From the fertile imagination of Christopher Hughes
(A 12 part serial originally written for the Echoes Mailing List 19/11/99 – 5/12/99)
This time round I knew I wasn’t going to miss out. I had bought the ticket months before through a good friend from the Netherlands, organised my passport, saved the dollars for the flight, met him in Amsterdam, stayed one night, and then the two of us had driven south to Anzio. As we stood in the carpark of one of the most amazing sights I had ever seen, we could hear the strains of Vera Lynn drifting across the landscape. The huge tent before us, which seemed bigger than most concert halls themselves, gently billowed across its roof. The sides, thousands of sand bags, stood rigidly, proudly holding back the seething mass of people slowly entering in a few places. It was the opening night of what some in the media had compared to the greatest show on Earth. Other comparisons included how the amount of money being spent on the show was more than was spent on the last two years of the war itself and how there seemed to be more people involved in the whole production than those involved at Anzio. We all knew these statements to be false, but it certainly sounded good. Outside the bunker still, the ushers, vendors and security (not that they minded) all were done up in fatigues, all being very official. It was pretty cool.
Entering the bunker the sudden rush of noise highlighted how good the sound was being kept in. But the dim lights of a short tunnel and a weird, musky, damp sort of smell, enveloped us all. You saw the tension grab the people in front, felt it grab you and heard it grab those behind. A quiet fell over the tunnel, all of twenty meters long as you shuffled through, aiming towards the light at the end. Ever so faintly you could hear shells exploding in the distance, gunfire intermittently sounding, and then shouts of orders to get down, or run or just pray. As each occurred the group as whole would flinch or jump. A few swear words, a few ‘Floyd rules’ echoed out. My friend and I just looked towards the light, shuffling on. The interior of the largest bunker ever made was stunning to say the least. Over to our right, about 30 meters away, what we guessed to be the stage was set up ready for war, not for entertainment. The lights were brighter and the smell, obviously an effect for the tunnel entrances, was gone. Before us lay a sea of canvas chairs and stunned faces. The creators of the Wall masks would have been proud of the looks on the forty odd thousand people. With twenty minutes to go before the show was to begin, we sat down, 14 rows from the front, centre stage, and waited for The Final Cut.
The stage was set out with a communications desk centre stage. A simple affair, reminiscent of the table Pinks father sat at in the film. I spun around, looked up and desperately searched for the plane. Even a hint of what was going to blow up some time during the show. My friend joined in but all we could see past the glare of house lights was the canvas roof. We gave up and turned back to the stage. Elevated behind the desk was Nick’s kit, painted yet again, this time in army camouflage with a slight draping of netting. Again the netting hid the keyboards to our right. It looked more like a store of army supplies than anything remotely musical. A slight, quick thought ran through me that just like with The Wall, Rick would appear for concerts, just for old times sake and all that. I threw that sad thought away, searching over the various oil drums and storage bins, all with patched black and green paint, placed about the stage. If anything, baring the drum kit, the stage seemed very bare of musical instruments of any sort. No racks of guitars, not even microphone stands. Where Dave and Roger were expected to stand there seemed very little. Big spaces just for them. The only non army feature on the stage was the large circular trademark screen. It was disguised in any way, just sat there, surveying all before it, standing firm.
I stood and stretched. Facing the audience behind me, again wondering what it would be like to be a rock star, facing such huge numbers of fans. “Remember The Wall” my brain said to me. I chuckled and just looked about. With about ten minutes to go before the scheduled start, a commotion at the front of stage brought out a quick burst of chatter from the near full audience. Some applause filtered around, but most just mumbled, as an orchestra, some forty to fifty strong, made their way out, in full army dress uniform. My friend and I just had no idea. Was it a support act, obviously a stupid question. With the potential for some serious explosion special effects, were we to exposed to a serious amount of classical scores, worthy of such an orchestra? They tuned up, fiddled about, chattered quietly. You could see nerves but you could also see excitement. They were to be part of something special. We were all going to be part of something special. The tune up was always reminiscent of the Beatles, Sgt Peppers. Thoroughly enjoyable as no matter where the orchestra and what the score, it always started off sounding like the Beatles. The heart beat, my heart beat I realised started to pound in my chest. At first I thought I was imagining it but the orchestra, tuning up was also miked up. And the noise slowly grew. The tension slowly grew. Then it was obvious the house lights were fading. Ever so subtly the vast room grew dimmer and dimmer. Then the wind came. The same wind from One of These Days began to swirl around the room. The full effect of the quad system was coming to life. The audience was coming to life. The bunker was now dark, a few oversized lanterns had appeared in a circle around the orchestra. The wind was howling like a small gale. The audience had started a variety of claps, whistles and cheers, and Michael Kamen entered, taking his place front and centre, hold his baton high, silencing the orchestra and wind.
