My oh my! Tonight was an object lesson in making things difficult for oneself. Mr Gilmour and myself had rather accident-prone evenings, albeit for very different reasons.
To set the scene: Iíve been keeping my head down all week at work to avoid being sent to Bristol and just to make sure there was no chance of missing the shows I had booked leave as well. Last night the MiniDisc was fully charged in preparation, the microphone was tested. All systems go for another addition to my footwear collection.
The day passes without incident; there were no phone calls instructing me to head out west. I work just outside central London so I loitered in the office, intending to head over to the Festival Hall at 6:30.
Just before I leave I make one final check of the MD. Whatís this?!? A flat battery?!?!?!? But how??? It seems I had failed to set the ĎHoldí switch and the machine had started whilst in my briefcase - it
had been running all day and the battery was flat! @£$%^&*!!!!!!!!
So, what to do? Hmm, the machine has an emergency battery pack. But itís at home and will it record from it and if it will, will it last long enough to capture the whole show? More importantly, have I got
time to go home and get it? A quick calculation reveals that I might just make it. However, to get from office to house I have to use the Jubilee and Northern Lines, which are amongst the least reliable lines
on what is a creaking and old underground system. Anyhoo, I run to the station and Glory Be! there is a train waiting for me. One impossible thing is compounded by a second when I catch the second train also
without waiting. This never happens - what foul trick has fate in store to correct such serendipity? I cover the distance to the house in a record 10 minutes.
The battery pack is in one of two places. Oh no it isnít. @£$%^&* typical! Much cursing and swearing ensues as the contents of the offending cupboards are strewn across the floor. Aha!!! (Why on earth
did I put it there?!?) Now itís a race against time: it is 7:55 and the show starts at 8:00. Letís hope the support a) turn up for the gig and b) play for a while. I drive back to the tube station Ďcos itís
quicker. Another train arrives as I arrive - I am using up a whole year of good tube journeys in one night!
I finally arrive at the Royal Festival Hall at 8:45 - Iíve missed the support so I canít tell you anything about them. From the number of chairs on stage, there were a lot of them. In the interval I meet up with Elek (Zoltan Toth) and as always itís a pleasure to put a face to the name of an Echosian.
He said the support were better than Sparklehorse but frankly a dentist's drill sounds better than Sparklehorse.
Anyhoo, at 9:10 the MC announces that Dave Gilmour will be on soon - I settle in to my seat and set up. The seats on my left are empty, which is always a bad thing. The last thing you need when attempting to cobble together some high quality footwear is a large group of people squeeezing past and commiting their confusion to tape!
The lights go down; David Gilmour appears on stage, wearing dark trousers and a blue shirt that is much smarter than the T-shirt and jeans he wore for Meltdown, fashion fans. Obviously he is smartening
up for the cameras. But whatís this? There is a disturbance to my right as an usherette guides a latecomer to their seat *next to me*.
Curses! I am bound to be spotted! I stand up, cradling the recorder out of sight, praying I donít press any buttons I shouldnít cos DG is on stage and has started playing. Just to make my discomfort yet more
acute, they both trip over my briefcase which was left under my seat and then to add insult to injury the usherette proceeds to return whence she came, disturbing us all over again. I despatch her to the other end of the row where there are fewer people to disturb - ones who arenít trying not to be spotted by officious members of staff. And so I settle down to watch the gig, constantly distracted looking for signs of failing batteries. Stress? You donít know the meaning of the word! :-)
Well, if youíve got this far you must really want to hear about the show, so Iíll tell you.
David opened in customary style with Shine On You Crazy Diamond Pt 1-5. For those familiar with the Meltdown show, it was a near carbon copy, apart from Dave Gilmour hitting a bum chord. Yes, really! It wasnít especially noticeable audibly, but a rapid change in an odd place gave it away visually.
Then came Fat Old Sun and just as at Meltdown, it was executed beautifully. I said it then and Iíll say it again now: close your eyes and it could be 1970. Then after some fiddling with effects, Gilmour launches into Coming Back to Life. This is quite a mellow version, not kicking in quite as strongly as it sometimes does - perhaps the audience arenít ready for something as (relatively) up tempo this early in the show. Then comes the first surprise of the evening as we are treated Sydís Domino. Gilmour does it justice. After that itís back to familiar territory with High Hopes, complete with scorching slide guitar solo. Then as an extra treat the choir of 9 backing singers reprise some of their parts, which comes over really well.
Next up is a reprise of Je Crois Entendre Encore from The Pearl Fisher and hot on itís heels, Smile, the 'new' one, which hasn't changed much in the six months since Meltdown. Gilmour is concerned about the state of his voice at this point but gets through both without obvious trouble.
However he does muff a line or two in Smile, as he did in Coming Back to Life and in High Hopes. Perhaps he was under-rehearsed, perhaps (like me) familiarity with the task had allowed some complacency, perhaps it was just nerves. But given the near perfection of Pink Floyd shows,
even the smallest error is noteworthy.
Then comes the next (and biggest) suprise. "Right" says DG, "Iíd like to bring on Richard Wright now". Holy smoke - Iím in a building with half of Pink Floyd! (or 2/3 if you prefer) The plan was to do Breakthrough from Broken China, but frankly they made a complete hash of it. Rick knew it, but no-one else did. Gilmour muffs some more words and Dick Parry goes AWOL when a sax solo is due and so they stop playing and drag Dick back on. In a David Gilmour interview in yesterdayís Times, there was mention of Gilmour asking Rick to play but at the time of writing, Rick had yet to show for rehearsals. It showed. But it was good to see Rick back on stage and he seemed to enjoy playing. The audience
was indulgent, as audience always are with rock legends such as these, but really it was just sloppy. Gilmour made amends with a nice solo at the end though.
But enough whinging! Next up is Wish You Were Here. Rick takes over from Michael Kamen on the grand piano (he was using an old electric piano before) and adds some atmospheric chords. Normal service is resumed. No mistakes, just another great rendition of a truly great song.
After that weíre into Comfortably Numb. Robert Wyatt has been invited back to give a repeat performance of Roger's part and he is noticeably more assured than he was at the Meltdown show. But what of the failing batteries I hear you cry? Well thankfully the MD is still going strong but now time is against me. The clock marches remorselessly past 71 minutes as Gilmour launches into the big solo...and for the first time in my life I want a David Gilmour solo to end quickly. Amazing, but true.
Fortunately for me, he obliges. It's just not the done thing to change discs during a song.
Next up is Richard Thompsonís Dimming of the Day. Gilmour plays this very slightly differently, but youíd only notice if like me youíve spent the last 6 months working it out based on the Meltdown version. The last song of the main set is Shine On You Crazy Diamond Pt 6-9, and it is
another carbon copy of the Meltdown show. As the song draws to a close, the other band members depart, leaving just Dave, Dick Parry and Caroline Dell, the cellist.
And so to the encores, which consist of a competent version of A Great Day for Freedom and then another trip to left field for Hushabye Mountain, just as at Meltdown.
This was a good, not outstanding show but for me it's always a pleasure to hear David Gilmour play, even on an off night.