Concert starts: 7:30pm
|The Mermaid Theatre, London
Address of venue: Puddle Dock, London, EC4V 3DB.
FIRST PART: Castellorizon, On An Island, The Blue, Take A Breath, Smile, This Heaven, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Wearing The Inside Out.
SECOND PART: High Hopes, Comfortably Numb, On An Island (second take), The Blue(second take).
FINALE: Happy Birthday song!
Despite a very drab exterior, The
Mermaid was a lovely venue for David Gilmour to play the first public
performance of his "On An Island" tour. With only one, short, previous
performance (the night before, at an invited audience of family and
friends at the Porchester Hall in London), this was a real "proof of
concept" concert. It was no wonder that there were initial nerves.
Conscious that the eyes and ears
of the BBC were there, recording the show for posterity (and broadcast
some four days later), as a rehearsal the band ran through the complete
set behind closed doors, almost three hours earlier. Where we were
standing outside, chatting with assorted BBC Technicians, the rehearsal
could be heard clearly - and only served to increase our excitement and
Interestingly, the rehearsals
were also recorded in full. Spotted after the show with three large
reels of tape (two of which were the show proper), the lady from the
BBC joked about putting them onto eBay by the morning! Presumably, the
rehearsals were recorded as a safety measure in case of later
David's wife Polly, a number of
her family (parents?), and an assortment of younger Gilmour children,
sat right in the middle of the audience (just in front of us). It was
touching to see how much they were enjoying the show - at one point,
the youngest child held up the CD booklet and shouted "play this one,
An excellent opener to the tour,
and great to hear on BBC Radio 2, on BBC interactive TV (around 25
minutes of highlights), and on www.BBC.co.uk/Radio2
- some 55 minutes of highlights in Windows Media and Real Media
formats. At time of writing, the website still has these available...
By Jack Nicholson
Brace yourself, this is a long one. Get a cuppa.
It all started [up north] in
Leeds, where I met my pal Joe at the National Express station. We set
off at 11am and headed for a 4 1/2 hour journey to Victoria bus
The event was a small one - set
up as a promo gig for Gilmour's excellent new album - 'On An Island.'
Similar to other promo gigs that other artists have participated in,
the event was held at a tiny theatre in front of a crowd of BBC Radio 2
winners and DavidGilmour.Com website winners. (I won the latter).
The entry conditions were simple.
I had to describe in 30 words why I should be at that gig. Only, the
competition closed at midnight and it was 11.52pm when I logged onto
the site. I scrambled 30 words together (using Microsoft Word to check
I had, indeed, used 30 words) and whisked it off to the site. 2 days
later I got a winning email. You can imagine how excited I was.
The National Express bus was a
nightmare. The coach's fans weren't working, and the toilet stunk, as
well as a lovely 20-minute delay. Almost fainting from the heat, I dug
deep into my bag for some water to pour over my head, just as we pulled
into a wet and miserable Victoria Coach station.
Convinced I would never travel by
coach again, we got off and scanned the area for a restaurant to eat.
We settled on a small place with extortionate prices (well it is
London, isn't it) which provided us with a mediocre meal. I didn't
care; I needed something after the dreadful journey.
After, we headed to Victoria tube station to get the Circle line to Blackfriars, which was where the gig was taking place.
The concert was unreserved
seating, so we decided to get there about 45 minutes before doors
opening for a half decent spot. We weren't bothered about queuing for
hours (it was raining) and as it was a small gig we were pretty much
guaranteed a good spot anyway.
We arrived at the soaking queue
and we were given our tickets in the queue by a BBC Radio 2 team
member, who merely asked for my address. I was told in my very strict
email that they were going to check photo ID and address confirmation
of some sort. This did not bode well for other people, as you will hear
later in the story.
Various people kept coming up to
us in the queue asking for spare tickets, and eventually a reserve
queue formed for people without tickets hoping someone wouldn't turn up.
The doors opened at 6.30pm sharp,
as anticipated, and we headed inside the sleek Mermaid Theatre. But, I
could hear something was wrong already.
Once we got inside, the theatre
doors were closed, leaving only the tiny bar area open. Security were
trying to dismantle the queue that had formed outside, and get everyone
into the bar area; thus destroying the entire queue and peoples fair
places. (Where have I heard this one before?).
The queue stuck together
defiantly as arguments entailed with security. Security gave in after
literally 3 minutes, and opened the main theatre inside doors ahead of
A mass panic arose for the first few rows, down a steep sloping staircase. (Not good).
I was bemused to find people
settling with rows towards the back, so myself and Joe got an excellent
5th row spot, right in front of Gilmour. I was over the moon! There
were no barriers, no large stage - there were simply 4 people between
me and the man himself.
Security was tight, and some mean
looking BBC bouncers ordered people to turn their phones off. No
cameras were allowed, as the BBC were filming and recording the entire
gig for a broadcast on satellite television and BBC radio. Wooo.