The first, simple note echoed from a single violin, low but not bass. It changed to a high note being joined by a second violin. The low note again, a third violin, a fourth with the high note. The low note repeated, the violins joined by a cello, a second cello, a double bass, the wind instruments, soft and delicate, as each note repeated over and over, low and high, low and high, reminiscent now of Goodbye Cruel World. The mic effects joined in as the whole orchestra was playing the two notes over and over. And it all started to fold into one, swirling about the bunker. Louder and louder reaching a crescendo. Two notes, the opening to In the Flesh, burst clear from the orchestra pit, the speakers focussing the sound, followed by dead silence, followed by an explosion of cheers from the audience. Faintly again, the verse rhythm from Another Brick in the Wall, building higher and higher. Then over the top came the violins again, a simple melody, joined by the clarinets which I couldn’t pick. Through the back, creeping its way up through the sound came the deep force of the seriously serious bass playing out the all too familiar bass line also from Another Brick. This bass line built to a defining peak, and just sat there, moving every inch of my skin with each thunderous beat. The audience was in raptures, stunned at this audio onslaught. Over the top, underneath it and clear through it and us came the melody lines. Comfortably Numb, Hey You, What Shall We Do Now?, ending with the intro’ to Run Like Hell. Over and over. Echo effects throwing it about the arena. Slowly the Bass faded out, leaving the bolts of sound to run at will.
All the while the room stayed dark. The same ring of lanterns around the orchestra, lightly flickering away, oblivious to all the noise. The music was now dying. Bursts of applause and whistles came from all directions but most of the audience, like me, sat awestruck, our ears in command of our bodies. At last there was one note. After ten minutes of bombardment a single cello quietly hummed. The crowd fell silent, in anticipation. My ears heard it before my eyes saw it. “It was just before dawn, one miserable morning in black 44” A single spot on Roger, centre stage. The beam almost heavenly through the darkness which seemed to go on forever in all directions. A burst from the audience when it clicked. Through the first verse, the cello still the only accompaniment. The second verse saw the strings wake up, but still just the single spot light. The third verse, by now the audience was quiet except for the few who knew the words, started with a bang and a flash of light. “It was dark all around” was contradicted as the lights came on in full glory revealing the band. Dave stood at the front and to the left, practically ripping the strings off his guitar, joining in the vocals. Nick’s whole kit burst into life as if he had a few extra arms helping him along. The keyboardist, whoever he was, was almost possessed throwing himself about. An extra guitarist stood behind Dave and that was all. It some ways it seemed a bit silly, but I had full faith that they knew what they were doing. The song was closing, the band building. “And that’s how the high command took my daddy”. Instant silence. The lights stayed up, and Roger spat “From Me!”.
.Before the audience could respond, Nick came in with a three beats and the band, all playing the same melody, chimed in with an instrumental verse. I just started again with “It was just before dawn”. Almost bluesy now in its feel, the five of them on stage began to sway. Smiles all round as the stage was set for a serious jam. Roger took a few steps back as Dave edged his way front and centre. A single note let fly. A blinding, death knell that would have killed small animals burst out and hung there, before being dragged back in. Then he was off. Cool, calm and manic, Dave played like it had been two years since their last show and he was desperate to catch up. The rest played the ‘Tigers’ melody over and over and Dave just played on. At least 5 minutes passed before he drew to a close. The melody at the end of a verse, and all crumbling down to silence. The lights stayed on, the crowd was insane and Roger walked to the microphone. “Good evening, and welcome.” He paused, almost seeming to lap up the applause. He turned to Dave and gave a little chuckle, Dave just grinning back, then turned back to the audience. “We are the Pink Floyd.” The lights went down and the audience, in darkness, rose as one.
Part Four Top It was only twenty minutes into the show, they had barely played a note I recognised, and my hands were already raw. Everyone was still applauding wildly, standing in the dark, cheering at nothing, all very surreal. The house lights slowly rose, stopping just above the level of first light. Around the orchestra the lights grew on, and the first notes of The Post War Dream floated out of the pit. We could see the band walking about, organising themselves, focusing on the task at hand. Roger, ever focussed on the bigger picture was first to go rigid. Standing before the microphone, the first few lines crisply drifted over our heads. Dave, far more relaxed (he even made his uniform look casual), hovered by his mic, waiting for Rog to finish the opening two verses. In unison now, “What have we done? Maggie what have we done?” It was truly beautiful, almost harmonic, enhanced through all the speakers. Then the huge percussion boomed in. A full thrust from all corners “Should we shout?” The orchestra was alive, the band played on and just as quickly they faded, a single trumpet.
The trumpet molded into an acoustic guitar, Your Possible Pasts, soloed by Roger, a few simple lights focussing on him. The band and orchestra also focused on him, a look of admiration. The chorus brought us to life again, the band, the lights and the audience “Do you remember me, how we use to be, Do you think we should be closer.” A silence, just Roger again, then all of us again. A short solo by Dave, clearer and crisper than the album, almost tinny. Roger came back in with the final verse, slowly the instruments faded out and the screen faded in. A building, an old building. A church, or cathedral? No, a hall, a Cambridge hall. The picture was now clear as the final chorus arrived, but no final chorus burst came. Instead, after the audience stopped, realising the song had changed, Roger, ever so softly, almost whispering, almost in tears, pleaded with us “Do you remember me?” he paused. “The way that we used to be?” and again he paused, then almost spoke “And do you think we should have been closer.”
