A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 194 – Pink Floyd: Pulse (concert)

Pink Floyd: Pulse (concert) – September 10th, 2010

I have only been to a small handful of non-classical non-school concerts in my life. I was in my high school’s orchestra (perpetual second violin, thanks to poor luck with violin teachers and an aversion to practicing for people who didn’t give a shit about me), so I’ve been to more than my share of orchestral concerts, both school-based and professional. Not that I mind. I like classical music and we’ve been trying to work on going to see live performances more recently. But I can count on one hand the concerts I’ve been to otherwise. And they’re both They Might Be Giants. Weird. I would have seen Nightwish, but their instruments got stuck in Mexico. Alas. Otherwise it’s either just been poor timing or I didn’t know someone was going to be around in time to get tickets.

I missed this Pink Floyd concert due to being too young when it hit Boston. A number of my friends went, but the sad part is that I didn’t know them yet. They were AV crewsters, and I was a nervous little freshman who hadn’t gotten up the nerve to join. Not that I think I would have been allowed to go anyhow. So I missed it. And, well, that sucks. It sucks a lot. It is a fantastic concert, and I was told so more than once later, by friends who’d gone. Including Andy. Damn him!

I cannot help but sing along to this concert. I know every song, even if I’ve never seen Pink Floyd live. I love this band. I love their music. And I have listened to this concert’s album so many times I’ve lost count. I bought it in England when I was in high school on an exchange program and the little LED in the box pulsed steadily for at least three years after I bought it. Pink Floyd, The Beatles, They Might Be Giants and Nine Inch Nails were my staples through high school and well into college. For Pink Floyd my go-to album was Wish You Were Here, followed closely by The Division Bell and Dark Side of the Moon. Sure, I love The Wall, but well, I prefer to listen to it in its entirety. Why yes, I am a snob about that.

My mother shares my love of Pink Floyd. When we’re in a car together, if Pink Floyd is in the CD player or on the radio we will sing along with it together. I bought her this album for her birthday one year and she played it incessantly until my brother hid it. The thing is, while I know that The Division Bell didn’t get great reviews, we both loved a lot on it. Certainly the songs included in the first portion of the Pulse concert are ones we love. And mixed in with some of our favorites off of earlier albums it ends up serving as sort of a live ‘best of’ album. But I realize I’m reviewing the album, not necessarily the concert. I’ve never sat down to watch it with my mother. I have watched it with Andy before, which is nice, since we both love Floyd and it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see the surviving members together on stage, and certainly with Richard Wright gone and, we won’t see this.

There’s a lot of melancholy in the later Pink Floyd material. Yes, it’s there in the earlier stuff too, but the earlier pieces do stand out in this concert as being a little snarkier. A little angrier. A little more like the melancholy of a bunch of smartasses. Contrast Another Brick in the Wall (pt 2) with Keep Talking, which is played just before it. Contrast Shine on You Crazy Diamond, which opens the show, with High Hopes, which is just one song (Learning to Fly) away. One of These Days is an entirely different creature from anything off of the later Gilmour albums. It’s an interesting lineup, especially knowing that this concert was at least partially to promote The Division Bell. Of course songs from that album feature prominently, and personally I enjoy them. But then they’re contrasted with some interestingly chosen classics. And then there’s the entirety of Dark Side of the Moon as the latter half of the concert. Not that I’m not thrilled to watch it and see the entire album played live. It’s one of the best albums of all time, in my opinion. But it does rather dominate everything else, you know?

I really don’t mind the lineup for the concert. I like it. There’s not a single song played that I don’t enjoy and some of the performances – particularly the three encores – are amazing. Knowing the Division Bell songs as well as I do, I’m always pleasantly surprised by the little differences in their live versions. Now, I’ll admit, I don’t necessarily put in a concert DVD to watch it. I do watch in pieces, but since my focus is always on how the music itself is performed, I look away a lot too. I don’t think I’m really qualified to say whether this is a good concert in comparison to other groups or other performances by Pink Floyd. I simply don’t have the background. I do know I enjoy it, and that while they don’t look terribly involved with the audience, Nick Mason and Richard Wright certainly played well. David Gilmour, of course, has center stage here, and he is very into it. So that’s fun to see. And then there are the rest of the band doing more keyboards, more percussion, more guitars, the backup vocals and saxophones. They’re all fantastic, but I have to give standout credit to Dick Parry on the saxophones, who I seemed to catch whenever I looked at the screen, and the three female vocalists, Sam Brown, Claudia Fontaine and Durga McBroom. If you know Dark Side of the Moon, you know it’s got some demanding bits for a singer to perform and Sam Brown and, I believe, Durga McBroom split the biggest part of it and they are phenomenal.

Watching this, hearing my favorite songs, I feel the need to go restructure my iPod’s playlists to feature more Pink Floyd. I’ve got some odd tastes in music at times and I’m sad to say I don’t listen to as much Floyd as I used to. But watching the encore performance of Wish You Were Here, Comfortably Numb and Run Like Hell makes me wonder why that is. Perhaps I need to load up the live performance versions, since they certainly refreshed my love of them tonight. I only wish I’d been there to see them myself.

