Pink Floyd’s music in laser display at the Telus World of Science
review by Talicia Dutchin
There’s something fun about watching lasers strobing and moving along with music, which must be why so many electronic music clubs have them. I’ve been to a few of them and it’s always been exciting to see. This combination isn’t just be limited to dance clubs though—enter the Telus World of Science (TWoSE).
A lot of people don’t seem to know that TWoSE does musical laser shows in the Zeidler Dome (where they do the planetarium screenings). I didn’t know that either, until three years ago.
On October 9th they started up the newest series of these shows, set to Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side of the Moon. I think this is a good choice because the music is quite accessible for both long-time fans and newbies, especially when you combine it with a visual feast of lasers.
On opening night there were 24 of us, who ranged from young children to grandparents. Every so often you’d hear a surprised and excited exclamation from a child about how cool something was, and at least once I heard an adult give a loud “ooh!” at something that delighted them.
I’ll admit that I fall into the newbie category since I don’t listen to Pink Floyd. I have heard their music before, though, and they’re what I would consider stoner rock—very much not the bass-heavy electronica of nightclubs—so I’d thought this kind of laser show would be interesting. And I was right.
The best way I can think of to describe the show is this: a psychedelic etch-a-sketch.
It started with the lasers looping in repeating abstract shapes, spinning to bunch closely together, and then spreading out across the whole ceiling.
You’re treated to a whole kaleidoscope of colours that blend together in time with the instruments. Rapid blue and green spirals enclose a gold and red pyramid rotating slowly, almost in time with my breathing. Then later, a moment of frantic guitars sent spirals flying through every colour possible in rapid succession as they spun faster and faster. Intense moments highlighted red and other dark colours, and the lighter ones were more likely to have yellows, pinks, and pale blues.
It wasn’t all abstract though: there were many moments that the projections became very obvious drawings of items or scenes. When we got to the song ‘Money’, the projections shifted seamlessly into a cash register springing open along with the ka-ching noise. From there we were treated to all kinds of obvious money-related imagery: piggy banks, dollar signs bouncing and rolling across the ceiling, and an abundance of bills “making it rain”, if you will.
The show played back and forth between the two types of depictions, which kept your attention and didn’t allow you to get bored with repetition.
Despite the speed with which the show sometimes spun around and flew across the dome, I actually found the whole thing to be quite relaxing. Since the show wasn’t telling an hour-long narrative story, I let myself drift in and out of focus with the images, letting the ever-changing colours pull me along to different parts of the ceiling. It’s the kind of thing that lets you shut off your mind for a while and just enjoy the trip.
And then before I knew it the moon was sliding onto the screen, rotating slowly to bring us around to the dark side. The iconic triangle appeared, a line of light shot through it to become a rainbow, then a heartbeat travelled along the line. Once, twice, three times, and then it was over.
I was so immersed in the show that it was almost startling how fast the hour went by and I found myself wishing there was another one.
These laser shows aren’t new to TWoSE, however, and a couple of years ago they completely stripped down and renovated the entire theatre to be fitted with a new HD projection system (world-leading with 10K resolution, according to the website), and new seating. I had been to exactly one laser show at the Telus World of Science before, just before the renovations, so I’ve been able to see the difference.
The first time I went was in 2017 and while the show itself was pretty good, there were a few issues in the theatre.
That show made no use of background images and was just projected onto a plain black background mostly in the center of the dome, which was fine but it didn’t really utilize the space. The seats weren’t the most comfortable and didn’t recline very far. The biggest issue I had was the laser or smoke machine right behind my head because it kept making hissing noises and spitting hot water droplets onto me.
This time around all of that was better. The laser and smoke machines were very quiet, didn’t spit water, and were so unobtrusive that I wasn’t really sure where they were at first. The smoke was so wispy and fine that I didn’t notice it until I saw the patterns being created on its surface as the lasers sliced up and through it.
The first thing I noticed about the Pink Floyd show was that this time it made use of the screen to create background imagery for the show.
There were moments where we were in space, watching the galaxy move slowly as we travelled through it. There were moments when portrait photographs appeared and then were painted over with realistic brush strokes until that paint transitioned directly into the line of the next abstract segment. These moments didn’t just occur at the center of the dome, they travelled around the full length of it, right to the edges. And you could see it all in these new seats.
What I like about the new seats is that they’re all big and comfortable and they recline quite far back so you’re able to look up and easily see every side of the show. As someone who is short, however, I had a hard time keeping it reclined all the way and sometimes had to tilt awkwardly over the side so I could lean back more.
In better days they also have a section with beanbag chairs for maximum reclining, but they aren’t available at the moment, for obvious reasons.
Due to safety restrictions, the Zeidler Dome has capped their attendance at 50 people per show and is only running one show per night on the weekends.
Laser Pink Floyd is running every week on Friday and Saturday until November 14. After that, it will be a series of shows set to music by U2 from November 19 to January 3.
And if you’re looking for a bit of Halloween fun, there are a few of the afternoon Laser Halloween Spooktacular shows with tickets still available.
For those who have never been to a laser shows at TWoSE, it’s worth checking out at least once. For those who haven’t been since before the renovations, it’s worth going again now.
Laser Pink Floyd
Telus World of Science
11211 142 Street, Edmonton
Friday & Saturday at 7:30PM
October 9 – November 14