A ticking clock behind us, Dave well armed with an acoustic, playing with it, a note or two. Images floating by on the screen showing the characters from of the film. But they must have been re-shot. These were new angles. Pink’s father and teacher and mother and wife all together, all talking, all laughing. They stood at the gates of a factory of some kind, long closed down by the looks of it. The lights had faded, we were meant to be focussing on the screen. Walking up to them all, thanking them. Legions of soldiers, thanking them, congratulating them, hugging them and then walking on. It was like a parade to greet the troops. But the troops were greeting them. It seemed like the troops were thanking them for making it all worth while. For struggling on after all that was lost. The simplicity of One of the Few was almost lost it was over that quickly. I’d sung along mechanically, transfixed by the simplicity of the film, and the complexity of those in it.
And then we were awake again. The thumping opening to The Hero’s Return started the audience in a bit of jig. Simple lighting, no screen, the band playing along quite happily. The song ebbed and flowed to its inevitable end. “But the burning in my heart” The audience was softly joining in, “on the intercom” came and went, followed not by the end but Dave chimed in. Another solo, delicate as before. Light, so few notes, but perfectly chosen, reminding me of the solo from Mother in its simplicity. The guitar was whistling a soft tune to itself as it walked a flowered field on a spring afternoon. The last note hung in the air. Surprisingly the band came back in and Roger was off again “Jesus Christ I might as well be dead!” I’d heard it a few times on a b-side, but wasn’t expecting it. A few diehards sang along, myself included in parts. But most just cheered at something newer than the new stuff, if that was possible. At last it was over and a hopeful highlight was coming.
The Gunner’s Dream is an amazing track to say the least, highlighting some amazing talents. The bunker dimmed as the screen came back on. A vision of clouds, accompanied by a single piano, playing out the first few notes, but extended. As we fell through the clouds the piano played on until at last we broke out, land before us, and Roger came in, “Floating down….” At this the camera began to spin, slowly at first mixing land with sky. People appeared, and buildings, another church, a small wooden one. Then more people, coming out of church. The camera slowed, focusing on the clouds above now. Roger screamed and the sax came in. Through the dimness I could make out the sax player, but couldn’t tell who he was. Just as quickly he faded out. Roger quietly sang on. The band joined where appropriate, Roger enjoying himself. On the screen we were now falling through parachutes and flack attack explosions. All in slow motion now. The camera looked down, we could see others landing. The ground was creeping up on us. Closer and closer, faster and faster. As the screamed “Dream” faded out, Dave took the vocals for the last line, leaving Roger to hold the note forever. The camera hit the ground, instant black. “Take heed of the dream, take heed”, the piano faded out, and the snare drum faded in. An all too familiar rhythm. The crowd was already applauding, Bring the Boys Back Home again got them up. As one huge chorus, led by Roger and waved on by Dave, the 40000 strong audience sang it word for word. “Bring the boys back home”. It was too good to be true. The look on my friends face said what I felt. Two years before we had missed it, but this was making up for it. A full on sing along to the brothers Floyd. They again played the extended, movie version, full orchestra and band, only out noised by the roar of the audience at the end.
At last we sat down. The band was still, it was obvious Dave was going to speak. Once quiet enough, “I see you like to sing along” obviously greeted with another roar. “Well I’m glad you are having a wonderful time.” Another roar. “Let’s keep it that way shall we.” And again another roar. Roger stepped up. “In case you are wondering, we are focussing a bit on the tragedy of war, and the tragedy of the individuals caught up in it. Thanks for coming.” More of a cheer this time. One felt obliged not to roar about war. A moments pause, a quick light change.
“Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn?” Roger was greeted with a roar this time. And again we all sang along. “Remember how she said……” It was just fantastic. The screen was alive again with stills of Vera Lynn, studio shots at first. Then concert shots with the troops. The air was alive with singing. The orchestra and band played on, we sang to our hearts content. A picture of an older Vera now. Now they got a shot of her, a cheep tabloid shot, standing at a train station, all a mess from rain. “Vera, Vera” we sang, the loudest we had that night that night. The shot faded, no she faded, the station remained, and when asked if we remembered her, we made it known that we did.
The lights again went down, the screen went off. A spot light focussing on Nick. The instant anticipation was amazing. Half the audience rose, which just made me laugh. I couldn’t even guess what was going to happen. “Shut-up” he cried, which just brought the house down. “Oi!”, more cheers, at the fact it was happening, Nick was speaking! “I’ve got a little black book with my poems in!” After each of them spoke or a song started the usual rant from us went up. The sound wave from this was felt by those of us in the front rows. Dave, Roger, Nick and the others obviously felt it. The looks on their faces was both amazement and joy. The keyboardist even managed to miss his que and slightly falter the first few notes. This brought more cheers as the whole room enjoyed the moment. Nick was just sitting back loving it, Dave had the giggles and Roger was just full on laughing. So the piano played on, through the first verse to the beginning again, the band, who couldn’t play, stayed back, and the orchestra held off, waiting for composure to come back. And we just cheered them on.
Nobody Home was finally underway. “I’ve got a little black book with my poems in…” sang Roger, with just the piano. The lights still remained straight forward. We sand along as before. As the song grew, the strings came in, building the sound. With the lines about Syd, the band and orchestra joined in, a full, rich sound filling the bunker. Dave’s solo was a harsher sound this time. The slightest touch of reverb giving that fuzzy edge to it. He stuck to the original pretty well note for note, fading out, with the band, “and I’ve got fading roots.” But the played on, nothing in particular, and we got to play ‘guess the next tune’.
