We just saw David Gilmour’s fantastic show at the Hollywood Bowl, and since that night I’ve been thinking, what makes a particular concert evening absolutely perfectly awesome? Obviously the performance itself, which certainly can vary from night to night, is critical. And of course the staging, sound, lighting, seats (which matter a lot more as the years go by!) matter. Even access to and from the venue counts, particularly given L.A.’s clogged roadways. And, the friends you go with, the party before or after, what you ingest, inhale or whatever you kids do these days are truly impactful.
This night seeing Gilmour rock and roll at the Hollywood Bowl was in fact absolutely perfectly awesome (in the 70s we would have said, “bitchin!”) The lighting and sound was fantastic, the film projections, which were programmed to the contours of the stage’s bowl shaped awning, were amazing. And we had close up seats and the pleasure of attending with great company, photojournalist Armando Gallo and his wife Cheryl, which will forever be a special memory. Yes, bitchin it was.
Last October, we saw nearly the exact same Gilmour show on the same Rattle That Lock tour at the Royal Albert Hall in London, most definitely another of the greatest venues on the planet. While it was a lovely evening featuring the exact same set list, a nearly equal number of selections from Gilmour’s solo and Floyd output, all played beautifully, something felt missing – there didn’t seem to be much enthusiasm from Gilmour and the band – I think it was an off night. Also the location of our seats, which were up where the air was quite thin, afforded us great overhead views (not much hair left on any of the guys), but not the kind of viewing experience you get on the floor, which is our preferred location. In this case, as the tickets were so in demand, we felt lucky to have nabbed seats at all. At the Hollywood Bowl, our seats were nearly front and center!
About the set list, to be specific, we expected this legendary guitarist to include songs from the Floyd, and there were quite a number of these in the mix, including “Astronomy Domine,” “Fat Old Sun,” “Money/Us and Them,” “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” “Wish You Were Here” and closers “Run Like Hell,” and encores “Time/Breathe” and “Comfortably Numb” from their early catalog. These were staples of FM radio in the 1970s and we reveled in their psychedelic, cautionary tones. From later years, by the time when we all had damn jobs, “Sorrow” from A Momentary Lapse of Reason, and “High Hopes/Coming Back to Life” from The Division Bell, rounded out the show.
During the encore, “Time/Breathe (reprise)” from Dark Side Of The Moon called to mind dear departed Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright and the lyrics he delivered so perfectly during Gilmour’s prior tour, supporting On An Island. Somehow it seems so long ago:
Every year is getting shorter; never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I’d something more to say.
…by the way, did you really know that lyric, the scribbled lines? Uh …no
Gilmour has built a long if not prolific solo career now, and it’s true, the recent recording Rattle That Lock is packed with music rooted in blues-rock, with a mix of genres sprinkled in, as it was with his last solo outing. Despite a rather listless title track, there is much to admire in this work, from jazz-club riffs to haunting slow-hand blues. The best of the new songs came off nicely in concert. The first three tracks from the album opened the show, followed later by four additional songs “A Boat Lies Waiting,” “In Any Tongue,” “The Girl in the Yellow Dress (playful, fun),” and “Today.” Standout track “The Blue” from On An Island was gorgeous, a mellow lullaby played with only the good notes (as Jack Black said in The Holiday…. yes, I just referenced a romcom!). On the whole, a nicely drawn set list of solo and Floyd gems.
As mentioned, the films were amazing once again. Gilmour’s production team must be using some of the same tech Waters deployed on the most recent, awe-inspiring tour of The Wall. A few classic Floyd videos were presented onscreen, most notably the surreal, psychedelic movie projected during ”Shine on you Crazy Diamond.” Of the new films, “The Girl In The Yellow Dress” directed by David Madden, was creatively evocative, itself a work of animated art.
Oh, and the music. On this night, Gilmour seemed on fire, grinding out his brand of searing guitar solos gracefully, matching his alternately gravelly and silky smooth voice. His band, mostly returning from the last tour, was professional and tight. Musicians included returning band members, guitarist Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music fame, Jon Carin on keys, guitars, and vocals, Guy Pratt on bass and vocals, and Steve DiStanislao on drums. Joining this time was Kevin McAlea on keys, and Joao De Macedo Mello who supplied expressive winds. Bryan Chambers and Louise Clare Marshall covered backing vocals.
At the RAH I said we witnessed a bit of serenity from a man who has broken a few of his own chains, free of past encumbrances, owing nothing to anyone, and living in the moment. But this time, he absolutely owned the stage, and the moment, blowing away this crowd of Angelinos, young and old alike. And please, if this show comes anywhere near you, get yourself a ticket, get off the couch, and run, run, run like hell to the venue, before the time is gone, and the song over (sorry, just sayin’, it was quite a stretch better than another episode of CSI). Go for it.