The St. Louis only phenomenon is, of course, made up of members of some of the local music scene's most recognizable bands from the past 20 years or so including core members Mark Thomas Quinn (lead singer of Joe Dirt), guitarist Jimmy Griffin (of the Incurables, Walkie Talkie U.S.A. and other bands), guitarist Bryan Greene (of the Wyld Stallyns), bassist Kevin Gagnepain (of Stir, Shooting With Annie and Joe Dirt), John Pessoni (of Stir, the Urge and Joe Dirt), and keyboardists Bill Reiter (of the Urge) and Jake Elking (of Buz); along with saxophonist Dave Farver (of Superjam) and standout backup vocalists Ermine Cannon, Tandra Williams and Melinda (Mindy) Mierek.
Night two of the holiday tradition began with singer/guitarist Quinn high atop a cherry-picker wearing his officer's hat and marching hammers "uniform," hand-held spotlights illuminating his face as he started "The Wall" portion of the show with "In the Flesh."
This year's stage set-up consisted of a bump out of the stage onto the floor and a series of risers across the back with six large vertical screens displaying video behind them. Completing the effects were a light and laser show, confetti cannons, pyrotechnics, smoke machines and, of course, various set pieces for "The Wall." While unquestionably visually stimulating, it seemed subdued compared to last year's over-the-top and in-the-round staging. They set the bar so high with that one (coupled with their outdoor show in July in which they landed an actual helicopter), it was hard to reach it again.
El Monstero performed the entire first half of “The Wall,” as usual, and it seemed to fall a bit flat for the first five or six songs. There were also a few technical difficulties -- Quinn's microphone stopped working at one point and Greene's acoustic guitar mic went out for a second as well. The show finally started to heat up with the sexy, rockin' "Young Lust," as a troupe of exotic dancers and pole aerialists worked the stage and the crowd while sexy female silhouettes danced across the screens behind them and Griffin shredded on the guitar.
They continued through a portion of “The Wall”'s second half, including "Hey You," "Is There Anybody Out There," "Nobody Home," "Vera" (complete with a swan-like ballerina dancing across the stage), "Bring the Boys Back Home" and "Run Like Hell," omitting centerpiece "Comfortably Numb" to save, as they typically do, for last.
They ended the first set with "Shine on, You Crazy Diamond," with standout saxophonist Farver and backup singers Cannon, Williams and Mierek joining the crew onstage.
One of my issues with this show had less to do with the band than the crowd. Granted it was a sold-out show, but the crowd noise, particularly during some of the more acoustic numbers, was so high that it drowned out the band (and the band was loud, believe me). I'll never understand why people pay good money to see a show so they can talk through the whole thing, but sadly, that's what a lot of people did, and it was very distracting much of the time.
The second set began with "Welcome to the Machine," a trippy tune from "Wish You Were Here," followed by a more obscure early Pink Floyd tune, "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" from "A Saucerful of Secrets," complemented by three dancers covered in swirls of neon body paint.
Next was a very nice version of the lengthy "Echoes" from 1971's "Meddle." Following that psychedelic journey, Griffin took a stool and an acoustic guitar and announced, "We're going to do some stuff from 'Animals' now." For me at least, this was the point where the show truly took off. They got a bit more stripped down, turned off the pyrotechnic flames for a bit and really just got down to the music with "Dogs" and "Pigs: Three Different Ones."
Guest vocalist Eric Lysaght (guitarist for Superjam) did a great job on "Have a Cigar" from "Wish You Were Here," then Quinn returned to take it back to "Animals" with "Pigs on the Wing" (again, nearly drowned out by the din of the crowd).
Next, it was time to visit the Dark Side. El Monstero worked their way through the Floyd masterpiece and show centerpiece, “Dark Side of the Moon” in its entirety. Images of black and white swirling clocks splashed across the video screens during “Time,” Griffin and Quinn alternating vocal duties; but the show-stealing performance of the night came when vocalists Cannon, Williams and Mierek emerged from the shadows and to the front of the stage to alternate solos on “Great Gig in the Sky,” one of Pink Floyd's most stunningly beautiful compositions.
Green lights washed over Greene and Griffin as they took turns soloing on "Money" as Kevin Gagnepain turned up the funky bass. Farver returned on sax for "Us and Them."
Once "Dark Side" was wrapped to grand applause, KSHE disc jockey Favazz came on stage to introduce the band, shaking each of their hands as they walked onstage. The band then led a sing-along of David Gilmour classic "Wish You Were Here," followed by the explosive (literally) finale of "Comfortably Numb," with Griffin, Greene and Gagnepain rising into the air on a lift while tearing up the guitar anthem, six-foot flames shooting out of the stage around them.
It was certainly a grand performance (as always) and it is truly impressive the level of production value and detail put into this show -- particularly for a non-touring, local act. My only desire would be to see El Monstero switch up their set a bit more from year to year. Performing "The Wall" and "Dark Side" seem obligatory, particularly for the Monstero "virgins," but I enjoyed some of the less mainstream tunes more (such as the material from "Animals" and "Meddle" and wouldn't mind seeing the set structure have some surprises and maybe even include additional unused material like some of "The Final Cut" or post-Waters Pink Floyd tunes like "Learning to Fly" or "Keep Talking."
Overall, though, it's nice to see a production made up entirely of St. Louis natives consistently sell out a venue mostly reserved for big-name touring acts. This one is truly "ours" and that is in large part why people love it.
All photos by Amy Burger.