REVIEW: David Gilmour Live at Pompeii

I always considered the breakup of Pink Floyd to be one of the greatest misfortunes of rock-n-roll history. As talented as they were individually, it was their collective efforts which made them one of the greatest bands in history. But as a fan, there is certainly nothing to complain about. They gave us 6-8 incredible albums that will live on forever. And even now, well into their seventies, they separately work with other musicians to perform the music they created together. David Gilmour Live at Pompeii is a concert film of Pink Floyd’s legendary guitarist. It’s a happy celebration for Gilmour and a bunch of talented musicians. They commemorated Pink Floyd, honored the memory of Richard Wright and played a few new tracks which most of us had never heard.

Pink Floyd first recorded in this ancient Roman amphitheatre 45 years ago. It was a critical time for the band as they continued to evolve creatively without Syd Barrett, the genius guitarist who co-founded Pink Floyd. The mega-success of Dark Side of the Moon was still a year away. Released in November of 1972, Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii was a surreal rock documentary of spacey echoes from ghosts of ancient times. Here is that show in its entirety:

David Gilmour Live at Pompeii 2017

My greatest takeaway from this new performance by Dave Gilmour and his team was their careful effort to give the audience what it wants. Floyd fans are happy to hear a few tracks from Gilmour’s latest album, Rattle That Lock. But let’s be serious; we attended this show to hear the tracks we’ve already heard a thousand times. And that’s exactly what we got. 10 of the 14 songs on the setlist were Pink Floyd classics.

  1. 5 A.M.
  2. Rattle that Lock
  3. What Do You Want from Me
  4. The Great Gig in the Sky
  5. A Boat Lies Waiting
  6. Wish You Were Here
  7. In Any Tongue
  8. High Hopes
  9. One of These Days
  10. Shine On You Crazy Diamond
  11. Sorrow
  12. Run Like Hell
  13. Time/Breathe
  14. Comfortably Numb

I can name an additional 14 songs I wish they would’ve played. I would’ve happily stayed in my seat for another two hours to hear it all. But the above setlist was a good selection which likely pleased most fans. The diverse group of musicians that Gilmour chose to accompany him were also well-considered and perfect for the show. Guy Pratt, in particular, completely nailed his vocals on Run Like Hell. The same can be said for Greg Phillinganes during Time and Chuck Leavell during Comfortably Numb.

Bryan Chambers, Lucita Jules and Louise Clare Marshall contributed the oohs, aahs and other backing vocals. Their rendition of Great Gig in the Sky was nice. But who could ever match the perfection of Clare Torry’s original recording from 1972? Chester Kamen hit all the right notes while playing a variety of guitars. Steve DiStanislao was excellent on drums, especially during Time.  João Mello was superb on the solo sax portion of Time, but maybe got a little carried away on his solo during Shine On You Crazy Diamond.


David Gilmour Pompeii

And what more can be said of David Gilmour himself? Mild-mannered as always, the father of 8 now has the grandpa look of Ernest Hemmingway. He’s a sharp contrast from the shirtless hippie who played here in 1972. But aside from his appearance, he’s clearly still the same man who prefers to let his guitar do the talking. And he still has the sharp skills to play the songs in the way we’re used to hearing them. His thick, veiny arms have played a lot of great music. And he certainly appears to enjoy working with this group.

Gilmour and his team performed 50 shows in Europe and the Americas a couple of years ago to promote the Rattle That Lock album. David Gilmour Live at Pompeii was recorded by director Gavin Elder during their performances on July 7th and 8th of 2016. It was the first public performance in the Pompeii amphitheater since 79 A.D., the year Mount Vesuvius destroyed the city. The 2.5-hour show was broadcast in cinemas worldwide the week of September 13, 2017. Take a look at the smiles and light-hearted camaraderie of the band as they play Run Like Hell:

A Boat Lies Waiting

The most pleasant surprise of the show was Gilmour’s heartful dedication to his friend, Richard Wright. The soft-spoken Pink Floyd keyboardist sadly passed away from lung cancer in 2008. You can hear the pain of this loss in Gilmour’s somber lyrics:

What I lost was an ocean
Now I’m drifting through without you
In this sad barcarolle

Here’s the studio version of A Boat Lies Waiting. Article continues below.

Which One’s Pink?

Unwilling to be outdone by Gilmour’s latest efforts, Roger Waters is currently in the middle of a worldwide tour that includes more than 115 shows. That’s a lot of touring for a 74 year-old man. While Gilmour appears content to ride off in the sunset in these later years, Waters clearly still has an axe to grind. On his website, it says his tour features songs from “the greatest Pink Floyd albums.” And then it lists them: The Dark Side of The Moon, The Wall, Animals and Wish You Were Here. Just in case you didn’t know, Waters wrote most of the lyrics on those albums.

Now, let’s get one thing straight right here and now…those four albums are indeed Pink Floyd’s greatest albums. And that’s a fact. I’ll entertain your attempts to tell me otherwise, but my mind ain’t changing. Nonetheless, it’s amusing how Waters and his ego need to make this point and discredit the Pink Floyd albums that were made without him.

We now have this very unusual scenario where the legendary rockers of a great band are separately touring the world and playing the same songs. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another great band to end up like this. It’s nothing new for a band to break up. But when the principal members of that band still wish to tour and make money from their hits, they usually figure out a way to bury the hatchet and come back together. The Police and The Eagles did it, but Pink Floyd never did.

A Momentary Permanent Lapse of Roger

Although the Pink Floyd split might always be a source of disappointment for the band’s fans, I now believe it all worked out for the best. After all, we ended up getting the best of both worlds. We got the phenomenal albums of the ’70s which they all created together (in spite of ongoing strife). But from 1987 on, we got to hear a newer, more inspired Pink Floyd that was no longer bound to the general angst of Roger Waters.

The Final Cut (1983) was the last Pink Floyd record to include Roger Waters. The other members had very little input in its development. If that garbage album is any indication of where Pink Floyd was headed with Roger Waters, we can only be thankful the rest of the band continued without him.

A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987) and Division Bell (1994) are very good albums. And they certainly wouldn’t have been made if Waters was still smothering the creative development of the songs. The writing and conceptual themes of these albums are somewhat vague and new agey. Nonetheless, they provided Gilmour with the freedom to do what he does best. They also provided a reason to bring Richard Wright back into the band.

Whether you like the old Pink Floyd or the post-1987 Pink Floyd, David Gilmour Live at Pompeii gives you a chance to hear a little bit of both and I highly recommend you see it. CD, DVD and Blu-Ray versions are available on Amazon (link) which include several hours of concert footage and bonus material.

2017-10-11T13:49:23+00:00September 16, 2017|MUSIC|

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