jazz Is Dead, another road-warrior combo that cashed in by offering up jazzy arrangements of Grateful Dead songs after the death of Jerry Garcia. Pink Floyd hasn't been recording or playing publicly much in the past 25 years, though the band isn't quite as cashed out as the Dead: Another Pink Floyd live album is reportedly in the works. Judging by the large and largely tie-dyed crowd here, a lot of fans will take their Floyd any way they can get it.
As advertised, Blue Floyd's mission is to offer a "blues exploration" of Floyd the elder. But, Roger Waters never claimed a relation to Muddy Waters and the cover band only occasionally seemed intent on finding common ground. Keyboard player Johnny Neel, who has worked with Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts, was able to coax his mates into Allmans-style jams on "Money" and "Another Brick in the Wall." However, the rest of the three-hour-plus show found the musicians starting out with faithful readings of Pink Floyd classics, then going on extended solo runs. (Would a real blues band let the drummer take a 15-minute solo?) Guitarist Marc Ford, who left the Black Crowes in 1997, seemed to have the most fun and hit the most notes, giving his Strat's whammy bar hell in between verses to "Have a Cigar." Ford had to resort to cheat sheets on a music stand when he forgot the lyrics to "Wish You Were Here," the adult-contemporary classic and title track of Pink Floyd's 1975 album. He may have been the only guy in the house who didn't know the words by heart.