First, let me go ahead and get the rabid fanboyism out of the way now: I am a huge Pink Floyd nerd. Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin were the first two bands that I really loved, the first two bands whose entire catalogue I had to own, and Dark Side of the Moon was maybe the first album that I memorized from beginning to end as a kid.
It is, needless to say, a little bit of a disappointment that I was born twenty years too late to see either of these bands in concert “in their prime” (or at all, for that matter).
For the uninitiated (and the non-Saint-Louis folks), “El Monstero y Los Masked Avengers” is essentially a Pink Floyd tribute act. I don’t like using the term cover band here as it doesn’t carry the right tone. Once a year around the end of December, a handful of musicians from local Saint Louis acts get together and play 6 or 7 nights as El Monstero. The gigs are always at the Pageant, and the proceeds benefit the Pageant Charitable Fund. Incidentally, the same group of musicians also perform a Led Zeppelin tribute in February.
No opening act, no other source material, no bullshit, just three solid hours of the best Pink Floyd has (err, had) to offer.
The show started at eight; we arrived at the Pageant with what I thought was plenty of time to spare. Parking at the Pageant is notoriously terrible for popular shows and this was no exception – it took us almost twenty minutes to find a place to park and walk to the entrance. After wading through the sea of people we made our way to our seats right as the show was about to start. We had aisle seats with a pretty good view of the stage three rows from the front of the reserved seating balcony (the old man in me tends to avoid general admission unless it’s the only option).
It’s worth mentioning that the seating arrangement was a little different from years before: This year, there was “Fearless Stage Seating”. Basically, the stage was extended further onto the main floor and several rows of seats were added around the sides and rear of the stage, creating a kind of faux “concert in the round” setup. This was certainly an interesting decision, especially considering how much of their show is based on “The Wall”, an album that is at least partially fueled by Roger Waters’ contempt for Pink Floyd’s fans.
This year, El Monstero played two sets. The first was a selection of songs from “The Wall”, followed by Shine On You Crazy Diamond. The second set included some early Floyd tracks and “Dark Side of the Moon” played cover to cover.
The band came out dressed in all black and kicked things off with crowd favorites Another Brick in the Wall 1 > Happiest Days of our Lives > Another Brick in the Wall 2, followed by Mother, Is There Anybody Out There?, Goodbye Blue Sky, and Empty Spaces. ABITW1 through Mother was just perfect. ABITW2 included a great guitar solo/jam and a crowd sing along of every high school kid’s anthem, and Mother is one of my favorite sad bastard songs ever.
The next run, however, I wasn’t so crazy about. This is not a criticism of the band – they absolutely performed every one of these songs energetically and perfectly, and the stage presence and light show were spot on. My issue here is with the source material. The Wall has plenty of great songs and rock anthems, but in between that greatness is the occasional filler track. I like Is There Anybody Out There, but it (as well as Goodbye Blue Sky and Empty Spaces) definitely fall into the filler category for me, despite their role in the concept of “The Wall”.
True to the studio album, Empty Spaces segued perfectly into Young Lust, another crowd favorite. As in prior years, Young Lust was complete with strippers and mostly naked pole dancers. Needless to say, a room full of drunken men (and some women) exploded in applause and cheering. The poles were at the edges of the stage, resulting in a view from fearless stage seating that was either breathtaking or awkward, depending on your point of view. This was followed by One of my Turns, complete with a barely dressed groupie and “Pink’s” psychotic snap midway through the song. After this came Hey you (another chance for guitarist Jimmy Griffin to shine) and a beautiful Nobody Home – a song that makes me regret not taking piano lessons more seriously as a kid. Every concert needs the occasional bathroom break – next up was another run of filler tracks: Vera > Bring The Boys Back Home > Goodbye Cruel World. Again, the band performed these tunes spot on and with gusto, and I get what they signify in terms of the big picture of “The Wall”, but they don’t do much for me personally.
A few final songs from The Wall were played next, and this run was an unexpected highlight of the night for me – Run Like Hell > ABITW3 > Run Like Hell, and Waiting for the Worms > Stop. Run Like Hell was perhaps one of the best songs of the night – not only is it a loud, uptempo, high energy rock and roll explosion, but midway through they brought out the Pacific High School drum line for a couple minutes of additional kick ass percussion. I unfortunately do not have my own video of this, nor was I able to find a video from the 22nd, but there is a video of the same run of songs from a few nights earlier (video below taken and owned by youtube user StLouisEarl, who has all kinds of great videos from these concerts).
