What does it sound like?:
I must admit to not having listened to this era of the Pink Floyd in 30 years. I watched the Venice gig on TV at the time, and became increasingly aghast. Basically, the more easy going members of “The Floyd” got the band together and after legal wrangles over the name, were back in business, uber-carper Roger Waters declaring “A Momentary Lack of Reason”, “a very facile but quite clever forgery”. I acquired the latter a few years later when I saw a cheapo copy, played it a few times, then passed it on to someone who’d enjoy it more. It was Pink Floyd for the MTV Generation, and you can decide if that notion fills you with horror or delight: I know which side I fall on. This gig is that, in spades. Dave Gilmour, of course, had a living to make, and like all the other remaining Floyds, had released passable solo albums to little success, whereas Roger was playing Earls Court. So you can see why the urge struck them to go back on the road and clean up, just as many other heritage rock acts would between 1987 and 1990 would.
Floyd had filled out a tad in their later years (don’t we all?) with extra musicians to fill in all the gaps, so the sound of this concert is rich. The setlist is most of “Momentary…” (oh joy), “Shine On…”, most of the “Dark Side of the Moon”, “Wish You Were Here”, “One of these Days”, “Another Brick…”, “Comfortably Numb”, and “Run Like Hell”, plus a few others. “Echoes” was performed a few times on the tour, but not recorded here, more’s the pity. So nothing from the earlier era, but what was there was honed to stadium-perfection. The songs are as good as ever, all beauties, pretty much, with a few extra bars here and there, or adopted intros/ endings, more or less. Everyone effortlessly hits their musical marks. Guy Pratt was far more adept on bass than Waters, Gilmour’s bluesy languid tones soar, Rick Wright’s elegiac keyboards are more dignified than the setting or material, and Nick Mason’s drumming remains effective and unflashy compared to “progressive” drummers. Backing singers coo and shimmy sexily. Tapes and sound effects are used as effectively as they always were by the band.
So what’s the problem? Well, in it’s uber-80s way, no cliche is left out; roll your suit jacket sleeves up … DX7 keyboard sounds, synth drums, vocoders; “The Turning Away” (the song “Belfast Child” IMPROVED upon), the god-awful reggae break-down in “Money”, and the toe-curlingly awful (though technically good) saxophonist seemingly on loan from Paul Young. On the concert video the true horror of Scott Page is revealed; long hair, a mullet AND a pony tail, flamboyant sax showboating, all in an Armani suit (with the sleeves rolled up). Mr Page is clearly an entertainment industry colossus, and has been on a lot of big albums, but it really depends on if you like The Alan Parsons Project as to whether you’ll be impressed. Real “what were they thinking?” stuff, though maybe it was intentional by Gilmour, who sought to undermine the seriousness with which Floyd was often regarded. In which case they were thoroughly successful.
The set comes with a DVD of the concert at Nassau, Long Beach, and is, as you’d expect, a great spectacle, and live it would have been even more atmospheric and exciting. The songs are played well, and lights spin, change colour, films are projected, lasers scan, and there are no bargain basement fireworks in the pyro, which will have stained the gussets of anyone too close (surely a nightly anxiety for the band). As a night out, it would be hugely entertaining. But anyone who was in any way aware of their previous mystique would have surely felt just a little shameful at the concert. As i said, this was Pink Floyd for the MTV generation, and essentially of a piece with Bowie’s “Glass Spider” tour, the same year, which evokes very similar feelings of “my band” being taken away and turned into mass entertainment when I watch it. Of course the music WAS mass entertainment; but it was never made quite so obvious. This wasn’t rock n roll, this was show-biz.
What does it all *mean*?
Pink Floyd went from band to brand, and could return to stadium-filling mega-concerts. It wasn’t aesthetic, but I bet it settled a few bills, and greased their transition beyond appealing to dope-smoking teens and heads to the kind of audience that also likes post-Gabriel, post-Hackett Genesis. I can’t decide if they consolidated this disappointing but lucrative development, or moderately clawed back some credibility with “The Division Bell” (the title track of which was probably their last decent song). The “Pulse” shows continued with the schtick above, but more so in the visuals, and marginally cut back on the 80s-isms. Though he’s a pain in the arse, Roger Waters, who has been doing the same kind of show (maximum spectacle, slick band, minimal new and for good reason) is missed, perhaps for an acerbic element to the performance. But creation in Floyd as a group was pretty much gone after the songs written in 1974 that became “Wish You Were Here” and “Animals”, and that’s nearly half a century ago. They became Waters’s vehicle, and some liked that. Gilmour, Wright and Mason understandably wanted their contribution recognised and rewarded. In both cases, as I said, the band became the brand, you get your (highly professional) entertainment then go home. “Welcome to the Machine”. The CD/DVD package is a souvenir of that era, if you would like to recall it.
Goes well with…
Corona beer with a bit of lime in it, Hoffmeister lager, Grolsch, Hedgehog Crisps.
20th November, 2020
Might suit people who like…
Stadium classic rock, Roger Waters, Alan Parsons Project, 1980s Genesis, casual Pink Floyd fans, late Dave Gilmour solo albums.