What Colour Is Sound: A Tribute To Syd Barrett, Union Chapel, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

Sounds resound for lost genius
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The Independent Culture

Syd Barrett's mind and music began to crack long before his death in July. He was a casualty of acid overload and schizophrenia, incapable of continuing with Pink Floyd after 1968. Two solo albums offered last fragments from a soul and art stripped bare: fragile, sometimes frightening debris from Barrett's English psychedelic dream. By 1971, he'd retreated for ever.

The Mystery Jets have brought sympathetic friends to this beautiful church, a fine setting forWhat Colour is Sound: a Tribute to Syd Barrett. A kaleidoscope light show gently plays over an altar draped with a Barrett lifebelt, evoking the London counter-culture clubs where Syd once ruled. Patrick Campbell-Lyons from the British 1960s Nirvana hosts, providing an authentic link and, with his song "Cambridge Road" about Barrett's mysterious, week-long 1981 walk from London to his home, empathy for his human plight. "No one wants to go there," he sings.

Assorted London scene larrikins then try on Syd's mantle. Drew from Babyshambles notes the "melodic rabbit holes" he left behind, while Kid Harpoon confesses how "impossible" they are to play. But both find their way in. Kid Harpoon especially gives Syd songs such as "No Good Trying" and his own an equal air of enthusiastic innocence and surreal energy. The eagerness of such callow performers to reach out to him seems touching.

Kate Nash surrounds Syd's "Late Night" with pleasant, observational ditties. But it's left to Lupen Crook to inject some of the malignancy present in Barrett's most broken work. Only referencing the night's subject with a song about "your Mum's knicker drawer" (à la "Arnold Layne"), his inhabiting of racist and rapist characters almost stops the applause. His fault is acting as mad as Syd had to.

This focus on Barrett's later days ignores his role as Pink Floyd's prime sonic adventurer. Television Personalities at least play fuzzed, expansive rock. But singer Dan Treacy more closely recalls the aggravating shambles of Syd's last gigs. Arguing with his own band and the audience, unsteady in purpose and apt to stalk out at any moment, Treacy's own recent work at least mirrors the vulnerability of Barrett at the end. He reluctantly rallies for his old song about Barrett's Cambridge vanishing, "I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives" (complete with address), roughly spliced with "Bike" and "Astronomy Domine".

The Mystery Jets, exemplars of Syd-like English eccentricity, finish things. With white-haired Henry Harrison softly offering advice to son Blaine, all bushy red hair and tweed, they appear to have arrived from their own lost, rustic world. Their sunny pop instincts, heard best tonight on a soaring "You Can't Fool Me Dennis", also give "Lucifer Sam" an urgent kick. "Scarecrows in the Rain", written on the day of Barrett's death, uses his songs' characters as touchstones for fresh imagining. Like the whole night, it's a spontaneous creation. "The Gnome" is bucolic enough to touch faintly Nick Drake's spirit as much as Barrett's, as Harrison intones, "Look at the river, isn't it good..." "Golden Hair" becomes a spaced, funereal climax.

Nothing here matched either the cobweb delicacy or cosmic power of Barrett himself. But this send-off was well-meant, and utterly deserved.

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