Waiting for the Worms > Stop, on the other hand, had no extra drum line and no strippers – just four minutes of head bobbing foot thumping Pink Floyd rock psychosis with rumbling bass so loud it shook your naughty bits. Normally this track is filler for me, but El Monstero made it truly excellent, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
Wrapping up the first set was Pink Floyd classic and fan favorite Shine On You Crazy Diamond.
Having moved on from The Wall, the band changed from all black to all white and took the stage for the second set. There was a definite shift here – the first set focused on The Wall and so required a more theatrical approach to performing. The second set consisted of mostly older tunes and classics (I think the kids are calling them “deep cuts” now) and so focused more on playing, jamming, and rocking the crowd.
The set opened with favorites of mine, starting with one of the songs that made me love this band: Echoes. Echoes is from Pink Floyd’s older, more psychedelic rock era, with a studio cut clocking in at nearly thirty minutes. They played the meat of it, jammed for a while, and moved on to a medley of Dogs > Pigs from the album Animals. Both Dogs and Pigs are almost ten minutes each in full, and the band played a little over half of each. When you have decades of material to fit into a single concert and you’re trying to cover a lot of ground, there isn’t really room for ten and thirty minute songs. El Monstero arranged these songs in a way to keep them mostly in tact, but trim overall song length down to something more reasonable and keep the set moving.
As in prior years, the band brought out a guest next to sing on Have a Cigar. As always, he was perfect for this song and channeled Roy Harper’s delivery from the studio cut while making his way around the stage throwing huge wads of fake paper money out into the crowd. This was followed by Pigs on the Wing, another song that’s kind of filler material for me, but it’s short, sweet, and simple, and it served as a nice bookend before moving on to the centerpiece of the set – a favorite of Floyd lovers, classic rock junkies, and Wizard of Oz fans everywhere: the entire album Dark Side of the Moon, played cover to cover.
With the exception of a few highlights, I will spare you the song-by-song details of DSoTM and just say that the performance was equally as excellent as the rest of the show, with the addition of a great light and laser show consistent with what one would expect for Dark Side. There were two songs worth singling out, however: The instrumental track On the Run, and the female vocal driven Great Gig in the Sky. During On the Run I experienced what may have been the loudest, most intense room shaking bass I have ever felt at a concert. Crisp and clean without being muddy or distorted, but so loud and fierce that you could feel everything around you vibrate and at points my vision actually blurred as things around me reverberated. Great Gig in the Sky featured guest vocals from three lovely ladies, and all three of these ladies cried and wailed and belted their way through incredible solos resulting in a standing ovation.
After a brief break, the band came out for a 3 song encore performance of In The Flesh, Wish You Were Here, and Comfortably Numb. While In The Flesh has normally been played as part of The Wall portion of the set in prior years, it worked well here this year as a chance for a little audience interaction and got the crowd on their feet. Wish You Were Here gave the band a chance to show off the quieter, acoustic side of Pink Floyd, and the crowd sang along with the band word for word. Floyd’s rock anthem Comfortably Numb ended the night and gave everyone in the band a chance to shine one more time before calling it a night, ending the evening with one more final burst of guitar solos and rock ‘n roll.
I mentioned before that El Monstero is made up of local musicians who have their own bands and shows around town (The Incurables, Joe Dirt, Shooting With Annie, and Wyld Stallyns, to name a few of many), and seeing them get together and channel classic rock gods once a year is a great motivator to get out and go support these local acts and see them do what they do best on a regular basis.
Have I kissed an awful lot of ass in this review? Yeah, maybe I have, but I think it’s well earned. Calling El Monstero a Pink Floyd tribute act sells all of these musicians short of the credit they deserve. There is no doubt (at least not for me) that every one of these folks knows the music of this band as well as Pink Floyd themselves – they aren’t just musicians, they’re fans. These gigs sell out in short order every year, and for good reason: In a world with no Pink Floyd, El Monstero is as close as you can get to the real thing.