@ Newcastle Metro Radio Arena, May 11 2010

The Australian Pink Floyd just get better and better and better.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the band’s audience appeal.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone who witnessed their latest gig at Newcastle’s Metro Arena will have left convinced – if they ever needed convincing -that they’d just been privy to an awe-inspiring set by the world’s finest tribute act.

But there were probably less than 2,500 inside the auditorium and following hot on the heels of Kiss’s failure to sell out the same venue earlier this month, this region will only have itself to blame if it finds itself missed off the itinerary when UK tours are drawn up.

The Australian Pink Floyd’s dilemma, however, is a unique one and in a strange sort of way their professionalism and the opulence of their show works against them in their bid to attract a wider audience.

They’ve been touring the North East on an annual basis for years, starting off at the Journal Theatre before moving on to the Sunderland Empire and eventually graduating to the much larger Arena.

I’ve seen them three times there and, by some margin, this was the smallest crowd.

At almost 40 quid, tickets are not cheap and I would imagine this is the prime reason for the disappointing turn-out. Yet putting on such a spectacular – and after all a PF show is about the visual as well as the aural – costs money and having added to their show with every passing tour, I would hate to see the band cut back on the ‘extras’, even if it meant a cheaper gig.

Those regular attenders like myself, had no hesitation in splashing out in the knowledge that the gig is worth every penny and with film, graphics, lasers and other special effects – many of them humorously Oz-tinged – the whole experience is not that far removed from the real thing. But it’s now 16 years since Pink Floyd themselves holed up at Earls Court for several weeks.

But how do you convince a would-be first timer that £40 is a price worthy paying for what is not the genuine article? It’s very difficult as was evidenced by last night’s turn out.

No matter. Those who were there saw a band as musically accomplished as any I’ve had the privilege of watching over the years.

The show kicked off with the opening four songs from Dark Side Of The Moon followed by two from Wish You Were Here and two from Animals.

The surprising highlight of the first half was a truly mesmerising Sheep which closed the opening set. Animals may not be Floyd’s most loved releases but the advantage of playing to an audience of devotees is that album material is appreciated and applauded as much as more obvious pleasers such as Time and Shine On You Crazy Diamond both of which were played predictably note-perfect.

The second half was, if anything even better than the first with Ian Cattell excelling with Set The Controls To The Heart of the Son and in his role as the fascist rabble-rouser in the film The Wall, during the encore Run Like Hell.

I particularly enjoyed Fletcher Memorial Home from The Final Cut and High Hopes from Floyd’s last studio album The Division Bell while Damian Darlington’s astonishing guitar solo on Comfortably Numb was Gilmour-esque in its execution.

Negatives?  Apart from the size of the crowd, only minor gripes. The inflatable pig, which I’d expected to show its ugly face during Pigs (Three Different Ones) naturally enough, instead didn’t make an appearance until One Of These Days when most of the audience probably anticipated the trademark pink kangaroo popping up.

Was this a mistake or just a change in format? It hardly matters because the songs, the stageshow and the Pink Floyd experience remains as exhilarating as ever.

Spread the message. Forty quid really is a price worth paying for musical perfection.

Ian Murtagh