Photographs by Tom Pandi.
During the later years of Pink Floyd David Gilmour became the main contributor to the band as bassist Roger Waters had left and original lead singer Syd Barrett died years earlier. The last two Floyd albums and subsequent solo records from Gilmour have a lot more in common with each other than the records that made him famous in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The fact that both Waters and Gilmour still tour and play Floyd songs (separately of course) gives fans an opportunity to hear the different versions of the band and competing set lists.
The venue buzzed as the first of two sold out shows had people filing into their seats as the sound of oceans gently crashing and birds chirping were played over the PA system for well over forty minutes (the time I spent in my seat before the show started). When the show finally started something as simple as a slow burning guitar solo as an intro had the crowd going nuts with anticipation. Judging by the fact that most of the crowd had on their previous tour shirts probably meant it wasn’t their first time seeing some incarnation of a Floyd-type show.
The stage set up was fairly simple with the band spread out across the stage highlighting Gilmour front and center. Behind the stage was a large circular screen set up that featured individual lights going around fully, able to shoot out over the crowd, or focus as an intense stoplight on Gilmour. The show started with a few songs off of Gilmour’s latest release including the title track Rattle That Lock, which featured imagery of a wide degree of mythology including an Icarus like character who fell from the sky, Medusa and Hades. He then transitioned into Faces of Stone, which sounded like the type of song that The Doors or Bob Dylan wrote when they wanted to get into the weirder side of folk. The screen finally showed Gilmour featuring gratuitous close up shots of his hands playing the guitar, which was easily a hit with everyone in attendance.
Finally the crowd got what it came for as Gilmour and his band started playing Pink Floyd songs, starting with the ode to former lead singer Barrett in Wish You Were Here. Gilmour switched his electric guitar to an acoustic one to strum the familiar song that had people singing along with in full volume giving even more weight to the heartfelt number. Whether Gilmour is playing an acoustic guitar or an electric one, there is a certain recognizable element to his playing that comes with hearing his playing on some of the most well known classic rock songs of all time causing a soothing feeling being able to finally see them live.
Back in high school I used to play bass in my very brief foray into thinking I could be a musician (I just wasn’t very good), but one of the few songs I could play was Money, so seeing bass player Guy Pratt take center stage to play the famous 7/4 beat was a treat. The song is a great satire on wealth, politics and crime and to reflect this there was video being played of coins being dropped all over Dark Side of the Moon records as Gilmour is very much in on the joke regarding his most profitable album. Whenever any memorable Floyd song was played, which was quite often, the air would get thick and smell like the basement on That 70’s Show would have.
Gilmour played about an hour before finally speaking to the crowd, thanking us all and letting us know that the band is going to refresh themselves and come back in shortly to play a second set. Things got crazy psychedelic right off the bat as the band played Astronomy Domine from Floyd’s debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, an album that Gilmour did not actually play on as he joined the band just after its release. An easy crowd favourite was Shine on You Crazy Diamond the partner to the earlier played Wish You Were Here. When the video board would show the close up shots of Gilmour playing you could see just where his power and sound comes from, as his guitar strings seem to be as thin dental floss and his ability to bend them with such ease the bottom string would be exactly in line with the top one.
The sensual jazz number The Girl in the Yellow Dress was reminiscent of solo Sting song showing the range and diversity that Gilmour has been employing in his post Floyd work. The set featured a total of fourteen Pink Floyd songs to the eight David Gilmour tracks, with Gilmour clearly knowing what people wanted to hear on the tour. On tracks like Run Like Hell we were demonstrated the power of an all time classic, it filled the arena with grandness and caused the hair on the back of my neck to stand at attention. Almost all the Floyd songs played like one of the greatest shows I have ever seen while the Gilmour ones, while were not bad by any stretch, didn’t seem up to par with the rest of the set making me wonder if Gilmour only played his own music would he even be able to sell out much smaller venues.
The encore made Toronto’s Air Canada Centre truly come alive as a 1-2-3 punk of Time, Breathe and Comfortably Numb was played. The lights when ballistic during the last song making my eyeballs feel just like the lyrics stated. Like the great poet Eric Forman once said “It’s Pink Floyd, with lasers” is the most apt description of the entire show. I was disappointed I didn’t get the chance to see the other Pink Floyd architect Roger Waters last year when he came by playing The Wall in it’s entirety, but seeing Comfortably Numb and Gilmour at all was a real treat and will go down in my memories as a fantastic experience. How many people can say they saw a member of Pink Floyd live? I now can, and I’m proud of it.