Live Music + Gig Reviews

David Gilmour @ Royal Albert Hall, London

31 May 2006

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

His devotees weren’t so easily fooled, their substantial outlay fortickets rewarded with two and a half hours of wonderful music. Gilmourarrived to a hero’s reception, inaugurating a series of mini standingovations just three minutes in. His familiarity and total ease with thelive environment lent weight to the opening Breathe/Time/Breathe, lettingloose 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 Balearicsummer rather than a rainy English one. With imperious support from PhilManzanera Gilmour’s guitar lines were intense and fluid, as was hissaxophone contribution to Red Sky At Night. David Crosby andGraham Nash offered wonderfully clear harmonisation; RobertWyatt an atmospheric cornet solo for Then I Close My Eyes.

Drawing breath at the interval, Gilmour returned with fire in his bellyfor an exultant set of greats, the accompanying light show pointingphaser-like darts around the hall or bisecting the upper tiers withgraceful, slow moving sine waves. Magenta was the colour for an impassionedShine On You Crazy Diamond, Gilmour’s voice still a great instrument, huskyaround the edges. A cocksure Arnold Layne was included – no DavidBowie tonight, though Rick Wright‘s reprisal of SydBarrett‘s original vocal was hardly a short straw.

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

With a river of dry ice cascading over the front rows among furtherheroics from the lighting department, it was quite a feat to recover forencores of Wish You Were Here and Comfortably Numb. At this point thenight’s surprise emerged in the form of Nick Mason, who provided theicing on the cake to a vivid evening of music. Gilmour at the endlooked just as fresh as he did at the start. Must be that islandliving…

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David Gilmour @ Royal Albert Hall, London
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