Recorded live 26/08/2006 at Gdańsk Shipyards, Gdańsk, Poland
Album + Live
Commemorating the August treaty of 1980; in 2006 David Gilmour appeared live in Gdansk shipyard, transformed now into a rock venue for thousands of adoring Polish fans of 'legacy' rock (as it's called these days). Gilmour's band is evenly matched by the Baltic Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Zbigniew Preisner: who worked with him on his On An Island album. The strings are never overbearing or too cloying as is so often the case where anyone attempts to render rock in classical brushstrokes. Performed whole here, the work is improved by the setting - the stately grandeur sounding custom-made for huge arenas - along with a brace of PF classics. It's stirring stuff, as you'd expect.
Co-produced by Phil Manzanera, who also plays in the band (which must be some kind of wish-fulfilment for him, as an avowed fan of the Floyd's early days at London's UFO club), the sound is crisp and detailed. David's voice betrays little of his increased age, and the black Stratocaster, as ever, is put to marvellous use, swooping and peeling off more seagull impressions than a day out at Margate. The only downside to such a massive spectacle is that too many hands often polish off the edge of earlier classics that were built for the original four-piece band. Astronomy Domine, (where Gilmour even swaps to Syd Barrett's guitar-of-choice: the cream Telecaster) is brave but almost too efficient for something so quirky.
The real joy for any Floydian fan has to be the accompanying DVD which, while highlighting Gilmour's rather anonymous stage presence in the face of gigantic stage spectacle, still allows you to see why he remains the furthest out of the remaining members, staying true to the muse that made him a star. The bonus documentary is also most worthwhile.
But in a week when the chance of ever seeing that Floyd reunion tour were dashed by the sad demise of founding member, Rick Wright, it's odd to be listening to what may be one of his last recorded performances (though it's to be hoped that his solo album may appear at some point). So, while this is David Gilmour's project, it also serves as a reminder as to why Wright was such an important part of that indefinably English progressive psychedelia that epitomised the Floyd. It's his plaintive, leslied piano that pings out the intro to Echoes, and also his Hammond that funks up that middle section. Likewise, Shine On You Crazy Diamond owes so much to his understated synth intro. To see him at home at the heart of Gilmour's band is a testament to his quiet, yet utterly apt, contribution to a lost British institution.