Live in Gdansk
Live recordings careen between two equal evils: some are little more than studio-sweetened “greatest hits” compilations, and others aim for authenticity with bad acoustics, a drunken drummer, and the dreaded audience-sing-along segment. David Gilmour skirts both to present us a nice wrap-up of the Pink Floyd’s career with this tightly arranged set of music that’s both technically clean and as emotionally loaded as the original tracks.
Looking old and grizzled, Gilmour, Wright and their back-up men play as if this might be their last show. The big hits are all in there — “Comfortably Numb,” “Speak to Me,” “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” as well as some lesser0known but still engaging songs like “Castellorization”, and “The Blue.” Gilmour negotiates the songs like he’s played them forever, yet still makes them fresh and engaging. There’s never a misplaced chord or an intrusive crowd effect — audience applause fades after a few seconds and you might as well be plugged into the mixing board with the crowd off on an island in the Baltic. On the concert stage, digital display technology gives each band member their own Jumbotron screen. While the bigger view is a godsend to the guys in the cheap seats, it always seems weird to pay big bucks for a ticket to watch the band on TV.
Accompanying this two disc set are two concert DVDs. One is the pre-show set up, explaining why they are in Poland (25th anniversary of Solidarity) and showing the typical shots of roadies setting up the gear, fawning interviews with the locals, and a few historic shots of the 1980s strikes. That disc is fun if you’re really into back stage action, but the other DVD is the concert footage and that’s what makes this collection worthwhile. The musical portion of the evening selects 15 tracks and nicely mixes the long shots over the crowd with ninja camera man close-ups. The song mixes seem to be identical to the audio CD’s but the visual rhythm is pleasantly relaxing, bringing an intimate feel to this show.
As the baby boom fades into the old folks’ home, more and more of these classic rock power houses will fade from view. Their best moments slide to little more than a few stills in a rock photographer’s portfolio and their best music will filter into classical concert hall program along with Beethoven and Mozart. Quality films like this are the fulcrum; success and fame flee in an uncertain past, but the future is now certain. This is what they looked like; this is what we experienced that night so long ago.
David Gilmour: www.davidgilmour.com