What can I say? After reading the reviews of the other London and Paris shows, I’m fairly sure that I saw the best one. In fact, I think this was as near-perfect a concert as I’m ever going to see. I thought that, as a 33-year old man, my time for being on a high the day after a show was gone, but it’s now lunchtime Friday and I’m still floating 🙂 I probably shouldn’t say yet that it was the best concert I’ve ever seen (how many times do you see “X IS THE BEST MOVIE EVER!!!” written by some over-excited teen on the IMDB just after they’ve got back from the cinema?)…except that I think it probably was 🙂
I went to the Palais de Congrès with an English Floydhead workmate and my French girlfriend. She doesn’t really know the Floyd’s music, and being a typical French socialist doesn’t like millionaires on principle (although unlike many other French socialists she hasn’t yet scammed the taxpayer out of millions of francs to line her own bank account), so Dave was always going to have a hard time winning her over. The hall looked to be sold out, which I thought was quite an achievement given its size (I would guess a capacity of about 5000) and the ridiculous price of the tickets. I wasn’t interested in taping the show, figuring that those people taking their own recording studios would do a better job anyway 🙂 But it would have been easy. The bag search was as perfunctory as it’s been every time I’ve been to the P de C.
On our tickets it said that the support act was Nick Laird-Clowes, but at the venue the support was billed as ‘Trashmonk’. Trashmonk was a bloke with an acoustic guitar, backed by an electric violinist and Sam Brown on a couple of tracks. He sang a series of really good downbeat tracks, some to a backing tape to fill out the sound. The crowd were pretty indifferent to him at first (it must be horrible being a support act!) but warmed up towards the end, basically because he was good. It was nice to see someone winning over a crowd in that way. Oh, except for the obligatory idiot who took it upon himself to scream ‘Dah-veed Geelmour!’ between the songs. Why is there always at least one arsehole at shows like this?
Trashmonk finished at about 9.50, by which time my girlfriend was getting annoyed. “Look at the time! I bet he’s only going to sing for an hour after charging those prices, the greedy rich swine!” was the gist of what she was saying at this point 🙂 I told her that if he only sang one song I’d be happy. And anyway, I paid for her ticket.
At about 10.15 The Man Himself ambled on stage to huge applause and started plinking away on his accoustic guitar. I’d heard that he did the first part of ‘Shine On’ totally solo and I couldn’t see how that would work. Not strictly true – I think he was using synth pedals to make those long, droning chords at the beginning, but apart from that it was just Dave and his guitar until DickParry appeared for the sax solo at the end. I don’t think this quite worked – there’s just too much in that song to strip it down to such a bare arrangement. On the other hand, Dave changed the melody of the vocal line quite a bit, making it much jazzier, which I thought worked really well. Then again, at this point the hairs on the back of my neck were absolutely standing on end. I couldn’t quite believe that I was in the same room with THAT guitar and THAT voice.
After ‘Shine On’ the band trooped on stage, and the idiot had now changed from shouting ‘Dah-veed Geelmour” to “Dah-veed Geelmour Dark Side of the Moon!” Dave ignored him except at one point where he pointed out that “oui, j’entends bien” (“yes, I can hear”). He spoke mostly in French when talking to the crowd.
Next up was ‘Coming Back to Life’, at which point it became apparent how tight and well-drilled the musicians were, and how clear the PA was. That shambolic performance at the RFH was a long time ago! The choir did an impeccable job of replicating those keyboard chords from the opening, and the volume in this and all the other louder songs was just right. Enjoyably and forcefully loud without going over the pain barrier. Today, my ears feel like they’ve been given a good workout, but they’re not ringing. That’s how it should be.
‘Fat Old Sun’ followed – again an absolutely spot-on performance, followed by ‘Dominoes’ with a jazzy, double-bass-led intro. Possibly the highlight of the show for me was ‘High Hopes’. What a stunning arrangment! And when Dave put down the acoustic and sat down with the electric across his knee for the solo, I thought I was going to cream myself.
‘Je crois entendre encore’ followed, and then ‘Smile’, which Dave introduced as “une chanson que j’ai écrit avec ma femme Polly” (“a song I wrote with my wife Polly”). I heard this described as nondescript. I thought it was a beautiful return to that pastoral style (‘Fat Old Sun’, ‘A Pillow of Winds’) that they used so much in the late 60s and early 70s.
Of course there was pandemonium when Dave introduced Reeshard Wright for a performance of ‘Breakthrough’, which I loved. I bought _Broken China_ but never really played it. I need to give this album another chance after hearing this superb version.
I’m not sure if the next bit was scripted or not. Dave announced that he was going to “faire un peepee” and disappeared, so Rick sat down at the grand piano with Michael Kamen and they started to play a little duet. This was one bit that I wanted to be over quickly. Now I think Rick is the best in the world at playing keyboards…for Pink Floyd. But as soon as he moves out of that slot, especially when he’s playing piano with a *genuine* piano player, his limitations are glaringly obvious. He hit quite a few wrong notes and eventually gave up and made a show of looking for Dave, wanting him to come back to the stage. This got quite a few laughs, but it was a poignant commentary on Pink Floyd: Rick (and Nick) really are lost without their Uncle Dave to look after them.
To the relief of everyone, Uncle Dave was soon back to run through ‘Wish You Were Here’ and ‘Comfortably Numb’. Durga McBroom sang with Dave on the latter, and when she came to the front of the stage, someone shouted “Do you want to marry me?” “Me? No thanks,” replied Dave. It was the only bit of banter in the show. French audiences are quite a bit more reserved than English.
Next was ‘The Dimming of the Day’ and then the awesome arrangment of the second half of ‘Shine On’, at the end of which the band left the stage one by one as the music was winding down. The crowd was pretty up by this point and gave it some enthusiastic cheering for a few minutes, after which the band returned with a scorching ‘A Great Day for Freedom’ and ‘Hushabye Mountain’ to bring things to a gentle close. It was almost as if Dave was saying “yes, it’s fun to do a bit of that loud stuff, but this is where I’m at now.”
Fine by me. Like, I suppose, everybody on echoes, I was a bit sad when it became obvious that Pink Floyd was finished. But Dave has moved on, and good luck to him. This sort of show is more appropriate for an ageing country gent than setting off lasers and flying big rubber pigs while deafening 80,000 people in a football stadium. If he does it again, I’ll be there.
And my girlfriend? She quite enjoyed it. But she still doesn’t like rich people 🙂
With thanks to Glynn Naughton
Pictures directly above with thanks to Maryline