A minute or two later we did. But only a few notes were played before “Button your lip. And don’t let the shield slip” greeted by yet another round of applause. A strong, but soft orchestra fading through. From somewhere a grand piano came in, but I presumed it was an effect. Dave was now sitting back at the table, looking over large papers, like maps or something. Nick had come down and joined him, along with the other guitarist. Roger was on a backed stool, acoustic guitar in hand, looking quite relaxed, almost folksy. Between verses they played a short instrumental break, piano, guitar and soft orchestra. Not the easiest song to sing along with meant we all just sort of swayed there. “You believed in their stories…..” saw Dave, Nick et al, take their places again, just in time for the last line, and the firm applause. But the applause was greeted with five firm, solid beats from Nick, bringing the band in. The spare guitarist was now on bass. Roger stood, strumming with vigor. Dave played simple chords as well, as the orchestra went into full swing.
All played the break again. Then again, a little louder, a little firmer. And again, a serious amount of seriousness. Dave was now playing a single chord at each change. Full and hard, overdrive going strong. The orchestras percussion was now competing with Nick, each trying to out noise the other. Piano man was now possessed, arms coming down hard. The lights I had finally noticed were beginning to pulse with each chord change. Over and over they went through the short progression. The lights were pulsating faster. Almost dark to almost blinding and back again. Plain bright white. The whole hall was pulsating. Heads began to sway, it was a heavy metal concert in slow motion. The pace was building now, faster and faster and faster. The lights were strobing throughout. Individual spots of all colours now began to cut through the white light, shooting out from the stage. Red and green and purple and red and yellow and blue and green, over and over. The music now was also strobing. Swirling about our heads, building on itself. White noise and white light, with flashes of colour met with flashes of percussion. Close on 8 minutes had passed when over all that, as unlikely as it seemed possible, through the quad system roaring from behind, passing overhead, (we all looked up expecting something) and exploding into the stage was nothing. A huge blinding flash and explosion brought it all to a sudden end with rapturous applause.
In an instant, Dave, Roger and Nick were at their microphones. “Oi! Get your filthy hands off our desert!.” Echo effects dragged the demand around the bunker as a huge cheer went up. Then all three continued, unaccompanied, “Brezhnev took Afghanistan,……” The audience joined in “and Begin took Beirut”. Then just Roger “and Maggie, over lunch one day ……” And all again hummed the close, met with more applause. “Take all your overgrown infants away …” saw the band come back in. Everyone on the correct instruments again, Roger in the lead. The screen was now back on with usual suspects being shown, introduced and mocked. It was the scene from the short film, but there was new footage as well, different angles. The stage was mostly dark, the film playing along, a soft rhythm from all the band in the background. The solo followed the album, but was softer, calmer, the anger towards the world’s leaders had more pity it seemed. The final lines were whispered by Roger, with just a cello behind. “Can be implied” faded out, the applause faded in.
Dave walked to the mic “One, Two,” the others joined in “Free Four”, and the acoustic guitars lifted off. An instant burst of cheers molded into a clap along. “The memories of a man in his old age….” Was greeted with another cheer. Not many knew the words, but a sing along was attempted. On stage, the band was in serious fun mode, all of them swinging and laughing along, living up to the contradictions the tune had with the lyrics. The solo arrived, Dave being very severe , but laughing all the time. More contradictions, more absurdities. For the most part the audience was sitting, clapping along. But here and there an aging hippy or three were up on their chairs grooving away with no particular rhythm or goal. Just living for the moment. The house lights were just on, the stage a simple affair. It was a 40000 strong campfire sing along. The song came to an end. The closing solo was again mean but quick, suddenly ending the song. We all turned from clapping along to an explosion of joy. The band could tell, smiles all round, and even a bow from Roger. Dave quickly added “you’re too kind, too kind. But thank you very much. It was a terrific bit of fun don’t you think?” To which we all happily agreed.
A good minute rolled by. The band reorganised themselves, swapped instruments, tuned instruments, generally looked like the Pink Floyd of old, unhurriedly wandering about. At last they were ready. In the back ground, the guitarist started a simple strum, a few bars long. The audience was quite, the lights were dim. “They disembarked in 45′” began Roger, followed by a round of applause. On he went, with just the acoustic guitar. “There were too many……..” A bass note, deep and long. “And gathered at the cenotaph …….” On they went, guitar and bass, Roger’s gentle tones. The piano joined in “And still the dark stain spreads……” a few strings, the guitar gone, a gentle keyboard. “In the bottom of hearts we felt the final cut.” The single piano note drifting on, the lights lowering and then dimming, the screen coming to life again. Strong applause from the floor, appreciative and anticipating. The notes continued, now joined by a matching single note on guitar where the vocals should have come in. A little apprehension, a question, the piano faded altogether. The guitar was stronger now. The drums came in and the guitar started an all too familiar progression. As one we roared to greet Us and Them.