A very long hour wait went by,
whilst talking to the people next to me (also very excited) before
‘Whispering’ Bob Harris came onto the stage to a mass applause.
Before Bob took to the stage, I
noticed the BBC bringing in additional audience members to fill up the
5 or 6 remaining seats left in the theatre, well before the starting
time of 7.30pm. (More on this later).
Bob Harris, a BBC Radio 2
presenter, introduced Gilmour like some kind of God. It was interesting
to learn that Bob Harris knew Floyd before they were famous, and
actually rented the flat below where they rehearsed as well as went to
watch them at some of their very first gigs, most notably at the UFO
Then the place went dark, the stage was set. A huge applause erupted as Gilmour's backing band approached the stage.
The band consisted of, just about, the best and most appropriate musicians for the job.
On drums and backing vocals was
the solid and driving Steve DiStanislao (pinched from Crosby Stills and
Nash). Slide guitar, keyboards and backing vocals was Jon Carin, Pink
Floyd's session keyboardist (who played at Live 8 as well as Roger
Waters solo tour). Bass guitar and backing vocals was Guy Pratt, Pink
Floyd’s bass guitarist when Roger Waters left. Phil Manzanera from Roxy
Music and Bryan Ferry’s backing band was second guitarist and backing
vocals, as well as [the incredible] Richard Wright from Pink Floyd on
keyboards. Finally, on saxophone was Dick Parry – no introduction
As another reviewer said: 'This was Pink Floyd in all but a name.'
Believe me - if Gilmour wanted to
call this Pink Floyd he could have, but there’s something about
Gilmour’s attitude that becomes almost homely when he forgets about
Pink Floyd. The weight disappears from his shoulders, and it’s no
longer about the huge Pink Floyd machine that has to fire up. It’s no
longer about a name. It’s now about the music. The way it should be.
In fact, this sentiment was so
much so, that when Gilmour’s backing band settled on the stage, no-one
even noticed that Gilmour had walked onto the stage. He looked like a
technician in the dark light.
Once a nervous debut ‘clapper’ had started, everyone realised who it was and the applause was deafening.
Reaching down for his effects
pedals as he strapped his black Fender Stratocaster guitar on, the
backing track for ‘Castellorizon’ fired up – barely audible over the
applause. This was Gilmour’s first public electric performance since
‘Castellorizon’, the opening
track to the new album, is basically Gilmour performing a trademark
solo over an orchestra backing. Technical issues arose, and the
performance was shaky, with Gilmour coming in slightly early in some
points, and late at others. The sound was muddy, and you could hear the
technicians at the back desperately messing with the EQ.
Next proceeded ‘On an Island’,
the title track of the new album. The band kicked in at full force,
with Gilmour’s vocals sounding equally as shaky as his previous guitar
work. A brilliant touch was the duel guitar solo between Gilmour and
Manzanera – it sounded awesome. He was very, very nervous. He had good
As I found out at the end of the
concert, when they were hounded for autographs, his wife and kids were
sitting 2 rows behind me, not to mention the 12 BBC cameras recording
every move of his first proper full length electric performance of 12
‘The Blue’ followed, which was
much more solid. Gilmour’s vocals didn’t take long to settle and from
then on, his guitar work was simply stunning. The technicians had
finally got the sound right - it sounded perfect.
It’s worth noting that the tracks
performed, so far, were all in order of the album. I was beginning to
think we were in for an album run through. (Not that I minded!)
‘Take a Breath’ was the next
track performed by the band. This was, indeed, the next track off the
album and I sat back ready for an album performance. This song is
simply awesome. It’s rocky, and driving, and features a
‘hair-standing-on-the-back-of-your-neck’ guitar solo.
Rick Wright, the quietest member
of Pink Floyd, was beginning to catch my eye. Usually he’s at the side
of the stage concentrating on his parts. Tonight it seemed he was in a
state of bliss. He played the keyboards like I’ve never seen him
before, with the utmost energy and enthusiasm, which certainly bounced
off into Gilmour’s playing. The subtle looks between the two felt as
though we were sitting in Gilmour’s front room, whilst they quietly
reminisced from their 40 years in the music industry.
This was beginning to get good, very good.
Next was ‘Smile’, another track
from the new album. But, alas, this track was from near the end of the
new disc – the album run through looked to have been ditched. ‘Smile’
sounds like Pink Floyd from their ‘Meddle’ days, but with sappy lyrics.
Following on was ‘This Heaven’, a
new bluesy number (yeah, you guessed it – from the new album) which
rocked out towards the end.
I was beginning to wonder if
Gilmour had taken his own ‘this is not Pink Floyd’ message a bit too
literally during ‘This Heaven.’ I needn’t have worried when the
distinctive synthesised sounds for the epic ‘Shine On You Crazy
Diamond’ struck up straight after.
