Growing up Damian Darlington was enthralled by Pink Floyd’s The Wall like many, not knowing that one day he’d be living a Floyd fan’s dream.
Not many get to play the songs they loved in their youth for a stadium full of fans, and less get to play for, and with, the members of their favourite band.
Darlington, the musical director, vocalist and guitarist for tribute band Brit Floyd started playing in his first Pink Floyd cover band over two decades ago, and his dedication to the prog-rock legends had him playing at one of the all-time greatest guitarist’s birthday parties.
While playing around England in the Australian Pink Floyd Show in the ‘90s, Pink Floyd guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour attended one of Darlington’s shows.
“One thing led to another and two years later we had an invite to come play his 50th birthday party. It was an amazing experience and obviously a nerve wracking one,” Darlington said.
At the party, Darlington was able to play some songs with Floyd keyboardist and master of psychedelic sounds Richard Wright.
“An amazing experience to get to play with one of the original members, with David Gilmour watching keenly in the audience,” Darlington said.
Darlington played Comfortably Numb, the Gilmour-heavy showstopper from The Wall’s second act, in front of the man who wrote it. It was a unique opportunity for both Darlington and Gilmour.
“From David Gilmour’s perspective it was exciting for him because obviously he’s only been on stage playing this music, he’d never really had the chance to be in the audience seeing someone do it the way Pink Floyd would do it,” Darlington said.
That’s the real key to putting on a great Floyd show according to Darlington, it’s not just playing the notes, but getting the subtle sounds and nuances just right. It’s no easy task to nail down the subtleties of one Pink Floyd album, let alone the entire catalogue.
“One thing that’s tricky is getting it to sound right. It’s one thing to learn the notes, but then you’ve got to get the right feel. That vibe that Pink Floyd had as a band when they were playing this music and composing it,” Darlington said. “There’s also the variety of guitar sounds and keyboard sounds that they had on their albums over the years. So getting to recreate that accurately and faithfully is always a bit of a challenge.”
Fine tuning the set list for a show can be a case of choice paralysis. With a plethora of songs and styles spanning decades, it can be tough to carve out an all-encompassing show.
“You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to putting a set list together. There are certain songs you want to put in what you might well regard as the ‘greatest hits’,” Darlington said. “There’s so many other amazing Pink Floyd tracks you get to choose from. We usually try to have a theme for a tour, whether we’re playing full album sides or what have you, but one thing we try to do is to be as representative as we can be of the whole catalogue,”
The band is currently on the Space and Time tour, a nod to Stephen Hawking’s relationship with Pink Floyd, including his cameo on the Division Bell’s Keep Talking, as well as a reflection of the time that has passed in the last 50 years as the band heads into an anniversary marking half a century of music.
Famed tracks like Another Brick in the Wall, Wish You Were Here and Shine on You Crazy Diamond all make an appearance, but Brit Floyd also delves into the deep cuts, taking fans back to the early years with founding member, and inspiration for many later songs, Syd Barrett.
“Perhaps it’s the more hardcore fans who may be familiar with that material, but it’s definitely important to represent that period of Pink Floyd. There would have never been a Pink Floyd if it wasn’t for Syd Barrett,” Darlington said.
It’s been years since a teenage Darlington first sat down to listen to The Wall, not knowing the music would stick with him for life.
“That was my first sort of gateway into Pink Floyd,” Darlington said. “At that early, early age I was influenced as a musician by them and fascinated by the stuff they were trying to say with their lyrics and the amazing artwork and imagery that were associated with them. It was all these ingredients coming together that give me my reason and motivation for wanting to play this music, and dedicate all this time to getting it right over the years.”
The Wall makes a theatrical appearance in the last half of the show, tapping into one of Darlington’s favourite aspects of the band.
“It gives us a chance to put the theatrical aspect of Pink Floyd into the show as well,” Darlington said. “They were sort of famous for the visual side they put on. They were very, very pioneering when it came to a lot of the ways people put a large scale production concert on these days.”