Pink Floyd, Queen, and Rush were my high school “Holy Trinity”. When the Pink Floyd “divorce” happened (Roger Waters left the band), I sided with David Gilmour, because even though Roger wrote some great songs, David has the best melodies, in addition to singing most of the leads. And I gravitate more to the post-Roger Floyd albums – the only Roger solo album I really enjoy is Radio KAOS (and don’t get me started on the horrible mess that is The Final Cut, supposedly Roger’s final Floyd album but really a messy try at a sequel to The Wall).
Anyway, whatever David Gilmour is doing I will check out. I was extremely tempted to go and see him with the classic Floyd lineup at Live 8 last summer, but it was pretty short (only 20 minutes). When I heard he was coming out with a new solo album, On An Island, and a short tour, I knew I was going if he was in North America. Toronto was a surprise, but it was on a weekend (always important – the New York shows were during the week) and we had a good time prior to the show.
We got to Massey Hall about ten minutes before showtime, with lots of signs letting us know he’d be going on at 8PM sharp. I had to use the restroom and was shocked at the length of the line, until I remembered the audience was mostly guys. I made it to my seat (right side, about 15 rows back) with seconds to spare and the lights going out. David’s new album is from a 60 year old man who’s not trying to make Floyd music – if you go in expecting a typical big, bold Floyd album, you’ll be disappointed. He’s getting older, and that’s a theme throughout the album. It’s a sparse, gentle album for the most part, which is why it was a bit a shock that he’d play the whole thing start to finish (with one track out of order) as the first set.
Castellorizon started with a taped intro, then David walked on stage to thunderous applause, slung his guitar on, and tore into the opening solo. Even though the album is quiet, the songs took on added dimension live. On An Island, the first single, brought the rest of the band out, and the beginning of the light show, which was excellent throughout. The Blue and Red Sky At Night had the appropriate color scheme, while the latter song featured David playing saxophone (he learned it for the album). This Heaven was followed by the instrumental Then I Close My Eyes, which featured the legendary Dick Parry on saxophone. Dick is the original saxophone player who was featured on Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here. At this point David introduced the band, which included members who’d played on several Floyd tours, like Jon Carin on keyboards and guitar and Guy Pratt on bass. The audience’s love went largely to Richard Wright, the keyboard player from Floyd. Next up was Take A Breath, the most rocking song on the new album, which sounded like it would have fit comfortably on side two of Momentary Lapse Of Reason. The lights and smoke were very intense during this song, setting off a smoke alarm, with the funniest exchange of the night:
David : “What’s that sound?”
Fan: “Roger’s trying to get in!”
Smile (also performed on the Meltdown Concert DVD from 2001) took the energy down a notch, then he wrapped up the set with A Pocketful Of Stones and Where We Start, telling us he’d be back in a bit. I took of advantage of knowing the order to get close to the aisle and hurrying back to beat the bathroom lines after the set. I thought about getting a shirt then, but the lines were long for the merch too. We returned to our seats, and it wasn’t long before the lights went out again.
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V) started off the set. In the Meltdown Concert, he’d done the song solo, and here he melded the two approaches, starting off solo and slowly bringing the band in. I won’t lie, Wish You Were Here is my favorite Floyd album, and this is the musical high point of that album. David’s playing was perfect, and the band was in total synch with him. Dick Parry’s solo was amazing, my favorite part when he flipped the two saxes he was carrying to switch them. Wot’s… Uh The Deal is an obscurity from Obscured By Clouds (bad pun, I know). I bought the album when I saw he was featuring the song on this tour. I knew that Floyd had done a couple of soundtracks (this was for a film called “The Valley”), and was surprised it was from 1972, right after Meddle and before Dark Side Of The Moon. The song is outstanding, a folky Waters/Gilmour rumination on life that wouldn’t have been out of place in the first set.
Next was Wearing The Inside Out from The Division Bell, sung by Richard Wright. Interesting fact – that song did not back the tour for that album, so it was revealing as a live tune. The Division Bell is one of those albums I know every inch of, and it was a great joy to finally see that song live, and hear that great solo. Fat Old Sun, from Atom Heart Mother followed, and that was the only slight disappoinment, as one of the songs he’d been rotating in was Coming Back To Life from The Division Bell, which is my favorite song on that album, and that would have been its spot. Can’t complain too much, as next they went into the Dark Side Of The Moon medley of Breathe -> Time -> Breathe (Reprise). Time is my favorite song off that, my favorite lyrics and music from that album:
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an off hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way
And it was again crucial to have Richard Wright present, as Time is a duet between him and David. The end of Breathe segued into the beginning bell of High Hopes, another good one from The Division Bell (I think the only songs I’m not fond of from that album are What Do You Want From Me and Keep Talking). To close the set, they brought out the epic Echoes from Meddle, for its first live appearance in over 30 years. Now Meddle is an interesting album to me – it’s when they start disassociating with their psychedelic past and start on the progressive course that they essentially founded. My favorite Floyd song, One Of These Days (used to nice effect on last week’s Sopranos), leads off the album, and I like Fearless, but I’ve always been torn on Echoes, mainly because the starting and ending third are classic rocking Floyd, but the middle third is very experimental and the song comes to a screeching halt. But live it was incredible. They started with diffused spotlights on Richard and David, than the rest of the band crept in, then the lasers and smoke started. The middle third finally made sense to me, and I was blown away. I think my mouth was just hanging open for several minutes afterwards.
I’d played Echoes for Jill, and she didn’t like it at all, so she took advantage of those 20 minutes to go downstairs and get a drink and get me a shirt. She returned for the encore, which had the two songs David will be forever identified with. First was Wish You Were Here, the emotional high point of Wish You Were Here to which the audience (which had been loud and enthusiastic between every song, but mostly quiet during) finally gave up and lustily sang along. The perfect finale was Comfortably Numb off The Wall, with Richard sing-songing Roger’s part. David’s rendition of the epic solo was spot on, and a great high to leave on.
A great show that anyone who considers themself a Floyd fan would not regret attending.