The sax player reappeared, note perfect, the tune gently rolling over our heads. The screen was in full swing now, the original Dark Side footage. Dave, “Us, us, us, us and Them, them, them, them” echoed around the quads and the bunker sang on. On screen ordinary people walked by in slow motion, doing what ever it is ordinary people do. “Me, me, me, me ……” floated by us, “You, you, you, …” was firmly returned. The build up came, the orchestra filled it out, a heavy guitar. “Forward he cried, from the rear…..” sung by Dave and Roger was met by the audience, and enhanced with a solid wall of lights, then just as quickly taken away. “Black, black, black, black …….” Brought us back to a calmer place. The film rolled on, the band played on. Then the build up again. The flashing lights again, the loud sing along again. Again it was gone. Spoken words floated around the hall, the sax drifted in, then built, focussing on the stage, the lights, the sound, the screen. The band gave a simple vocal harmony in support, for a few seconds the percussion and bass let fly, and the sax climaxed, then dragged us all back to the quiet ending. “With, with, with, with …….” The screen was black now, a few strings, the band as still as could be, slowly working their way to the end. The final build up, seemingly louder than the others, more vigorous from Nick and Roger, Dave almost doing a Eugene as the “old man died!” And then as before, instantly fading out. The last note died somewhere behind us and the audience applauded long and hard.
The lights came up and Roger walked to his microphone. “Thank you very much. It’s good to see some of you still remember the old tunes.” To which we obviously cheered. “We’re going to take a break now for about twenty minutes. Thank you very much.” Instantly some people, faster than the band and orchestra could leave, were off like they all had appointments to keep. My friend and I, along with tens of thousands of others, yet again stood and applauded the marvel that had been laid before us. Watching the mass exodus to bars and toilets always amazed me at concerts. Never wanting to miss a note I stayed planted to my seat, and just soaked in the atmosphere. I remember well the tales from the Wall shows when they started the second half without warning, without the lights even going down. I was staying put. My friend tapped me on the shoulder, turning me around from my gaze towards the upper rows way in the back. Walking up each isle, not just in front of us, but all over, were pairs of soldiers and nurses. One of them carrying a large pile of programs, the other armed with the cash. Instantly they were swamped, but they soon made it to us. For a few dollars we were now owners of a very memorable little book.
A quick flick through showed far too much writing to read now, covering a history of the band culminating in this, their farewell tour. Reading the words, ‘farewell tour’ in the last paragraph brought home the reality of all the press coverage. The band had overcome their differences to go out in a way only befitting Pink Floyd. The last line welcomed us to, what we readily agreed was, ‘The Greatest Show on Earth!’.
The pictures and graphics on the other hand were looked at then and there. The history of the band was traced with a Dark Side ‘light ray’ time line across the top, the heartbeats showing significant dates of releases and special concerts. Across the bottom was a matching series of photos, from baby snaps and childhood of all five members, through college days, the underground, the hippy look and onto global stardom. Most of the pictures we had never seen, all of them labeled, most of them candid. The inside cover gave a run down of the show itself. The importance of the message, the effects and footage were explained, making it all make a whole lot more sense. The centre had a large display of war issues and the bands personal thoughts on the issue, one from each of them. The last couple of pages gave bio’s of the other players (guitar: Andy Roberts, keyboards: Andy Bown, sax: Raphael Ravenscroft and Michael Kamen) and the orchestra as a whole. The inside back cover listed the crew and thanks etc. The outside cover was a triumph. It showed a map of Europe, headed ‘Pink Floyd Declares War’ across the top when opened out. On the map (a topographic one of sorts) was shown the dates for each venue, starting with Anzio (War declared, March 15, 1983. Battle lasts 12 nights). Then in a line heading north, through Italy and north-west across Europe, the tour showed how it wasn’t going to snake its way but move as a front, with peace finally declared in Cambridge. We couldn’t get over its simplicity yet class.
And then the lights went out.
A round of applause greeted this change. A few people hurriedly rushed in to take their places. A soft wind floated about the room. Not One of These Days. More a spring time wind. Ever so faintly, from way back in the speaker system, a voice could be heard. Cheers went up in the outer reaches of the bunker. They obviously had heard what was going on. Then a little louder, and a little louder. “…I’m not insane!” “Insanity? Insanity? I’m not insane!” As loud as someone sitting beside you now “Insanity? Insanity? I’m not insane!” and again “Insanity? Insanity? I’m not insane!”. It was certainly weird. It shot about the quad system. “Insanity? Insanity? I’m not insane!” Sometimes all coming from one speaker, sometimes split between all four. “Insanity? Insanity? I’m not insane!” People tried to follow, but the quad put them off. Over and over it went. “Insanity? Insanity? I’m not insane!” Not reaching anything louder than a talk. The voice wasn’t trying to convince us. “Insanity? Insanity? I’m not insane!” Just pointing it out in a matter of fact way.
