12.11.14

PINK FLOYD - November 1974


I think I'll stick with Pink Floyd for a day or two now. Unlike most bands, they didn’t welcome rock critics at their concerts, and to review this show for Melody Maker I drove up from London to Scotland and bought a ticket from a scalper. As I wrote elsewhere in Just Backdated, I did manage to ingratiate myself into their entourage eventually, but they were always on their guard around journalists. Nevertheless I did manage a decent interview with Rick Wright on this trip which I'll post in two parts tomorrow and Friday. First, though, here’s the review of the show I wrote for MM. 

“WELL, we are here and you are here so let’s get started,” announced a slightly apprehensive but essentially laid back Roger Waters from the stage of Edinburgh Usher Hall, on Monday evening. And the Pink Floyd’s 1974 British tour, their first in two years, was under way.
          It was the first time the group had visited Scotland in four years, and the Edinburgh fans, a cluster of hair and greatcoats, needed no encouragement in welcoming Britain’s own galactic explorers back to the concert stage. And they were rewarded with a fine performance by the band, who are now as much an institution as fish and chips – or should I say Johnny Walker whisky.
          Getting any new tour off the ground is a headache for some unfortunate soul, but putting together the pieces that are essential to a Pink Floyd performance is a task of immense proportions. Around 100 people are involved in some way or another. For this tour the group have acquired a brand new public address system, a new projection unit and screen, a new sound crew, and a new film that slots in with the music, more or less automatically, at pre-determined times. It was the first time all this new apparatus was tried out in public at Edinburgh, and the fact that it all worked more or less without a hitch during the group’s three-hour show is as much a credit to modern day electronics as to the group and their entourage.
          As in previous Floyd tours there was no supporting act and the concert was in two halves. For the first hour the group played three new pieces and for the second Dark Side Of The Moon in its entirety. They also came back to play ‘Echoes’ as an encore, after considerable persuasion and football-style chants of ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’ from the audience.
          As impressive as the music itself, is the film that accompanies Dark Side. This is beamed onto a giant circular screen raised above the group. The Floyd were of course the pioneers of light shows in this country and true to form they remain streets ahead of their rivals when it comes to visual accompaniment.
          If there were flaws then these could only be put down to first night tensions and unfamiliarity with the new gear. Either way, they will probably be ironed out by the time the band get the first two or three shows over with. At times the sound seemed unbearably harsh, and biting treble tones gnawed at the eardrums, especially during the first half of the show.
          But as the sound men and PA became used to one another this problem seemed to sort itself out. ‘Echoes’ at the end was flawless. The three new pieces were first aired on a short French tour in June and all seemed to point to a fiercer direction the band are moving towards. They open with ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, follow with ‘Raving And Drooling’ and close the first half with ‘Gotta Be Crazy’.
          Difficult though it is to fully assimilate a new piece of Floyd music at one hearing, it is obvious that all three are a logical step forward from Dark Side. They are all harsher songs with as much accent on the rhythm as the solos and in the Floyd tradition they all move through various times changes. The accent seems to be on pounding bass and drum routines to whip up scorching climaxes again and again rather than the lengthy periods of vague, occasionally loose and uninspired jamming that the Floyd seemed to enjoy in previous outings.
          All the new pieces seem much more strictly arranged and they are all commercial in the way that Floyd can be commercial when they try. The latter two seem to deal with madness – a topic that Roger Waters’ mind appears to revel in – and there is a hint of dark evil in all three sets of lyrics.
          Roger takes the vocal lead in ‘Shine On’ and ‘Raving’ and shares it with Gilmour on ‘Gotta Be Crazy’, On the latter Gilmour’s voice sounded very hoarse but again this may have been due to the sound system. ‘Raving And Drooling’ includes a particularly effective synthesiser solo from Rick Wright, another of those swooping torrents of sound that whip round and round the auditorium courtesy of the Floyd’s quadraphonic set-up.
          In all three Nick Mason finds himself more occupied though his kit seems to be smaller on this tour than in previous years. Gone is the celebrated gong that burst into flames during ‘Set The Controls’.
          Little more can be said about Dark Side, which has now toured with the group for almost three years. On this tour it takes on magnificent proportions with that truly brilliant movie designed, I think, to take the observer on a space flight to the other side of the galaxy. Visions flash past all too quickly but stand-out bits include various tumbling buildings, a pilot’s view of a take-off, coins and clocks in profusion, plenty of sea and surf, and the closing sequence depicting prominent politicians apparently well satisfied with the Floyd’s performance.
          Various other surprises are promised for the Wembley concerts and last night someone was muttering something about a laser beam being used in the show. The Floyd are indeed masters of the extraordinary.

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