Since we have been blessed with all of these great bands from the Netherlands I thought I would say thank you to them with this show review by one of my all time favourite bands, The Pink Floyd. So this is for my Dutch Family; Iris (Ier!), Frank, Eric, Peter and the other members of Crescent Moon, PROJECTiON, Profuna Ocean and to anyone I have forgotten I’m sorry if I missed you out in the list but you’re there too! Progressivelyso brings you The Pink Floyd live at Flight to Lowlands Paradise II, Margriethal-Jaarbeurs, Utrecht, Netherlands December 28th 1968.
A short powerful set of five songs that closed out 1968 for the band with a bang leaving them ready to take on the final year of the 60’s decade and secure themselves in to the annals of Prog Rock as they began to journey in to even deeper caverns of sight and sound. The Pink Floyd now redesigning their sound post Barrett era by stretching existing songs and labouring in the development of new music to become more epic in length and diverse in style furnishing the band’s unique branding of what was still somewhat psychedelic and space rock from the UK. Having released only two albums and the brief snippets of incidental music for the film, The Committee to date the band were still only knee deep in waters of growing as a band when they took to the stage in Utrecht but they did not disappoint with their short blistering set.
“Astronomy Domine“, the set’s first song and the first song to their first album that started it all on record opens up this power pack. Still to this day a crowd pleaser whether it be on the recent David Gilmour tour or from tribute bands from around the world performing this number it always gets the crowds going and on their feet to set their controls to beyond space and time combined. The sound quality isn’t tops but when it comes to earlier shows one does not complain! It segues in to just after the start of Astronomy and the band seemed to be in a punchy mood as they let some feedback roll out and just hammer it out. Nick mason’s drumming is harsh and tight as he pummels the kit with furious vengeance whilst Gilmour and Waters supply the blitzkrieg of guitar and bass sharp blows to the auditory canals of the audience. Gilmour’s solo is fierce and striking as he gleans the neck of his guitar like a weapon of stealth and skill. Wright’s keyboards are as sublime as a snake in the grass that jump out and slither through the quieter passages of the song. As if on a mission to bombard the attending guests with a sure fire opener the band levels the playing field from note one. “Careful with that Axe, Eugene” the continuation of the crowd pleasing we have the band pull back and carry on with the ever haunting track that should be in every horror film that needs an exorcism in soundtracks! Yes we came close with Zabriskie Point film in 1970 with Come in No. 51 Your Time is Up, a reworking of CWTAE but not as dark and sinister as some of the live versions that are available. This version is more like the B-Side single they released in ’68 and has a slightly more faster pace than its 70’s counterparts but nonetheless a dark and eerie tune the band played up till the end of 1973 and the one off in Oakland in ’77. Sadly the tape cuts out in the middle and comes back in near the end but for what we have we are grateful as Gilmour’s guitar work is bouncy and with a staccato flow throughout as Wright’s keyboards provide the bed and framework for the track to sail from its earthly beginnings. The drum work is choppy and tight in formation as Mason delivers it from the skies and reigns it down on to the song’s rough edges making it a high seas crashing wave of sound. This version lacks the banshee wail of Waters’ in it the later versions all obtained through the band’s development of sound.
“Interstellar Overdrive” the newly reworked rendition of this track from the Barrett days begins slightly different and was probably one of the more easily remade songs the band undertook at the time because of playing it so often during their inception and one of those songs you can drag out for a while longer with a greater sense of improv and sound exploration. This one gives us a trippy psychedelic sound that Gilmour was still utilizing some Barrett-esque guitar styling sliding all around the strings dropping some well acid induced 60’s overtones to the audience. They pull out the tempo/timbre changes in this one and the clockwork flicking of the bass strings near the bridge to create tension and disarray in the song. The song has a falling down the rabbit hole feel to it as you can just imagine that or the Twilight Zone, Outer Limits or any other sci-fi mind bending show of the period that had you peering out from behind your curtains to see if the boogie man was gone. They dwindle the song down to a crawl when Mason picks it up and creates the whirlwind drum pattern as Wright’s keys take over in a swirling haze of electronica. The song has ventured off in to several tangents already so why not a few more at this point as they now are in a rolling train down a hill mode before they drift off again in to almost nothingness where the keys give us waves of ethereal tones that float gently through the speakers before the song returns to its recognizable riff as Gilmour slides the guitar notes down and down like water spiralling down the drain in more drug induced hysteria before the song finally crescendos in to oblivion.
“Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” has always been one of my favourite tracks especially live where it was stretched to twice the studio version length. The dark and gloominess of the song that attracts the hardcore fan and enlightens the casual listener to stare blankly in to the sun as they absorb the space captain’s demented commands to redirect the ship to the centre of the firey ball before them. Mason is cited as saying it’s still his favourite track to play drums to and every live performance showed that passion for it. The slow dirge like passages to the frenzied build up as the song transfers its dark messages to the audience while they feel glued to their seats and are helpless but to go along for the journey of the suicidal exploits of a deranged space captain. It’s the song’s fueled insanity driven by madness and psychotic enraged instrumentation that has you captivated in every note. Albeit shorter than the version found within the 70’s this one packs a huge punch and has the eerily effects by Rick Wright’s keyboard touches after the song crashes in to the weightlessness of floating in space crescendo as it drifts back in to the main riff to close it out leaving you speechless. “A Saucerful of Secrets” the final track in the set and a brilliant closing song fit to be tied. Opening in true slow Floyd fashion like the emergence of something ominous out of the dust in an ancient amphitheatre the bass and keys roll in over top the cymbals as they all provide chilling inflections that run down your spine each time. The slow dragging slide guitar notes Gilmour sends are icy and direct as they glide down your arms giving you goosebumps. The syncopated pandemonium section has Mason’s drumming in mid tempo as the rest of the band dance and swirl their instruments around him in a tribal ensemble of sound. The song dies down to a ghostly whisper before they begin to start up the celestial voices fragment of the song which they double it up repeating it twice to give the song a much more credited finale. The original tapes were sped up because the taper obviously wanted it to fit on one side of a 45min cassette but since we are now in the digital age of things we’re able to slow it down to normal speeds ad enjoy the track the way it was performed. An appreciative audience throughout making it not only a joy to listen to but that it was a well received gig and further promoted the band to carry-on with their sound development and soon to be iconic style of musicality.
The book, “Embryo, A Pink Floyd Chronology 1966-1971” by Ian Priston and Nick Hodges is an absolute necessary compendium to your collection for references and the band’s early history cites that it is many thanks to the Dutch fans for the majority of the early recordings and that without them many of these gigs may not have ever made the bootleg circuits and trading circles! So kudos to them for making so much of the early Floyd bootleg canon possible! The early gigs of The Floyd are a wonderful catalogue of shows that show the growth and development of their now well known Prog sound and how they have emerged as one of the leading names in the genre. Sadly no concert films currently have risen to be in existence of the band during this period aside from the television performances throughout Europe and the UK and of course all the shows we want to see in video format are but images created in our minds as to what it must have been like to see The Pink Floyd during that brilliant time of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Enjoy.