Tuesday, October 07, 2008

CD Review - David Gilmour Live In Gdańsk

I enjoyed David Gilmour’s solo album On An Island very much but didn’t really find myself coming back to it a lot. But while at Costco the other day, I noticed Gilmour’s spanking new double live CD Live In Gdańsk.

This was recorded during the 2006 tour, where the recently departed Richard Wright was in the band and Gilmour did On An Island end-to-end live. Which made quite a few Floyd fans upset. They thought it was excessive and too much new material. They wanted more Wish You Were Here and less Take A Breath.

But I gotta say, the live version of the new album is fantastic. If you are a fan of Meddle-era Floyd, most of this CD will be pleasing. The live version of On An Island (the song) is particularly good, with a couple of very epic effects-laden solos. In fact, the CD really picks up when it gets to the new material.

The CD opens with Breathe – Time – Breathe from Dark Side, and while it is great to hear Gilmour and Wright reprise their vocal and instrumental roles, we’ve just heard these songs so many times, they lose their luster a bit. But given that Wright just passed away, it’s pretty chilling to hear his vocal spots in Time (every year is getting shorter/never seem to find the time…).

But then we hit the new album, and off it goes. After a few listens, this live version of On An Island is kind of like a new Floyd album, with Wright very present in the mix. Lyrically it can’t touch Waters in his heyday of course, but musically it’s very ethereal, spacy and well, Floydy!

It sounds somewhere between Meddle, Wish You Were Here and The Division Bell. Could easily have been a Floyd album, had Gilmour chosen. I did not get that feeling from the studio version but this live version is of that caliber. The instrumentals are particularly good – Then I Close My Eyes could have come off of a Wright solo album. Very dreamy and mellow with great Gilmour/Wright solos. Smile is from the same songbook at Fat Old Sun. Just gorgeous.

And it does not get much stonier than the live versions of the instrumental Red Sky At Night or the very sleepy but mesmerizing The Blue.

Or does it? Just when I am preferring the solo Gilmour tunes over the re-hashed Floyd, we get to disc 2, where he busts out Astronomy Domine, Fat Old Sun and oh yes, a 25 minute epic version of Echoes – hearing Gilmour and Wright lay out those vocal harmonies one last time is worth the money right there. And the two trade solos in the extended jam section in the middle of song. The delicate end outro with Wright’s keys and Gilmour’s noodlings is a fitting end to that musical partnership. Sad, but beautiful.

Outside of Echoes, Gilmour changes some of the classics up a bit, preferring to take the verses of Shine On right down to just guitar and vocals, and to rock the hell out of the end of Fat Old Sun, for example. On his solo material and the Floyd he chooses to do, it sounds like Gilmour is far more comfy singing mellow songs like Fat Old Sun over angry stuff like Run Like Hell. The end result is a set that has much more to do with Obscured By Clouds and Meddle than The Wall or Animals.

And that works for me. I have felt in the past that Gilmour has made albums with a conscious effort of trying to sound like Floyd (Momentary Lapse) or just maybe being weighed down by the baggage of the Floyd brand (Division Bell). By stripping this project of the name “Pink Floyd,” he liberated himself, played how he felt, and hey what do you know – it sounds like Floyd! And for Wright’s last recorded appearance, it is a fitting swan song.

This show was recorded at the Gdansk, Poland shipyards, and the band is accompanied by the Baltic Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. I only really hear them in the outstanding A Great Day for Freedom and the obligatory Comfortably Numb, though.

The version I got has an accompanying DVD of most of the live set, which I am eager to watch. There is also a very cool feature where you access Gilmour’s Web site via the DVD and obtain free extra downloads – one every month until September 2009. So far you can get another live version of Shine On and a live version of Wot’s…Uh The Deal from Obscured by Clouds! Hopefully one of the upcoming ones will be Wright’s Wearing the Inside Out, which was played on the tour.

One last comment on Wright. Just this week, Gilmour picked up an award for Outstanding Contribution to Music in London. He dedicated the award to Wright and said, "I'm going to dedicate this, if you don't mind, to my old friend and colleague Richard Wright who died a couple of weeks ago, (and) with whom I had worked for 40-odd years now. That's now come to an end. There's all sorts of music that I will not be able to play again without him. That's a source of sadness for me. He deserves this as much as I do. You could say that he was in the position of second fiddle, slightly behind some of the pushier chaps in the front. But his work was mighty important to our entire careers."


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