Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dark Side of the LPO

The LPO's "Music of Pink Floyd" at Mahalia Jackson Theatre for the Performing Arts on Saturday night.

It really was just like an old-fashioned rock concert. There were hundreds of 50- and 60-year-olds gathering at the Mahalia Jackson Performing Arts Center Saturday night for the sell-out concert by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra titled "The Music of Pink Floyd." If the stage didn't have the 70 or so classical performers, one would probably think it was a normal rock concert. But in reality it was anything but a normal rock concert. This was a coupling of two differing music styles and in the end it won quite a bit of admiration from the rock set rather than from the classical devotees who might have been puzzled by the behavior of the crowd. Perhaps that was because the classical lovers probably expected a bigger role for the LPO than they got. But the rock music lovers have never been adequately prepared to take on the task of listening to traditional classical music or contemporary, modern classical music for that matter. Expectations aside, if one didn't know it was billed as an LPO event, it would almost be like being transported back to the Seventies. There was an impressive laser light show with all kinds of dazzling special effects and a giant screen used for some less-than- satisfying animated effects. The only reason they were less than satisfying is for those of us who recall the original Pink Floyd extravaganzas, the animated pieces were powerful and thought provoking commentaries on society and life. The intermission was a bit surreal because most of the 15-minute period was taken up by a large contingent of older gentlemen and ladies taking care of nature's call or standing in long, snaking lines to purchase more alcohol. The amount of booze being consumed could easily remind one of the Warehouse, a popular venue for rock music here in New Orleans during the time the real Pink Floyd was first touring the States. Ironically, on one of their first visits to the Crescent City, the band found out a truth that still holds true even to this day. Never leave any unsecured vehicle parked on the street. When the truck holding $25,000 worth of irreplaceable synthesizers and other electronic equipment was parked while the band partied and slept, resident criminals availed themselves of the opportunity to enrich themselves. Perhaps it was a valuable lesson the band learned about the Big Easy, because I've never heard of another incident as egregious as that one. Zebra vocalist and New Orleans native Randy Jackson sang most of the lead vocals normally associated with Richard Wright, Nick Mason and Roger Waters, while guitarist Tom Jones did his best rendition of David Gilmour. Suffice it to say he was not David Gilmour, but there were times where he approached the same riffs that made the British rocker a legend while playing with Pink Floyd. Anyone who heard Gilmour's solo efforts wondered aloud why his playing lacked the same tour de force evident when playing along his Pink Floyd band mates. All of the band members' solo releases were similarly lacking. It was always a fact that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. When they played together, they made important, life-changing music. Separately, they were good, but not nearly as transformational or revelatory. But they weren't messengers of God. They were rock musicians. Given the incredible haze of rampant drug usage and alcohol abuse that surrounded Pink Floyd shows, that is a point that is usually lost. The music transcended the performers, suspending moments in time in our collective memory. There was something more to be said about last night's attendees. Aside from the older crowd, there were some very young attendees wearing "Dark Side of the Moon" T-shirts and similar attire. The next generation of Pink Floyd lovers have arrived and while the music may not have as much of an impact on them as it did on previous generations, they are at the well drawing their buckets from those classics and, perhaps, from classical music as well.

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