On stage there was movement. Another cheer, another hour of amazement. “Insanity? Insanity? I’m not insane!” again but this time from the stage and with echo. As the echo faded, again “Insanity? Insanity? I’m not insane!” “Insane, insane, insane” slowly fell away and the tinkling notes of Shine On faded in. A bigger cheer this time. From the upper seats a huge cheer went up, prompting the floor to look about. A few seconds passed, the music building, at last we saw the smoke. A cheap effect but it looked great. Coming up between our legs, from under us, in the isles, off the stage, enveloping the orchestra. It hung in us like a mountain mist caught in a gully. Another cheer from the upper seats. Lights were flashing through the smoke, obviously impressively for the those above. Dave’s first note hit. A single spot, highlighting Dave and how dark it actually was inside. The notes grew, Dave twisted and turned, making the instrument cry, making half the audience cry. A note change in the keyboard, the sound wave firm against my whole body, pockets of applause throughout. The room was now thick with that special kind of Floydian atmosphere, ready to take us somewhere.
The four note riff was greeted again with excitement, slowly repeating, building on itself. The lights were a bit brighter now, the drums came in and explosion of sound and light burst from the stage. The audience was up, so I had to be, the whole band in lights now. The orchestra was playing along, soft and low. Dave was swirling his sounds around. The break had obviously agreed with the band as they seemed in even better spirits (maybe that’s what it was). Guitar and keyboards now swapped solos. They stayed with the original tune, just different instruments. “Remember when you were young” sang Roger with joy, joined by Dave for the third lines. Slowly they built the sounds through each verse, ripping through the guitar sounds, dragging us kicking and screaming into a gentle chorus. The sax was out again, tripping through a solo. Ravenscroft was obviously enjoying himself. The band encouraging him. The tempo doubled, Nick and Roger getting into the swing of the solo. For a few bars they all danced along, almost making fun of themselves, then brought it all back down. One by one they faded out, leaving only the keyboards. That single haunting note that opens the track. The tinkles came back, as though the song was just starting, moving around the room for one lap. They returned to the stage and stopped, instantly taken by “Insanity? Insanity? I’m not insane!” echoing out to a fading light. The standing crowd ‘stood’ to applaud.
A count in by Nick and the acoustic guitars started off, drums and bass, happily chugging along. A rising riff greeted with a handful of cheers. “You say the hill’s too steep to climb….” Again only a handful of us sang along. It was very peaceful to say the least. The music was almost busking in its simplicity. Dave’s voice was a gentle, calming tone, the guitars a pleasant nylon sound. The audience, lulled by ignorance, settled back to just listen. The mad hippy a couple of rows in front of me was up again. “Fearlessly the idiot faced the crowd…” sang Dave at which the hippy spun around giving an exaggerated bow. This brought the crowd alive on the floor, and brought around of laughter from the band, Dave stuffing the next couple of lines. The band played out the end of the song, a couple of liverpudlians starting up You’ll Never Walk Alone, but just as quickly stopping as the song came to a close. My hands went sore as I thanked the band for a special moment, unfortunately lost on all but a few.
The opening notes to The Final Cut brought the audience back to life. Pinging away, almost Echoes like, the lights went down and the screen came to life showing the familiar film clip. “Through the fish eyed lens of tear stained eye….” Sang Roger with an intensity out shining the album. The band joined in, a gentle hum from the orchestra, filling out the sound. The gun shot saw the screen shatter on film, giving way to animation. A blurred human rolling on a bed or mattress. Roger’s voice now screaming. “Making love to girls in magazines….” The image folding up into a centrefold, closing, a magazine called ‘Girls’, falling onto a pile of similar magazines. “He wonders if you’re sleeping…..” Flashing cameras come in from the sides, morphing the magazines into pictures of crowds and autograph hunters, moving forwards and past the screen. “Could anybody love you?…..” The pictures fade, leaving white pages, in turn becoming tissues around the blurred figure on the bed rocking back and forth. Blackness, the whole hall, except Roger, “And if I show you my dark side…..” crisply dancing out. The band back in again, Roger screaming, “or would you take me home?” Dave steps forward fingering out a note perfect solo. The orchestra building, a full rich sound. “I held the blade in trembling hands……” Cascading down, the band silent, “I never had the nerves to make the final cut.” A huge cheer went up, fully appreciating it all.
A single violin bowed out the little tune to follow, a building keyboard, the band took stock, standing firm. Roger’s bass note followed by a roaring opening to In the Flesh?. The surprise turned to instant roar as the crowd went berserk. Nick was in full flight, Bown flinging himself up and down the scales. Dave, Roger and Roberts hamming up the heavy riffs. Roger pranced forward, “So ya, thought ya….” Boomed Roger, with that little bit of venom. The crowd was now on its’ feet, fists in the air, all screaming along. “You’ll just have to claw your way through this disguise!” The notes screamed on, the crowd roared on, the band hammed on. The notes built, a roar becoming a scream, the scream again becoming a raw. The audience behind us then erupted, we turned, looking up, the canvas roof had now peeled back. The Stuka dived from some thirty meters back, bullet straight it flew passed us, almost close enough to touch. Flames burst from behind, sparks falling in all directions, the plane crashing headlong into the stage, just to the right of Nick. With the explosion of sound, light and audience the band started up with In the Flesh. This time harder, meaner and faster. The orchestra joined this time. Full on timpani drums and gongs, every piece demanding the most of their instruments. Overdrive was full on, and both Roger and Dave stormed to their microphones. “So ya, thought ya, might like to……”, a hard, mean edge to their voices. The duet was fantastic, blowing me away. “Are there any queers in the bunker tonight…” The spotlights were now on, flinging around the crowd. Instantly the people threw themselves into the air, grasping at fame. “Get him up against the wall.” The crowd was now in full swing. Dave and Roger bellowed on. The orchestra was building up a sweat by now, working harder than they ever had. “If we had our way, we’d have all of you shot!” and in an instant the lights went down, the crowd went up.
