If you ask me what my favorite album is, I wouldn’t have an answer, but chances are I’d list “The Dark Side of the Moon” as one of them. Ever since my older brother introduced me to it a little more than a year ago, Pink Floyd’s 1973 album has been one I have played again and again. So when I saw an event called “Laser Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon” on the Museum of Science’s website, I knew I had to see it — especially since “The Dark Side of the Moon’s” 50th anniversary was this past March.
At around 9:30 P.M., I entered the Charles Hayden Planetarium, where “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Pts. 1-5)” from Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” was playing in the background. I sat down in the middle of the theater in hopes of obtaining the best viewing experience. Above on the domed screen was a red-tinted image of the iconic prism with the light and the rainbow, which even non-Pink Floyd fans can easily recognize.
The lights dimmed, and after the laserist’s brief introduction, the initial sounds from “Speak To Me” filled the planetarium. First, an electrocardiogram appeared on the screen, perfectly in sync with the heartbeats that begin the entire album. Then, some of the other noises, such as the ticking of a clock, a cash register, and people laughing were represented on the ceiling. It made me excited for the rest of the show, and I was intrigued to discover that the images I saw at the planetarium matched the ones already in my mind when listening to the album at home — the Laser Floyd show brought these pictures from my mind to the screen.
I don’t want to spoil the experience if you’re thinking of attending, so I’ll only briefly describe the visuals for the other songs. “Breathe (In the Air),” showed sandy mountains that moved up and down. This transitioned to “On the Run,” which despite being one of the songs I listen to the least from the album, was a highlight of the show. The song was accompanied by the first noticeable use of hypnotic spirals. These were super cool and made me appreciate the track a lot more. “Time” was a little jarring in the beginning because of the surround sound system even though I was anticipating the cacophonous clocks and alarms that open the song. There were many references to ancient Egyptian culture through the use of symbols and pyramids before the shots panned out to show a planet (presumably Earth). I think it would have been interesting if the screen also showed the passing of time through a setting sun since the lyrics use the sun to emphasize transience. Next is “The Great Gig in the Sky,” which made me feel like I was falling among the stars. I believe “Money” was the first song without explicit celestial imagery; instead, as expected, there were various visuals of cash. In one amusing instance, the letters of the words on a bill were rearranged to spell out “TIP THE LASERIST.” The seventh track, “Us and Them,” showed the Milky Way, alternating the perspective to either side of it. While I thought the light show for “Any Colour You Like” was a little repetitive, “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” concluded the experience well, even showing a moon (and the dark side of it). Finally, “Comfortably Numb,” from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” was the encore (an unexpected but pleasant surprise); the screen depicted a baby transforming into a man and used similar effects as those used for the songs from “The Dark Side of the Moon.” “Wish You Were Here,” the laserist’s self-proclaimed favorite Pink Floyd song, served as the attendees’ exit music.
I managed to interview the laserist, whose name is Dale Edwards. Dale has worked as a laserist for Laser Floyd since 2013. Her favorite part was “getting to live-fly during the show.” She explains, “During the songs ‘Great Gig in the Sky’ and ‘Eclipse,’ the space visuals you saw were being flown by me at the controls in real-time. It takes practice and tricky maneuvering to time the visuals to the cues in the music. I especially love flying during the finale, positioning the moon directly overhead on the far ‘dark’ side, and spinning it in time with the music.”
I would recommend this show to anyone who is not sensitive to flashing lights. Particularly to those who have never heard a single song on the album, the best (and only) way to listen to “The Dark Side of the Moon” is in its entirety. The Museum of Science’s Laser Floyd show presents a unique opportunity to both do this and see corresponding visuals. Edwards puts it best: “As a concept album, [The Dark Side of the Moon] became iconic not only for its music, but the topics it explored. From greed, mental health, mortality, it takes you on a journey.”