Nick Mason told many stories during the show. | Credit: Matt Perko

Last week’s landing of Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets made no secret about the mission at hand, from the get-go. Mason, the veteran drummer from Pink Floyd through its various incarnations over four-plus decades, has created a project both from the source — in terms of his own presence and been-there authenticity — and in tribute mode, with skilled outsider musicians filling out the ranks, to the early years of the Floyd-ography.

As heard and seen — via a murky retro light show — in its Arlington Theatre concert last week, it was immediately evident that the musical enterprise was one headed back (in time) and out (in spacey psychedelia and progressive leanings). Formed in 2018, Mason’s band seeks to fill in the historical blanks of the Floyd library, taking as its name the album title Saucerful of Secrets. He called on pals bassist Guy Pratt, guitarist-vocalist Gary Kemp, guitarist Lee Harris, and keyboardist Dom Beken, all of whom expertly channel the repertoire, although one can’t escape a certain “tribute band” stigma.

One strong point of reference in this body of work, before the band hopped on its more commercial gravy train with such mega-sellers as Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall, was the ghostly presence of early Floyd alchemist Syd Barrett. The brilliant and twisted songwriter and charismatic figure left the fold, reportedly for a life of gardening, in 1972, but contributed his whimsical psychedelia with such weirdly catchy songs as the band’s first single “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play,” brought back to life at the Arlington.

Personal high points of the night came with “Fearless,” something of a teen anthem for this scribe/music geek, and “Atom Heart Mother,” the peripatetic title track of its 1970 album. 

In contrast to the pithy if strange pop tunes in the setlist, each of the evening’s two sets closed with relatively epic ventures: “Set the Control for the Heart of the Sun,” with an aptly otherworldly title, capping off the first half and the suite-like “Echoes” closing out the second. 

Come time for encores, both the band and audience seemed eager to extend their stay. They gamely tapped into the rambling eponymous “theme song” “Saucerful of Secrets,” with its space-out intro, drum solo and final mock-hymnal release.

For a final bon bon of quirk-pop from the Barrett songbook, the band ended with the cheeky “Bike,” closing a show which freely pushed nostalgic buttons and invited us into a head-tripping night out.

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