Writing a David Gilmour London Concert Review is something that I hesitate to undertake as the intensity of the night can never be captured by words, but let me try…
September 24 2015 – There are concerts, and then there are emotional journeys of the highest magnitude possible. For the vast majority of the 5,272 people in attendance at London’s Royal Albert Hall tonight was clearly about the second experience. David Gilmour of Pink Floyd took the stage for the second of five hometown shows in London, England and this show goes down as a lifelong memory for some and even a bucket list item for others.
I suspect the significance of seeing Gilmour in London loses some of its magic for locals however there were tons of travelers from all over the world for the gathering. Being able to walk around the same streets that Barrett, Waters, Mason, Wright and Gilmour concocted some of the best works of art the human race has ever produced is a spiritual experience. Pink Floyd first played Royal Albert Hall in 1967 but the first time Gilmour played there with the band was 1969 for a show that resulted in a lifetime ban for Pink Floyd because they released a big Pink smoke bomb in the venue. The ban of course did not last as the band’s popularity increased. A few places of interest for the faithful are 2 Earlham Street where Barrett lived and wrote the Piper album and 39 Stanhope Gardens was Barret and Waters first pad in London, All relatively close to the epicenter of the Floyd universe tonight at Royal Albert Hall.
Unlike Roger Waters who in the last decade seems to be always on tour with mega spectacles, Gilmour’s live appearances are much more sparse and low-key. In fact his last tour was in 2006 and we haven’t seen him live since he appeared on the top of Waters’ Wall in London for a guest spot on Comfortably Numb in 2011. The occasion of Gilmour touring is the release of his fourth solo album entitled Rattle That Lock released just 6 days ago. Rattle That Lock is a concept album about a single day and the random thoughts we all have in the course of that day. Gilmour’s world tour consists of only a very slim choice of 27 dates.
Tonight’s concert was a showcase for Rattle That Lock as 7 of the 10 songs on the album were presented. In fact all four era’s of Gilmour’s career was represented: the solo work with the 7 aforementioned songs plus 2 more (On An Island, The Blue) from his previous album On An Island, the post-Waters Pink Floyd era with 2 songs (High Hopes and Sorrow), the early Floyd days were represented with a further 2 songs (Astronomy Domine and Fat Old Sun) and of course the golden era of The Floyd with 8 songs (Wish You Were Here, Money, Us and Them, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Run Like Hell, Time, Breathe, and the mega epic Comfortably Numb). All in all a perfectly curated 21 song setlist with the proper balance and emphasis on aspects of Gilmour’s 48 year career. Tickets went on sale in March and immediately sold out to the dismay of many fans. The show may have been sold out but the box office DID have tickets available (and good ones at that) about four hours before the show. Needless to say there was not an empty seat in the house as the lights went down.
The show started with a standard synth intro that Pink Floyd typically do but about 40 seconds in a single guitar note kicked in and the emotional ride was under way. You could almost feel the hair standing on the arms of the people around you and the endorphins release. David Gilmour was on the stage and that unmistakable guitar sound of his was filling Royal Albert Hall. The immediate impression was that this was going to be a night to remember.The 69 year old Gilmour kicked off the night with 3 songs from Rattle That Lock (5 AM, Rattle That Lock, Faces of Stone) and the sound and visual assault was dazzling. Mr. Screen – Pink Floyd’s circular screen with the protruding swivelling lights was out in full force and visually accompanied the music with perfection.
The applause was significantly louder for the fourth song of the night as the epic sing along of Wish You Were Here was presented with Gilmour in a sole spotlight full of dazzling neutron like lights around him to start off the song. The very reserved crowd (probably the most reserved audience I have ever witnessed in my life) did respond in the expected manner. Money was another highlight of the night as expected with the appropriate visuals but for me, my favorite song on my favorite alum of all time really stood out as a flawless rendition of Us and Them continued Gilmour’s hypnotic hold of the audience.
Pictures were forbidden which is unfortunate for some that wanted a memory of the night on their phones, but a blessing for others that wanted to be absorbed with the events on stage without distractions. I spent the first half of the show at the top part of the venue but with a fairly direct view of the stage. During the intermission I wandered to check out a merch stand and ended up claiming an empty seat on the side of the stage. At that point the night got much better as I met 2 dudes that were great company both for laughs and for musical discussion after the show (Cheers Keith and Tim). Speaking of merch the selection was surprisingly very limited with only a few T-Shirt options.
The songs of Rattle That Lock are quite varied and mileage will fluctuate based on personal tastes, however clearly A Boat Lies Waiting (an ode to Richard Wright) and Faces of Stone with a full Gilmour guitar assault at the end won the audience over.
The second half kicked off with the trippy Barrett masterpiece Astronomy Domine which was executed with pinpoint accuracy as was the second song of the set Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V). Things got much wilder with the last four songs of the night Run Like Hell, Time, Breathe and Comfortably Numb. People finally all got up from their seats with many charging the stage and crowd singing was much louder than before. Needless to say all four of those songs sounded incredible and the band all put on shades for some reason for Run Like Hell (perhaps a poke at Waters over the top execution of the song during The Wall tour?).
Gilmour had everything you would expect and did not have to build a Wall to make the stage a representation of everything the music embodied. Although we did name Roger Waters The Wall tour the best concert of all time (check out one of our many reviews of that tour here), in many ways tonight’s show and its intimacy was equal in impact. We can only imagine if things were different and these 2 grumpy old chaps would just get together and tour the world and give us hungry fans what we are craving for – a Pink Floyd tour!
I did speak to many people after the show around the perimeter of the venue and the responses were all the same “amazing show” when asked what they thought. Gilmour certainly connected with his audience at a level that I have very few musicians do. Quite simply this was the a concert of a lifetime for many.
Needless to say a concert of this stature is not a one man show and the impressive musicians involved were: Phil Manzanera (Guitars/Vocals), Jon Carin (Keyboards, Guitar, Lap Steel, Vocals), Guy Pratt (Bass/Vocals), Kevin McAlea (Keyboards), Steve DiStanislao (Drums/Vocals), Joao De Macedo Mello (Sax), Bryan Chambers and Louise Clare Marshall (Backing Vocals).
Bonus: If you made it this far into the review here is THE solo from the night
Verdict: 5 out of 5 – The perfect setlist, in a perfect venue with THAT melodic raspy voice and those well paced vibrato chords. Solidly the concert of 2016, this show was meant to be seen in a small venue and I fear it will lose some of its charm when it hits Toronto’s Air Canada Center for the 2 sold out shows in March 2016 (or any of the other North America venues for that matter). Make sure you are familiar with Rattle That Lock as a large chunk of the setlist is from that album. Gilmour’s guitar and voice sounded very strong tonight and with his hypnotic trance over, everyone went home emotionally charged for days to come.