ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, DEC. 18, 1987
By Steve Newton
Seeing Pink Floyd live is a luxury that every rock fan should allow him or herself at least once. Yours truly took advantage of the opportunity to do just that last Thursday (December 10), along with about 44,000 other lucky dogs at B.C. Place. It was my first Floydian experience, and one that won’t be soon forgotten, Roger Waters or no Roger Waters.
As you probably already know, Waters is no longer a part of Pink Floyd. Many people seem to think that the former bassist/lyricist/co-lead vocalist was the heart and soul of the band, and that the group is lost without him. I don’t know. I’ve always been more a fan of guitarist/co-lead vocalist David Gilmour myself. At any rate, Pink Floyd is his baby now, and it’s Gilmour’s distinctively laid-back vocal style and scintillating guitar that command attention these days.
He used both to good effect on the opening tune, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, and was backed up by a wicked band that included original Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright and drummer Nick Mason (who was himself backed up by another drummer). Through the night saxophonist Scott Page shook things up with stirring, go-for-broke solos. And a trio of fabulous female back-up singers provided the necessary vocal oomph to drive home the band’s repertoire of new and old material.
“We’re gonna save the older stuff for later on,” announced Gilmour, after the band had played “Learning to Fly”, the first single from its latest album A Momentary Lapse of Reason. A huge circular screen at the rear of the stage projected landscapes and psychedelic images, and then the show’s first laser effects kicked in. As the solid rays of green and red painted squiggly lines on the ceiling of the dome, Gilmour put his white Stratocaster into overdrive on such new tunes as “The Dogs of War” and “A New Machine”.
By the time the band took a break, about halfway through the show, it was like “Roger who?”
As expected, most of the real treats had been reserved for the second set, like the enormous inflatable pig with glowing red eyes that came flying out on wires from stage left and dangled above the crowd at centre field. The familiar opening chimes of “Time”, from the band’s historic Dark Side of the Moon LP, got the crowd all riled up as did Nick Mason’s laser drumsticks. Instead of segueing into the reprise of “Breathe”, as “Time” does on the album, it ran into the spacey synth and computer-effect intro of “On the Run”, and when that song’s crashing-airplane effect was about to happen, a hospital bed came zooming down on wires from the far end of the dome, colliding at stage right with a ball of flame, which made it appear that the bed had exploded.
While a lot of concert light shows become repetitious and predictable, Pink Floyd’s never did. Robot-type laser columns rose from the stage floor and shot off streams of lasers before disappearing again, while underneath Dave and the boys gave the crowd what they came for with faves like “Wish You Were Here”, “Welcome to the Machine”, “Us and Them”, and, of course, “Money”.
And what’s a Pink Floyd show without that old standby, the mirror ball? It showed up for “Comfortably Numb”, turning the stage into a Milky Way of twinkling effects. The band’s two-song encore ended with “Run Like Hell”, a song from The Wall, and a high-flying eruption of sparks on both sides of the stage.
It was an appropriate finale to one of the best sound and light extravaganzas I’ve ever witnessed. Now at least I won’t feel like a chump when my buddies start bragging about having seen Pink Floyd.