Roger continued to rant about dropping bombs and pointing at the crowd and generally fooling around. The lights came back up to see Dave step up, run down the fret board and yell at Roger “Fuck all that we’ve gotta get one with these.” The band then joined. Through the verse, Dave and Roger throwing lines at each other. The band was doing the backing vocals, all intense at what was happening. Dave, his best impersonation of anger, spat the lines out, a general hate for the show and audience. Dropping down now, Roger sang his lines calmly, Dave stepping back, taking stock, then letting go with the solo, playing with equal disdain, then back into the verse. Veins sticking out, Dave turned red almost, bursting at the seams with lyrics erupting out of him. Roger sang his part again, the two of them enjoying the role reversal. And into the end they went. “Fuck all that we’ve….” Dave pleading with the band to ‘follow him’ to the end. “….and wouldn’t Maggie be pleased.” The band now in a frenzy. “One, two, three, four.” The crowd up and dancing. “Come in here dear boy have a cigar” came next, mass confusion.
The tune was still Not Now John. “You’re gonna go far…” they sang on, slow and rhythmical, instead of the foreign bar stuff. “You’re never gonna die” the audience was still up, arms and fists, clapping and singing along we all danced on. “And did we tell you the name of the game…” “…..gravy train” The next two beats changed the tempo taking the band into Have a Cigar proper. Rocked up and heavy, they nearly had a Status Quo lurch going on, the orchestra brass joining in, a jazzy, rockin’ feel filled the bunker. The crowd danced on. “We’ve just no time…” On they sang, short sharp and snappy. Disco lights filled the hall now. A tonne of colours, flashes and bangs as they happily went about their business. “We call it riding the gravy train.” Another two beats, again, again, the two beats repeated. Slower this time. Same notes, just further apart, and again, and slower, longer, more drawn out. The dancing stopped as we anticipated another change The keyboards came in, rising to a quick head. An all too familiar beat shook the building.
“Hello, hello, hello, is there anybody in there?” For an instant it seemed I was deaf. More-so from my own screams as well as those around me. Roger clicked on “Come on, come on, now, I hear ya…..” We just stood there transfixed. Mesmerized by the stage, lights and sound. The first solo, the greatest solo ever, wept from Dave’s guitar as Dave, in his element, played like there was no tomorrow. The tears that had been knocking all night finally broke through, and like a baby I wept, but I was weeping for joy. “Ok, ok, ok, just a little pin prick…” continued Roger “There’ll be no more” and we screamed as never before, a wry smile from Roger and huge grin from Dave. Roger’s voice crystal clear sent shivers up my spine as he too was obviously in his element. The second chorus came and went, Dave as gentle as ever, sympathetically taking us through Pink’s childhood. Two thunderous notes warned us of what was to come.
Dave, now playing like there was no tonight, took us on a journey I think some of the audience didn’t come back from. Delicately at first his fingers danced the fret board, talking to it, initial introductions, being almost polite. He revisited it all. Sticking close to the album’s short end solo, he treated the instrument with respect, tricking the rest of us into thinking he had no intention of anything sinister. The band swung on through the simple chord progression, a contented pub band hoping for better things. Dave hit the high notes, a bit of a show off maybe, a bit too much for a pub. Then he hit the real notes. The band cranked it up a gear, pushing Dave on, daring him to let loose. The lights were now focusing. The swirls had stopped, the room was dim, the band stepped back and David Gilmour, a man possessed, plunged into the depths of despair, wrenching sounds from deep within. Single notes mixed with chords, his fingers calm but the sounds a blur. Introductions long gone he was now harassing the fret board. Demanding from it answers to his questions. And the fret answered back, clear and unrepenting, equal to its aggressor. We were ecstatic. Slowly but surely the sounds built, all the instruments, the big rock n roll ending bringing the bunker to a thumping conclusion of rapturous applause. For that one moment, 40000 people had felt the meaning of life.
The house lights came up to show Roger applauding Dave as well. Physically drained, Dave took a bow, then thanked us. Roger also walked up “Thank-you very much indeed. He knows how to play doesn’t he?” We agreed. “Thank-you very much for coming tonight. Thank-you.” And they were gone.
The cheers went on and on. The lights stayed down and the audience stayed in. We knew there was more, they hadn’t finished the album for one thing. The cheer became a chant as we clapped, stomped and whistled our demand for their return.
Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long. The band sauntered back on, no orchestra this time. Dave was armed with an acoustic and started strumming almost immediately. The others weren’t close to ready but I think that was part of the plan. Roger thanked us again as he bassed up, Nick and the others giving a quick wave. All the while we clapped and cheered. The rest joined it finally, all the while Dave happily strummed away. “In my rearview mirror……..” Roger told us, the audience cheered on. The song stuck pretty well to the album, flowing along peacefully. “The rusty wire that holds the cork…” continued Roger, all of us swaying in our places. The drums announced the build up. “Like the moment when the breaks lock….” cried Roger, pleading to the audience for understanding. Dave ripping through the chords. Roger cried on, Nick banged on, and we rocked on. Calmness again. “And as the windshield melts…” sang Roger, equal to the defeat in the words, switching his tone in an instant, telling each one of us individually that we were equal. The sax again appeared taking us out on a dozing whim in the afternoon sun. A final build and silence. Well from the band anyway. We cheered on insanely, yet again thanking them for all of it.
