THE COMBINED forces of the UK Pink Floyd Experience and Echoes onstage Saturday night in Tel Aviv..
(photo credit: DAVID BRINN)
When the members of the Pink Floyd tribute band UK Pink Floyd Experience landed at Ben-Gurion Airport Thursday night, it might have been the first time in their career that they were greeted by cheering fans, welcome signs and a Union Jack, as if they were the band they paid tribute to. Pro-Israel activists gathered to show their appreciation for the band’s reversal of a decision to cancel their Israel shows this week, originally made due to pressure from Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement activists and an appeal from former Pink Floyd leader Roger Waters, a vociferous BDS advocate. The band posted an apology/explanation on its website that included the statement: “We are obliged to fulfill our contractual obligations to perform in Israel... however, we have changed our set and will perform a oneoff special concert together with Israeli Pink Floyd tribute band Echoes.’'
At the Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv Saturday night, UKPFE did indeed perform, it just didn’t perform any songs that Roger Waters had a hand in writing. It’s unclear whether this was done to appease Waters, who pleaded with the band to cancel, or because there’s some kind of contractual agreement about performing Waters’s songs only with his agreement.
It wouldn’t have been a big deal if not for the fact that Rogers wrote virtually all of Pink Floyd’s best and most-well-known songs, including most of the Dark Side of the Moon, “Comfortably Numb,” “Another Brick in The Wall,” “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” and “Wish You Were Here.” The latter two were dropped entirely from the set, and Echoes was trotted out to perform the rest. UKPFE was relegated to more obscure tunes from Floyd’s rich history, including some early Syd Barrett songs and later post-Waters Dave Gilmour tunes. Echoes was onstage for more time than UKPFE, which was on the ticket that fans bought. It was like going to see Bette Midler on Broadway and having a stand-in replace her every other number.
Fortunately, the fans were there to hear Pink Floyd music, and – in a cup-half-full outlook – they ended up getting two Pink Floyds for the price of one. UKPFE was spirited and seasoned, and Echoes was simply phenomenal – a world-class level Pink Floyd tribute. When the bands joined forces on a few songs, the sound was immense and created a feeling that the audience was seeing something unique. When Echoes played the final song – Waters’s “Run Like Hell” from The Wall – the members of UKPFE stood on sides of the stage dancing and clapping, looking like they would have done anything to grab their instruments and join in. But the long arm of Roger Waters would have none of that, and the sellout crowd was left with an odd hybrid of a show.
It was couched in positive tones by UKPFE bassist and leader David Powers, who said that the two bands represented the “cementing of the UK-Israeli friendship.” And Echoes’s impressive vocalist Kobe Elias said “music wins.”
And if you didn’t come expecting to hear “Wish You Were Here” or other Waterspenned classics, which would have given Echoes way too much stage time compared to the featured band, then you could go home satisfied at having seen a great, one-of-a-kind show.
But as triumphant as it was musically, the compromise wasn’t a victory against BDS and a defeat for Roger Waters. At best, it was a draw.
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