Live Music + Gig Reviews

David Gilmour @ Royal Albert Hall, London

31 May 2006

David Gilmour

David Gilmour

On the third night of David Gilmour‘s Royal Albert Hall mini residency the eyes were becoming a little misty. It wasn’t the huge amount of dry ice, either: “We played here in 1968,” he reminisced of Pink Floyd‘s days of pomp, “and we had great fun with a cannon each side of the stage. When we used them the whole building shook, and they banned us for life. They don’t seem to have noticed that some of us have sneaked back in.”

His devotees weren’t so easily fooled, their substantial outlay for tickets rewarded with two and a half hours of wonderful music. Gilmour arrived to a hero’s reception, inaugurating a series of mini standing ovations just three minutes in. His familiarity and total ease with the live environment lent weight to the opening Breathe/Time/Breathe, letting loose with characteristically searching and exact solos.

Having drawn first blood the complete album On An Island was next, bathed in an ambient blue glow as its harmonies evoked a warm Balearic summer rather than a rainy English one. With imperious support from Phil Manzanera Gilmour’s guitar lines were intense and fluid, as was his saxophone contribution to Red Sky At Night. David Crosby and Graham Nash offered wonderfully clear harmonisation; Robert Wyatt an atmospheric cornet solo for Then I Close My Eyes.

Drawing breath at the interval, Gilmour returned with fire in his belly for an exultant set of greats, the accompanying light show pointing phaser-like darts around the hall or bisecting the upper tiers with graceful, slow moving sine waves. Magenta was the colour for an impassioned Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Gilmour’s voice still a great instrument, husky around the edges. A cocksure Arnold Layne was included – no David Bowie tonight, though Rick Wright‘s reprisal of Syd Barrett‘s original vocal was hardly a short straw.

The timeless Back To Life followed, then a stately High Hopes, Floyd’s last great song finishing with a semi-improvised acoustic line from Gilmour that floated on the air long after it had faded away. Mica Paris was introduced for a full-bodied if not belting Great Gig In The Sky before the tour de force of the evening – a mighty performance of Echoes, the crowd rapt in concentration.

With a river of dry ice cascading over the front rows among further heroics from the lighting department, it was quite a feat to recover for encores of Wish You Were Here and Comfortably Numb. At this point the night’s surprise emerged in the form of Nick Mason, who provided the icing on the cake to a vivid evening of music. Gilmour at the end looked just as fresh as he did at the start. Must be that island living…

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David Gilmour @ Royal Albert Hall, London
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