September 21, 2008
A little over two years ago, on August 26, 2006, the sounds of a legendary artist filled the air at the shipyard in Gdansk, Poland,where 50,000 cheering fans joined in commemoration of the world-changing events at the shipyard where striking workers were credited with one of the first organized efforts that eventually led to the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe.
This is probably one of the best live albums I have heard. I have not seen the DVD that accompanies some versions of this release, but this album gave me more of a feeling of “being there” than other live recordings I have heard. This may be due in part to history of the venue, which was so unique, when compared to the typical concert hall or sports arena where recordings like this are usually made.
One welcome discovery while listening to this album was that the audience seemed to be there to actually listen to the music, which stands in contrast to other live recordings, where one might get the idea that a good portion of the audience purchased their tickets with the idea of spending most of the show screaming and whistling, whether the band was playing or was between songs. The crowd in Gdansk was clearly appreciative of the opportunity to attend, but was virtually dead silent when the artists were playing. Very commendable for a crowd of 50,000 or so. Bravo for that Polish audience in attendance.
The album includes some venerable Pink Floyd classics, such as “Breath (In The Air),” “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” “Wish You Were Here” and “Comfortably Numb.” There are also a number of songs from Gilmour’s solo career that are certainly not as recognizable as the Pink Floyd material, but I found that I enjoyed those as well. It is, however, tough to compete with the old favorites.
As is the case with all my reviews of live albums, it would not be complete without a comment or two about the sound quality. I found it difficult to find fault with the sound quality of this recording. There was an element to it that is difficult for me to describe that did hint strongly that this was recorded at an outdoor venue, but it was not something that detracted from the experience, and probably contributed much to that feeling of “being there” that I alluded to earlier.
This recording was made during the last performance of Gilmour’s On An Island tour, and was unique due to the accompaniment of the string section from the Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zbigniew Preisner.
Another unique element to this recording is the presence of Richard Wright, whose recent and untimely passing probably makes this one of the final recordings that the sometimes-overlooked Pink Floyd keyboard player, vocalist and song writer ever appeared on.
Of all the tracks on the album, I would have to say that “The Division Bell” was my personal favorite. I’m hard pressed to think of any other “classic” group that evokes so much emotion for me than Pink Floyd — something I’ve experienced only since crossing the line into middle age. As a carefree teen or twenty-something, it was just cool music.
Track 5 on the second CD, “Echoes,” is notable in that it morphs into what might be called a “jam session” of sorts, and really showcases the musicianship of those onstage, and energizes the well-behaved crowd as well.
The music of Pink Floyd has a lot to say, and although I won’t claim that I “get it” entirely, I know it’s there just under the surface. Listening to those classics on this new live album had no less effect on me than that of their original counterparts, and it was one of those rare live recordings that genuinely made me wish I had been able to attend. It must have been quite an extraordinary event.
The DVD trailer is available online for those who would like a nice preview.
David Gilmour: Live In Gdansk will be available on September 23rd and can be ordered at Amazon.com.