Review: El Monstero at the Pageant, Friday, December 17
It takes cojones to play a set that, save for one song, draws entirely from Pink Floyd's The Wall -- when Roger Waters himself played the entire album in your town less than two months ago. But the masterminds behind El Monstero, St. Louis' annual December Pink Floyd tribute supergroup, have never lacked for stones. Or anything else for that matter. Case in point: This year's edition of El Monstero features confetti, smoke, scantily clad pole dancers, about twenty monitors displaying evocative footage and much more. All of this takes place on a brand new stage that extended from midway on the Pageant's stage over three quarters of the pit, thus allowing for a theater-in-the-round setup with seats on all of its sides. Needless to say, it's an immersive show; while ironic considering The Wall's themes of isolation, the stage set-up made for a thrilling communal experience.
The band wisely unfolded this spectacle gradually, escalating it throughout the first of two sets. This allowed the audience to take in the masterful performance from the group with minimal distraction. El Monstero immediately instilled drama into the air with the striking opening of "Is There Anybody Out There? (Part I)" and built tension as they transitioned into "The Thin Ice." When they hit the part where the full band jumps in, the group demonstrated how well versed they are in Floyd's sound: Drummer John Pessoni crushed the downbeat, minimalist pattern with style as Bill Reiter and Jake Elking rained down the oppressively dark organ drones. All the while, Jimmy Griffin and Bryan Greene set off mournful screaming leads that perfectly captured David Gilmour's bluesy feel.
The two would trade off accomplished solos in this vein throughout the night, feeding off each other's abundant talent. And with his strong, clear pipes and broad range, lead singer Mark Thomas Quinn made an excellent Roger Waters surrogate. Quinn also played the role of The Wall's Pink with great aplomb, seeming equally at home flashing rock star poses as he was crooning a ballad at his side stage's mini-room setting, complete with a lamp, chair and Jack Daniels. Griffin also acquitted himself nicely in taking on Gilmour's vocal parts by bringing a tender, slightly breathy feel to the material.
As expected, bigger songs such as " "Goodbye Blue Sky," "Hey You," and "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)," received the best reception. (The latter even featured a deranged teacher to recite the famous "If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding" speech.) Actors like him portraying everything from vapid girls to fascist policemen would pop in from time to time to sell us on Pink's world and pay tribute to Floyd's grandiose arena show. Because of superb pacing, these actors always enhanced and never overwhelmed the action.