September 10, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , | Leave a comment

Pink Floyd: Pulse

September 10, 2010

Pink Floyd: Pulse

I have been to exactly four live rock concert shows in my life. I saw a very intimate show of King Missile in the Whisky-A-Go-Go in LA where I was about three or four feet from the stage. (I had to crane my neck through the whole show because the band were slightly above me, obscured by the waving arms of two rows of fans packed into the space in front of me.) I saw Laurie Anderson’s Puppet Motel, also in LA. I saw They Might Be Giants at Haverford College in 1998 in a theater that probably held about 300 people. And back in 1994 I saw Pink Floyd’s Pulse concert in Foxboro Stadium.

I suppose I should say that Pink Floyd, after the Beatles, are probably my second favorite band of all time. I discovered them just before my first year of college back in 1990. Oh, sure, I had been hearing them for years on the radio and my good friend Mike had been obsessed at one time with the Dark Side of the Moon album, but it wasn’t until I was just out of high school that I remember beginning to collect the CDs and really get into the music. My grade school best friend’s mother (and my mother’s best friend) died the next year and I remember practically deafening myself playing Wish You Were Here over and over at maximum volume with my headphones on. I remember how completely blown away I was when I first saw the movie version of The Wall in college. I was writing a contacts database for my mother’s business in 1991 (using Foxfire as I recall) and my musical fuel was exclusively Floyd. Mostly Pipers at the Gates of Dawn. I have vivid memories attached to many of Floyd’s albums. My wilder days when I wandered lost after dropping out of college are to the soundtrack of The Final Cut. I once discovered the Ummagumma two LP in my friend Christine’s parents’ collection. I was spending the week with her in her parents’ house and she was working at the time at Disneyland so I had hours to kill while she was at work. I spent them blasting Pink Floyd, dancing madly around her living room and watching their collection of Blackadder.

By 1994 I had only been obsessed with Pink Floyd for a few short years, but they were tumultuous and influential years that had a lot to do with what kind of person I ended up being. Floyd was part of who I was at that point and had carried me through some pretty tough times. So when the opportunity to see them live arose there was no question whatsoever that I was going to go. I went with a group of friends from high school – who were all about six years younger than me. Indeed if I remember correctly I signed Matt and Jeff out of their dorms and had them spend the night with me so they could attend the concert – so I was their responsible adult chaperon. I borrowed my parents’ Ford Torus and drove down to Foxboro with Matt, Jeff, Caroline and Rachel. I think. My memory is fuzzy. My memory of the concert itself, however, is quite vivid.

It was the only stadium concert I have ever attended. Indeed the only event I’ve ever attended at all in a stadium (sporting events not really being my cup of tea.) It was lightly raining. I remember that security confiscated my umbrella as I was going into the stadium before the show. (I joked at the time that they must have thought it was a strangely shaped bong – which was based on some of the other confiscated paraphernalia.) Our seats were down in the center of the stadium just about dead center, just a little to the left. Not that anybody sat. Everybody stood through the entire concert bouncing and dancing in place and singing along at the tops of our lungs. Intoxicating clouds rolled over us from those in the audience who had gotten their pharmaceuticals past the guards at the gates. I remember reading that the band had a giant blimp-sized pig that was supposed to float over the stadium during the show, but that it was grounded by the damp weather.

Most vividly of all I remember Comfortably Numb. It came near the end of the show and the whole crowd was blissed out to some extent by then. A giant disco ball rose out of the center of the stadium (slightly behind us and to the right) and the reflected white lights from it played over all of us. Down in the floor and along the seats lining the stadium walls. For the length of that one song it was as though we were a part of the show, drawn into the music and joined all together by it. It was a moment that transcended all barriers for me and left me deeply moved.

I realize that none of this is really a review of the movie we’re watching tonight. But this is what this movie is for me. A conduit down which I can slide into these memories of days long gone. The actual concert captured here on film is a treat on its own I’m sure, but the music and the visuals are so evocative that they cannot be untangled from these bits of my history.

I do like having a much more intimate and up close look at the performances here. When I saw the show the band were tiny specks in the distance. Here the camera gets right down on the stage with them. I love seeing David Gilmour at work in particular. He isn’t concerned with dancing about or giving a great show. He’s just sort of laid back in jeans and a black t-shirt, belting out these tunes that are such a familiar place for him. You can see in his eyes that this is just what he does, what he is. The music is effortlessly flowing though him and out of him. Richard Wright rarely looks up from his keyboards. Of the three lead members of the band it is Nick Mason who is the most animated – as he would have to be driving the entire performance with his precision drumming. The three of them are surrounded by a much younger and yet still wonderfully talented group of performers. Bassist Guy Pratt is a lot of fun to watch, jumping and dancing about as he plays. Gary Wallis is enclosed like Mason in a second entire drum kit. Behind Gilmour sway the trio of powerful backup singers. There’s also Dick Parry on sax, Jon Carin providing extra keyboard work and Tim Renwick with additional guitars. Mostly, though, it’s Gilmour, Mason and Wright – three elder gods of prog-rock weaving this spell that they know so well. Doing what they were born to do. Surrounded by a huge complex light show and watched over by a giant circular video screen.

It’s so sad to think that these three guys will never again tour together in this world. That I can never take my wife to a concert like this one. All these moments are lost now in time, with only video records like this one to preserve them. I suppose that this will have to suffice. Certainly it has made for a very mellow and enjoyable night this evening. I’ll take this journey whenever I can.

September 10, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment