With a little stroke of luck from one of the sales reps at my mom’s work I was able to score seats at what was probably 20,000 people packing Toronto’s Air Canada Centre tonight. It’s amazing that David Gilmour could even hear himself play let alone sing over the the thousands of voices who sang right along with him for just about every song except for the new album material. A brilliant display of sight and sound, however a few minor snags in the beginning that was very quickly corrected and pushed forward with a almost three hour delight spectacular performance from the REAL guitar slow hand himself. Sorry Eric Clapton and all you Clapton fans but Gilmour has this one now, you’ll have to share that title! At 70 years old David showed no signs of being tardy or slowing down as far as putting on a fantastic show. Some of the more familiar songs he has since stretched out to newer versions of the guitar solos and even the way he approaches how he sings them in spots as well but we all followed along just nicely.
Prior to the house lights going down we are teased with snippets of old Pink Floyd soundscapes, the “ping” from Echoes, bird songs, the voices from the Dark Side of the Moon album, the mechanical sound of the “lift” at the end of “Welcome to the Machine” and various other bits to whet our audio and metal palettes for an evening of sounds that are of one David Gilmour. Opening the show with the lights down and haze of purple lights illuminating the stage to the song, “5 A.M.” a brief instrumental that sees the crafty guitarist strutting his stuff in a stout pose as the notes emanate throughout the arena and fill our very beings. Wasting no time we snap right in to the title track and tour signal off the album, “Rattle That Lock” to where we found the brief encounter of iffy sound, the bassy vocals on David’s mic and the over powering drums but was adjusted and we’re back in the saddle for the remainder of the song. Foot and toe tapping, head bobbing and shoulder rolling we all got our groove on to this swaying rocker of a song. A jive groove that you can’t help but song along and do a little air guitar along the way. “Faces of Stone” is next and we have a brief but interesting interlude of sound kerfuffle once more and for the last time for the evening as David starts to sing then stops and the band replays the intro and he gets on with it. A slow dirge like song that has a sombre melody to it but still have enough guts to get us through the track no problem. We’re three new songs deep so it’s time to pull out a more recognizable song here…. “Wish You Were Here” erupts the audience in to a frenzy of a campfire sing-a-long session with the band. The band could have just played as the thousands of people singing filled the arena with blissful and somewhat already drunken harmonies but that’s all part of going to a major concert like this right?! A very sublime approach here to the 1975 classic album title track and prominent featured song so far and delivered with flawless uninterrupted flow. Having played this song umpteen million times since 1977’s In The Flesh Tour there’s really no way one could screw it up right? Well there was that one time during the 1994 Division Bell tour but I digress, they did it beautifully and we all sang along and lost our Floydian minds to it as it was the first retro Pink Floyd song of the night.
The choral beauty of “A Boat Lies Waiting” follows up and a fitting tribute to the late Rick Wright as he would often sail his boat between tours and on hols and a simple yet cordial way for David to be able to finally say goodbye to his friend. “The Blue” segues in nicely as the next song from Gilmour’s “On an Island” album released March 6th 2006 (David’s birthday btw), a gentle sway and easy going song that gently takes us just passed the halfway mark of the first set. Not a big sing a long song but we all cheered it on as much as the others. Gilmour’s voice still has that swoon to it that he has carefully kept in tune and in touch without losing it once as he sang in that mid range troubadour tone that had us all in rapt attention along with some brilliant flamboyant guitar work at the end. The giant projection screen, known as “Mr. Screen” the name they gave it would occasionally give us some great close ups of Gilmour singing and playing along with clips of the rest of the rest of the band. The sheen coming off his guitars was immaculate, I have never seen such a shiny guitar in my life! Even when he played the old worn our Telecaster that you can see on the cover of his 1984 Lp “About Face” was extremely shiny! The strings, neck, frets, body all gleamed in the basking stage lights and shot out across the auditorium in a beam of glistening light as he tugged away at the strings and make them just sing to us.
Back to basics, “Money” drops on us to another uproar of audience mayhem and participation as the band crank out the 1973 classic from “Dark Side of the Moon“. At the sound of the first drop of the change coins in the bowl form the tapes they were recorded on the place just went ballistic and by the time the drums snapped in to the opening featured riff we were all ready for some bouncing in our seats and sang our hearts out with David as he belted this one out with strife and promise. The screen projected films that were both familiar and have been used on several tours in the past, probably even form the 70’s old tour films. Some things have been vamped up for modern times like currency appearances and some of the newer images of what money is all about but when one sees images of Concord jets and old English football teams we know they kept the old films intact. Guy Pratt on bass always entertained me when he’s on stage and he didn’t fail to deliver tonight either starting earlier on but really letting loose during “Money”. He does this 20minute workout foot stomping movement about and it’s almost like his feet have fallen asleep and he tromps around the stage to get feeling back in them! The most active band member to watch on stage next to the groove moves the backup singers are doing.
Following up via the album the band segues in to “Us and Them” with a wonderful take on another DSOTM Lp track sparing no expense on the sound and playing it note for note to our contentment as we all again sang along in unison but by now there were some people who always feel that they need to sing louder than the band and everyone else so they can hear themselves a few rows back from us became increasingly more as they got more and more in to the show. We all had a good time including the guy in our row who was clearly on mushrooms or something as he was non-stop from the moment he walked by us, harmless and entertained which leaves me wondering if he remembers last night at all? To gloriously uproar applause they waste no time going in to another new song, “In Any Tongue” accompanied by an animated video of a war scene in a country like Afghanistan with soldiers and children caught up in the violent turmoil of war. The new material is not thematic like the Floyd canon of records tended to be from ’73 onward but more thematic in the story they tell and that they are a facet of the album rather than an extension of the album itself. About the futility of war and fighting from a distance via drones and being on the ground and having people killed over things that really aren’t necessary. A profound statement put to music and striking footage that speaks volumes that war is hell and we really shouldn’t be raging it anywhere. “High Hopes” closes out the first set with the whole band in full swing and this is one of the songs that has some slight alterations to it vocally and musically to a more mature standpoint. The final song from 94’s Division Bell album that rings out as a closure to a great many things from the past for both David and the audience. A remembrance of things past and how sweet life was as children and being young and how things have changed since and we are now grown up and had to move forward but still try to hold on to those little bits of life. Times change, life changes and we move on.
A 15minute break and the house lights drop out and we’re taken back to the year of 1967 with Pink Floyd’s first song from their first record, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” with “Astronomy Domine” in a full on assault of psychedelic freak out sight and sound show as the band pounds and rips through this one in a full scale acid trip deluxe track that has the place in a frenzy of old school Floyd heads throwing their arms in the air and air guitars in full swing as we sing along and flick our wrists in guitar rock motions. The laser light show gives you visualization of what their shows were like back then and it’s an all guy jam on stage as the band hammers and plows through this one with titanic might rendering us numb by the time it’s over. Guy Pratt even pulls out the Rickenbacker bass for this one for nostalgia and just lets loose with it.(Btw if you order a Rickenbacker bass or guitar..lead time to get is at least 18-20months!) One thing throughout the show was the snare drum sound, it was like the snapping of massive tree branches with every hit and depending on what song was being played you got this shock wave of sound smashing up against your chest and during Astronomy you REALLY felt the immense power of the drums as they rattled your body and vibrated you from your head to your feet with thunderous pulsations again and again. They calm us down…sorta…with the next song that attained another mammoth rave of applause, “Shine on You Crazy Diamond parts i-v“. A 1975 two part song split from the “Wish You Were Here” album that was originally performed as one long piece in 1974 and early 1975 until they decided to finally split it at the Vancouver show April 8th at the P.N.E. Coliseum with “Have a Cigar”. Gilmour’s guitar work is exceptional as he cuts each note right from the fretboard with absolute precision and clarity over top the dreamy synthscapes provided. With every other well known song this one is no exception where the band could have just played the music and we all sang the song for them as the jammed packed ACC was still in full swing to carry a tune. A tour de force track with excellent musicianship displayed here carried only more so by the visual conceptual video to go along with it. Striking sax solos in this one and graceful backing vocals add flare and spice to this mellow piece that does the Prog necessities of timbre/tempo changes to a swayed and never frayed ending as we are dwindled down to a crawl in the song’s finale and to the lights going low to blackout.
“Fat Old Sun“, this pastoral piece from 1970’s “Atom Heart Mother” Lp and a charming David Gilmour composition that was toured during the 1970-1971 period at lengths of 15minutes at times comes to us at a little under 7minutes here but not without a great guitar solo at the end and a to rave applause surprisingly at first to me but then I looked around and realized that the crowd at this show were all roughly my age group up to people in their 70’s so there was a lot of people who knew songs besides the “hits” which was a joy to see and hear. One of my favourite pieces and a great song to pull off on acoustic guitar when you want to toy around with it. Returning to the Division Bell album we are graced with “Coming Back to Life” a humble display of both Gilmour’s voice and guitar work here as the band gently passes through this one and continues to bring the mood down to a calm Floydian mentality again through the persuasive licks that Gilmour pulls off of his guitar and through his easily recognizable tone of voice. The distinct Gilmour shuffle to his songs is ever so present here as the band plays on and Gilmour shakes off the dust and sings to us in his stout and prominent English voice and his equally English style of playing not cutting corners ever. Aside from a quick hello to Canada earlier he finally speaks to the audience which Gilmour is not one for really small talk but he breaks and introduces the band to us as well reign a hail of applause down on everyone especially Phil Manzanera who was last in line for intros. Then Gilmour pulls off a Monty Python line to which I don’t think too many people got or got after the fact with, “And now for something completely different.” as they go in to another new tune for us, “The Girl in the Yellow Dress“. A sultry Parisian cafe club song that pulls you in to the dark night of a smoke filled club with faces and no names as you watch this woman in yellow catch the eye of every guy in the room as she “moves like a flame” in the song. The video looks a lot like the artwork of one PJ Crook who’s wonderful images have graced many a King Crimson album covers over the years and who is as well a wonderful person to talk to about that. The video is watery and just as sultry as the music as being played as we are taken away to another time and place where romance and lust go hand in hand as this woman carries you through the twilight of the evening. “Today” the last new track we are presented with for the evening is a great rocker tune that starts off chorally slow then jumps right in to a funktified groove that has you toe tapping away as you can’t help but move and sway to the beat of the music. Not a heavy hard hitting song but a song that has an itch to scratch and has your hands now clapping along as the song does some great tempo/timbre changes and the backing vocals are splendid as they keep the vocals smooth and carried throughout. The jiving keyboards smash like waves on the shore as the bass sets moods of bounce and backup to the bending guitar notes that tug at your heart to help your fingers bend along with them as you still do a little air guitar to that one note. One of the more upbeat songs form the new album that has the signature Gilmour guitar solo where what he does with two notes so many others couldn’t do with the whole fretboard.
One of my favourites from 1987’s “Momentary Lapse of Reason” album is next and it just decimates the audience who by now are sounding like they’re running out of steam or saving what they have left for the encores. “Sorrow” belts in with that ominous dark guitar riff from Gilmour as the song begins it’s sinister journey in to the 80’s Prog sound the Floyd had created almost 30 years ago…WOW, it’s been THAT long since that album was released? INSANE! Taking no prisoners on this one the band bring the giant wall of sound with them on this one as they level the playing field here through electrified monstrosity. Heavy riffs and dictated voices that spell impending doom to the world as we wake to find our world turning to complete filth from pollution and destruction of the environment. The effect of this song should be the anthem of the World Wildlife and Health Organizations as their message to the world to protect and save what they can now before it’s too late. A dark song that drives its message home and has its gloomy Prog elements and cards all in one hand as the middle section echoes through disdain and effects before going in to the last verse and finally ending off with the blackened guitar intro notes to close off this malevolent piece of Floydian mastery. The freaks have been saving their big hurrahs for the next song, “Run Like Hell” from 1979’s epic double Lp, “The Wall” and the band all donning dark sunglasses as the white strobe lights begin their seizure like flashes to the scratching guitar intro Gilmour has incorporated for live versions of the song commences. Forget Japanese cartoons causing you to have weird effects this song’s light show does it for you and better. With everyone shouting “RUN, RUN, RUN, RUN” at the top of their lungs they start singing and for some reason Gilmour sings the start of the second verse instead of the actual line he should have and he’s done this quite a number of times over the years for some reason. He sang, “You better run all day and run all night” instead of “You better paint your face up with your favourite disguise”. I really would to ask him why that is to which I’d probably be told where to go for an answer! A smashingly epic song to close out the show with a massive strike of strobes and crescendos the band just ‘hammers’ through this one with might and strife to our superb contentment and screaming for more and more as they leave the stage but we all know they’ll be back as they took now bows.
The band returns for two encores, the first being one of the first songs I learned how to play on guitar and still one of my favourite tracks, “Time w/ Breathe Reprise“. A definite crowd pleaser and another great sing along song to which the audience can now spend some of that saved up energy they reserved for the end of the show. The films used were the classic 70’s clips they used during the Dark Side of the Moon tours and subsequent tours after complete with the Gerald Scarfe animations of the clocks moving and flowing and blending together as we stood and belted out the words. The song is a testament like many others of the night to what good song writing can do for you and from a band that by 1968 said they weren’t a “singles” band and refused to release any after until 1979 even though many countries did release singles of songs from many of their albums in the 70’s, the band refused to write such a song but this one could clearly have been just one of those songs and we knew it word for word. Note for note and shining through the auditorium was that beautiful black strat Gilmour plays and sang so sweetly to a packed audience. Then the GRANDE finale, show closer of all show closers, the band’s “Freebird” track if you will comes to us in a full scale massive wall of sound performance from 1979’s Wall album, “Comfortably Numb” to which every last drop of energy left in everyone in Air Canada Centre cheered and screamed at the top of their lungs and stood on their toes for and shouted out every word in perfect and somewhat high and drunken harmony right along with the band. Glistening solos, pitch perfect vocals and stellar musicianship laid out on stage and delivered to us in classic Gilmour and Co. fashion.
How can you not go to a show like this and not smell pot? Not smell beer? Of course as well last night the ever present waft of Old Spice cologne was in the air as the generations of older fans filled the auditorium as well. The show came to a comfortably numbing ending as we watched the band take their bows and Gilmour says thank yous and was the last to leave to what may very well be his last and final tour. We were all left numb and a little ringing in our ears as we filed slowly and languidly out of the auditorium feeling thoroughly entertained and played for as we who are the fans of Pink Floyd, fans of David Gilmour and fans of Prog Rock even though now Gilmour is as much of Prog rock as he is anything else but an accomplished musician that he truly is. Glad I got to go and see him again. He doesn’t need to prove anything anymore but just go out and play which he did marvelously.
AND one final note, to our new found friends from BC who flew in just for this show because Gilmour isn’t touring the west coast of Canada we were presented with an epic tattoo to show off just how big a Floyd fan he really is….
Good on ya mate! Cheers to FlamesNMetal for sharing this with us !