“If Queen and the Who are Rock Operas, then Gilmour and Pink Floyd are Rock Symphonies…”
Going into this I should be clear that I have two major biases towards David Gilmour’s performance in the Royal Albert Hall. The first is that the tickets were a gift as I was there as a charity spokesperson for the Teenage Cancer Trust to which the entire event was in aid of. Honestly, I feel like my opinion may have been shifted if I had to pay the £66-110 ticket price to get in. The second is that I actually got the chance, however briefly, to meet David backstage. And although our entire interaction lasted less than 30 seconds, I feel confident in assuming that we are now best buddies. Think of that what you will.
If the name David Gilmour doesn’t ring a bell, he was the guitarist of Pink Floyd that has pursued a solo career since the band’s dissolution. Suffice to say David is probably one of the greatest guitarists still alive today, made famous by songs such as: Wish You Were Here, Comfortably Numb, And Shine On You Crazy Diamond. The event was part of his Rattle That Lock Tour, showcasing his new titular album, hence a chunk of the setlist was pulled from there. And whilst I am familiar by enlarge with Pink Floyd, his solo music was a comfortable addition to an otherwise Floydian setlist. One might even say….comfortably numb.
But allow me for a moment to set the scene, imagine for a moment you’re seated at the back of a large concert hall. The main hall is like a wide basin with rows condense rows of seats blanketed across the floor and sides. Collectively there are somewhere between five to seven thousand seats if you include the booths at the higher tiers. In terms of sound the entire gallery forms an indoor amphitheatre with giant fibre glass mushrooms (acoustic diffusers) hanging from the ceiling. So in essence you’re sitting in a giant amp with a lid on it to make sure no sound escapes, while the ceiling mushrooms makes sure definitely no sound escapes. Every detail has gone into perfecting the acoustics of this hall and each details is an assurance that you don’t leave this gig with your hearing intact.
Gilmour needed no supporting act, in fact it looked like he had sequestered all possible acts lying around into accompanying his performance. In total he had: two keyboard players, a bassist, a guitarist, a drummer, a dual sax player, three backup singers, and David Gilmour’s extravagant alter-ego: David Gilmour. Massive kudos to João Mello the sax player who had both an alto and tenor sax strapped to during some songs, occasionally switching between them on the fly for maximum saxage. Most notably was his solo during ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, a wonderful song that was met with thunderous applause. You might even say the audience took a SHINE to the young, Brazilian saxist.
Looking over previous Floyd and Gilmour performances it’s abundantly clear that half of the entertainment is rooted in the visuals. Pink Floyd were among the first bands to incorporate elaborate light shows into their performances and the Royal Albert Hall was no exception. Above the stage you had a huge projection screen (nicknamed Mr Screen) that has long since become a staple for all-things-Floydian, playing music videos as the songs play that complement the music superbly. Specifically the animated videos from Gilmour’s Rattle That Lock album, were strange, poignant, and at times emotional, sometimes even stealing the spotlight from the onstage performance.
Speaking of spotlights. Surrounding Mr Screen was a rig of about 50 lights that really were the highLIGHT of the visuals – haha okay I’ll stop now. The multi-coloured beams sometimes focussed on one member during solos, sometimes sweeping across the crowd, and other times creating a distress signal for the Pink Floyd mothership to come pick them up. I can’t even say that’s a lie to be perfectly honest. In combination with several other stage lights they were able to create these incredibly phenomenal 3D effects that both bewildered and amazed you.
You’d have a single white spotlight on Gilmour one minute, then as the song picks up the lights flicker and flare into a multi-coloured overture before erupting into a sea of lights that stretch across the hall. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t reach out to try and touch some of the beams, that together with a light fog smoke, had the an extraordinary wave-like appearance. The lighting effects were so intricate and prevalent that you’d swear the technician responsible for coordinating this onslaught of fanatical engineering was insane. Or on cocaine. Or both.
The whole concert lasted around two and a half hours, with an intermission in the middle – a much needed intermission after all those drinks. The music was on point and in a way you were glad for the 100% seated venue as standing for that much time can be exhausting, but personally I’d always rather be standing at a gig and it feels almost restrictive to have to sit during your favourite songs and not get up and dance. The few times I did stand up it was always with fevered guilt that I would be blocking the view of the person behind me. That being said you can’t knock the music on display, with a Pink Floyd reunion well and truly off the table, this is as close to seeing the bands live performances as you can get nowadays and with an ode to purple rain during one of the solos you couldn’t ask for more.
Admittedly I must admit that prior to this I wasn’t a diehard fan of Gilmour or Floyd, I’ve always listened to them on the periphery, never diving into them fully until I was offered to go to this concert. Pink Floyd has always been a slow burn, the type of music that gets better and better the more you listen to it. It’s not a cheap, quick, release that you can whack on, have your way with, and then forget about completely for the next three years. Their music is a slow burn that you invest in over time, getting to feel the ins and outs, and building a steady connection with it that pays off huge in the long run.
If Queen and the Who are Rock Operas, then Gilmour and Pink Floyd are Rock Symphonies, soothing yet grandiose with a gradual build-up into an almost orchestral crescendo. It’s the kind of music you get lost in when you listen to it, in fact I full on lost myself during the gig. Part way through a song my focus just went, I was just drifting through thoughts and ideas as the music played on like a soundtrack to this weird existential moment in my life. It was only when the song ended that I snapped out of it, turning blankly to my friend as I failed to recollect the last five minutes. I still remember nothing of what actually happened during that time. And any music/performance that can do something like to someone, being on no drugs or alcohol whatsoever, is mind blowing. It was a phenomenal gig that I won’t soon forget and has me listening to Pink Floyd and Gilmour far more now than I ever have before.
|Music||Completely spot on, I could not have asked for a better setlist.|
It’s not the frantic rock concert where people are flinging themselves across the stage, it was more serene and subdued which fit the tone of the music. Not to mention some great solos and accompaniments from the supporting band.
Again, I have very few gripes against the Royal Albert Hall. Acoustically it is brilliant, but personally I never enjoy sitting down as much as I do standing at gigs.
The price was definitely a bit steep, I’m used to attending cheap local gigs for £5, so I certainly think I would have thought twice about coming if I had paid for my ticket.