“It’s obvious you’ve had a good time” said Roger. “Certainly made it all worthwhile.” Another cheer went up. Dave hinted at another song, a few stilted notes. “Well, we have one more tune for you. Thank-you once again for coming.” Another cheer. Another few notes. “It seems Dave is keen to get on with it.” A broad grin came across Dave, and he plunged into the run down of Run Like Hell. Another cheer went up with even more enthusiasm. Another run through and another and another. With each one the lights flickered around the hall. The quad system came into its own. Throwing the sounds about. Another run, flickers, sounds, another run. The chant went up, encouraged by the band. “Run, run, run, run,…….” Fists and arms filled the air, dutifully following in on, an army of supporters. “You better, make your face up….” Bellowed Dave. Roger countered, then Dave and so on. “You better run!” The band was in full swing now, giving it their all in one great finale. The lights surrounding the stage were flickering left and right throughout, not quite strobing, flashes of colour, reds and greens, yellows and blues. Andy Roberts had made his way to the front now, the bridge being filled by solos, first Andy, then Andy Bown with a surreal synth/keyboard mixture, floating above us and then jabbing at us. Ravenscroft jumped in on sax for a few bars, giving a rich performance, with just a little hint of disco for the mad hippy in front. Dave then stepped up and gave one more final fling on the stings, graceful as ever.
The drums thundered back in, bass pumping, all the band now giving it their best, and then some. Over and over, through the simple chord progression, folding over and over on itself. Individual instruments were caught up in the quad system, being thrown about. Echo and repeat and echo and repeat, over and over. Search lights above the stage and at the rear blasted through the darkened bunker as again and again the band went through the progression. Then through the speakers, faint to begin with, an air raid siren, slowly but surely wailing. From behind, as though it were outside the building. Louder and louder it grew, sneaking up on us, yet making itself known. And still the band played on. The search lights at the rear were turning red ever so subtly, bleeding from the sirens. The front speakers were now in full cry, the music coming from all sections, the lights all turning blood red. The sirens screamed, the music blared, the searchlights frantically aiming for a non existent enemy. Through the atmosphere and mayhem something brushed past my face. I flinched at first but soon the air was alive. Looking about us, it was snowing. The Snow was red. The band played on, the sirens and lights, and now snow. My friend shoved me, holding up his hand, showing me a flower. A poppy. The room was filled with poppies, drifting down, being stripped from the air by thousands of hands, greeted by a deafening roar.
The thunderous thumps of the final notes now greeted us, the effects went into over drive, the big ending played itself out and it finally, at last went quiet. The house lights were on in an instant, leaving a sea of people splashing and waving in a sea of flowers, floating on a wave of applause. Blindly we cheered as the band stood front and centre, calmly waving to us. Michael Kamen had joined them now, along with the orchestra all filing on. On we cheered. Roger, Dave and Nick were turning, applauding the players about them, and then in turn each of them thanked us yet again. I just thought why thank us, you did all the work, it was pure pleasure on our part. Quickly and quietly they left the stage, a few backward waves here and there. It was obvious there would be no more and so, when at last they had disappeared, I sat down, exhausted, just to take it all in.
With the concert over I took out my pen and paper, making a few notes for the benefit of posterity. Maybe one day someone might want to know what it was like, what it felt like to be there, to see it, to hear it, to feel it, to live it. The set list came first;
The Wall Overture (I later confirmed this from the lp release)
When the Tigers Broke Free
The Post War Dream
Your Possible Pasts
One of the Few
The Hero’s Return 1&2
The Gunner’s Dream
Bring the Boys Back Home
Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert
Fletcher Memorial Home
Us and Them
Shine On You Crazy Diamond
The Final Cut
In The Flesh 1&2
Not Now John
Have a Cigar
Two Suns in the Sunset
Run Like Hell
I then made some quick scribbles about the lights and effects, costumes and setting. It seemed weird that they had crammed in so much and yet it had finished so quickly. I eventually left the bunker after about twenty minutes. Even then I only left at the insistence of an usher. The room had long emptied, leaving me, sitting there in a trance, staring at the stage, making sure I didn’t forget a thing. I didn’t want this to become something I could barely remember; some sort of dream.
Bet You Ain’t Heard This Before! We are delighted to bring you an extremely rare performance of The Final Cut. This is from a dress rehearsal for Roger’s Pros & Cons tour from 1984. The date is either June 14 or 15 and was recorded at Isstadion, Stockholm (the tour began there on the 16th). At the last minute The Final Cut was dropped as the penultimate song of the first half of the show preceding The Gunner’s Dream. About 100 people were in attendance for the rehearsal. The entire rehearsal was recorded but never released . Now you can hear The Final Cut in all it’s glory. (With thanks to Anon)