This live album is excitedly billed as ‘the first solo live album from Pink Floyd’s singer / guitarist’. A sketchy claim, this, given the availability of his outstanding Royal Albert Hall residency in 2006, the closest we can expect to get to a fully fledged Pink Floyd reunion.
But splitting hairs aside, this is a unique event in itself, a concert given in a Polish shipyard to mark the anniversary of the August ’80 treaty. Given, too, in the true meaning of the word – as you would expect with the modest Gilmour, there are no histrionics here, no heart on sleeve enunciations – just a rock legend and his music, with nothing more needed to be said. Save, that is, for Polish Defence Minister Radek Sikorski, who openly admits, “I learned English from Pink Floyd albums.”
While a solo live album, Gilmour isn’t exactly marooned alone in the middle of the stage – with a large orchestra conducted by Zbigniew Preisner in tow. Preisner worked with the guitarist on his On An Island album, so knows how to avoid the pitfalls when rock and classical music collide; furthermore he knows how to apply them to other, meatier music with an engaging subtlety – in this case orchestral versions of High Hopes and A Great Day For Freedom.
The latter is a one-off performance to recognise the importance of the venue, and comes in the second part of a concert that follows the tour format – a complete performance of On An Island taking up the first CD. As in the Royal Albert Hall performances it’s imperious stuff, with Breathe hitting its easy stride early on, the mood set and the dye cast.
It’s in the second half of the album where the orchestra come into their own. High Hopes is particularly striking, the bell still tolling but the orchestra expanding to a widescreen sound, the end credits of a powerful movie. It’s a sensitive arrangement from Preisner however, and Gilmour’s guitar still reigns supreme at the end.
Other familiar features of the tour remain – a wonderful Echoes and a majestic Shine On You Crazy Diamond the highpoints. But where this package will score extra points is in its accompanying DVD release, two discs of visual live material complemented by a documentary and a myriad of special features.
Even if you have the previously generous tour souvenir from London, you’ll want this – Preisner and Gilmour together create a spectacle Gdansk could only have dreamed of thirty or so years ago. It’s a most affirming listen.