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Pink Floyd's Gilmour rehashes classics with fresh feel

Sept. 26, 2007

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Courtesy photo

By Amanda Robison
Entertainment editor

David Gilmour, the legendary guitarist and voice of Pink Floyd, is back on the music scene with all the skill and sound that earned his place in history as a part of one of the most successful bands of all time.

On the heels of his 2006 album On an Island (which was No.1 in the United Kingdom), David Gilmour released his first live solo DVD, Remember that Night: Live at The Royal Albert Hall, Sept. 18 for fans who may have missed his 2006 tour.

The DVD has already rocketed to No. 1 in the United Kingdom and Italy since its release last week.

Since he only played five cities in the U.S., Gilmour said the DVD would hopefully cover the places he couldn't get to.

"I swear it's the next best thing," he said in a phone interview, commenting that they worked really hard to make the DVD a real experience, as if you were actually at the concert.

Gilmour rose to fame with Pink Floyd in the late '60s and enjoyed tremendous success with the band, and now with his solo career.

"I have really fond memories and enormous affection and satisfaction for Pink Floyd and that part of my life," Gilmour said. "It was really my entire adult life."

Gilmour joined the band when he was 21, after its original vocalist and guitarist, Syd Barrett, encountered mental problems that led to his departure.

Gilmour, an excellent guitarist who also wrote songs and sang, led the band into the '70s and ushered in a new era for progressive rock, particularly with the unparalleled success of the experimental 1973 album, Dark Side of the Moon. The album remains at No. 8 on the Billboard Top Pop charts today, more than 30 years after its original release.

The band continued to work together and release successful material throughout the '70s, including Wish You Were Here (1975) and The Wall (1979), until the mid-'80s when bassist Roger Waters left the band over disagreements about leadership.

The band, without Waters, released two more albums which both enjoyed commercial success. The entire band reunited with Waters in 2005 to play in front of its largest crowd to date at a benefit concert, Live 8, in London. But Gilmour said it was probably the last time Pink Floyd will work together as a whole.

"I like working on my own," he said. "I will continue to work with other musicians, but I don't want to go back."

Judging from the success he has had with his solo career, it doesn't seem he would need to go back.

On the DVD, Gilmour is joined on stage by his former bandmate, Richard Wright, who plays keyboards and also sings backup vocals.

"The whole band (on the DVD) are brilliant musicians," Gilmour said. "There's such a difference in the level of pressure than big Pink Floyd tours."

He also said this tour gave him the freedom to invite different guests to join him that he might not have with Pink Floyd.

The DVD features collaborations with David Crosby and Graham Nash (of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young), Robert Wyatt and also David Bowie.

Gilmour said he chose his collaborators because they were "people I grew up loving."

"David Bowie might not have worked with Pink Floyd," he said. "But it fits with me."

The DVD is arguably the most personal project of Gilmour's career and is evidenced in various aspects.

After looking at the long list of songs from his entire career, he said he chose "the songs that were relevant to me." He said he "immediately crossed off anything by Roger."

"I just didn't really want to go there," he said.

Gilmour explained the underlying themes and inspiration behind one of the most personal songs featured on the DVD and the namesake of his album, "On An Island."

"It's kind of a reflection on my life," he said.

The song was written after he spent a "wonderful night" on an island in Greek waters with five or six friends, two of whom have since died.

"The song is about how people live on in your memory, and mortality and religion--to some degree," he said.

On the DVD, Gilmour's performance features Crosby and Nash, who provide hauntingly beautiful harmonies that make the song a stand-out among the songs from his solo career.

Though Gilmour performs nearly every song from On An Island, he also incorporates many of the Pink Floyd favorites fans love to hear.

Some of the songs, such as "Arnold Layne," Pink Floyd's first single, are now 40 years old.

When asked about the difficulty of transitioning between older and newer songs, Gilmour said, "It's really not hard. It kind of comes naturally. You just get on with singing and it quickly puts you in the place you were when you wrote it."

As one of the 13 bonus tracks, he included a black-and-white performance of Syd Barrett's "Dark Globe" from his 1970 album The Madcap Laughs.

"It is really strange singing Syd's early songs," Gilmour said.

The performance, which was about a week after Barrett's death in 2006, has an eerily different feel from the rest of the performances and was never even rehearsed.

"It was the first concert since he died," Gilmour said. "I thought it would be a nice tribute to him."

There was no film crew at the performance to record it. Gilmour said they had a home video camera, but no bright lighting, since it wasn't preplanned.

"My son and another guy filmed it because it was slightly out of the usual," he said. "I thought it was a great moment. It was filled with emotion."

The emotion is evident as Gilmour, alone on stage with only an acoustic guitar, sings Barrett's words, which seem oddly relevant and make the performance extremely moving.

The entire DVD is filled with great, unique moments and is packed full of extras, including a backstage documentary from the tour and in the studio.

One specific treat fans will enjoy is the performance of "Echoes," the third-longest song in Pink Floyd's catalogue, which had not been performed since 1987.

Gilmour said the song just didn't work when they tried to perform it in recent years.

"It's hard to pin down why," he said. "Younger musicians didn't quite get it--there was not the same respect. This time, everyone seemed to get it. It just worked. And we had a ball doing it."

The performance features colored laser lights that pierce through a stage full of smoke with nearly every powerful strum of the guitar. Though Pink Floyd was known for its visual spectacles as part of its performances, this concert is noticeably scaled down.

"It's all about the music," Gilmour said. "Those things are devices, which are useful for big stadiums -- for people far away. I don't think we needed those devices for this tour."

The footage for the DVD was taken from a 2006 concert in London's Royal Albert Hall.

"It's not as big as it looks," he said. "It's about 4,00 people. And it's round - a really charismatic building."

On the DVD, Gilmour said Pink Floyd had actually been banned for life from the hall after shooting off cannons inside during a performance in the late '60s. But he adds, "It's like a prison sentence -- life isn't really life."

Fans can be thankful for that, because the performance footage shot in the hall is wonderful. The tracks on the DVD are near flawless.

After starting off with three consecutive tracks from Dark Side of the Moon, "Speak To Me," "Breathe" and "Time," Gilmour goes on to play many of the Pink Floyd classics, including "Wish You Were Here," "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and finally ends with David Bowie joining him for an interesting rendition of "Comfortably Numb."

Gilmour's solo tracks bring a noticeably calmer atmosphere to the concert, but are packed with the same emphatic emotional appeal. Overall , they are serene and completely enjoyable.

Gilmour was intensely involved with nearly every aspect of the DVD, from production to performance, lending to its personal feel. Besides doing great things for your eyes and ears, the DVD also helps the environment. It is completely carbon neutral, using paper and cardboard products in lieu of plastic.

The DVD will instantly engage fans and remind them of why they loved Pink Floyd in the first place as well as ensure Gilmour's status as a legendary musician in his own right.

"Music is just something you are compelled to do," he said. "It comes out how it comes out and you just have to hope others come along for the ride."

This DVD is one ride you definitely do not want to miss.

Grade: A