Gilmour’s playing reached peak
form. It was impossible and irresistible – I closed my eyes and
pondered on just how lucky I was. The drums belted in, and Phil
Manzanera (to David’s right hand side) could hardly contain his
excitement. The arrangement changed slightly to more unplugged once the
vocals kicked in, before finishing with Dick Parry’s saxophone solo.
There literally wasn’t a wrong note. This was as tight as a ducks
backside. When the song ended, my friend Joe leapt out of his seat and
a standing ovation followed.
The full extent of Richard
Wright’s involvement with the show was apparent next, when he took lead
vocal duties for the track ‘Wearing The Inside Out’ from Pink Floyd’s
last studio album ‘The Division Bell.’ This is perhaps one of my
favourite Floyd tracks, but a rare one, so it was thrilling to hear
live. Richard Wright was enjoying every nanosecond of being on stage.
The bells begun for the next track, ‘High Hopes’ before Gilmour signalled to drummer Steve DiStanislao to stop.
‘Seeing as it’s radio’, David
said to the audience, whilst the band looked confused, ‘I’m going to
have a quick loo break. If you want to go to the loo, now’s the perfect
time to do so’. And so he went!
Everyone laughed. It was so surprising to hear Gilmour actually talk to the audience. He never does this.
With the band looking utterly
bewildered, Guy Pratt launched into just one bar of ‘Money’ on the bass
guitar. Someone shouted for more, before Guy stating – ‘I’ll Get
Sacked... again!’ (A nice reference to Live 8 when Roger Waters was
Then the banter between the band and the audience started.
A woman to the left of me offered
to get Gilmour a birthday cake! (The day before, he had turned 60 years
old). Guy Pratt took the microphone again, stating that ‘since David’s
personal taster isn’t available this offer may have to lapse!’
The band then begin to jam what
sounded like a Madonna song, making me even more sure that I was still
in David’s front room as the band chatted and jammed away.
David returned to the stage after
5 minutes, and the woman piped up again about the birthday cake, to
which Gilmour replied – ‘What? With my figure!?’
This was surreal. I was at a
David Gilmour gig. (That in itself was a big deal.) Not only were there
cameras there recording it, audio equipment there for a radio
broadcast, his wife and kids a few rows behind, only 600 people around
me, but there were Gilmour and the band chatting to us like we’d been
invited around for Christmas dinner.
I couldn’t help but think back to
the ‘Strat Pack’ concert (a Fender guitar celebration event) I went to
in 2004 - the first time I’d seen Gilmour play live. He did four songs,
was rude to the audience barely saying thank you and turning his back
whilst everyone cheered. Was this the same person?
It sure was.
Gilmour signalled and the bells
for ‘High Hopes’ struck up once again and the band launched into the
track. Another one of my favourites from ‘The Division Bell’, this run
through was incredible, with an extended acoustic ending. Looking
around the theatre I could see everyone laid back with their eyes
closed. Surely it doesn’t get much better than this.
But then Gilmour did the impossible, he bettered it.
My all time favourite song - ‘Comfortably Numb’ - followed. But then it stopped.
A strange sound emerged from the
PA system; the band looked confused. They restarted the piece but the
‘boomy’ feedback happened again. The band looked as though they were
falling to pieces with embarrassment. They gave it another attempt
before it happened once again.
Gilmour walked to the microphone
to pronounce he’d accidentally left his slide guitar on from the
previous track and said he was switching it off. Slyly grinning to
himself, he turned it off and counted the band in for the final run
Richard Wright – this was almost
a Floyd gig – sung Roger Waters vocal parts during the verses. The
moment had arrived which everyone was waiting for – Gilmour’s most
famous solo. As he belted out the best version of Comfortably Numb I
have ever heard (sod Live 8) no-one could contain their excitement.
When the solo finished, everyone leapt up in sheer awe. I couldn’t even
hear my own hands clapping due to the sheer amount of cheering.
Nothing could top this. And it didn’t.
The band gathered at the front
for their bow and took in a well deserved 5 minute standing ovation,
whilst Gilmour thanked the crowd.
He stated they were going to play 2 tracks again, as ‘we were a bit nervous at the start.’
The band then proceeded to play a
stomping version of ‘On an Island’, which totally made up for the shaky
version at the started, and they also played ‘The Blue’ again. In my
opinion, the previous ‘The Blue’ run through was fine, and I know that
much of the audience would have rather heard another different track.
The band stepped out for another bow, finalising the performance.
A lady to the left of me (quite
possible the previously mentioned birthday cake woman) started singing
Happy Birthday to which a group of people followed, just as the band
walked off stage. We chuckled to ourselves, and so did the band.
Then, the lights went up. It was over.
I put my coat on, but then a
minute later out of the corner of my eye I saw Guy Pratt emerge back
onto the stage. (Some people had already left as the house lights had
gone back up). The rest of the band followed to which we heard a
‘Gilmour Backing Band’ rendition of ‘Happy Birthday To You!’ Everyone
sang in unison as David re-emerged to acknowledge the greetings.
This was it - I was sure I was in his front room now!
As quickly as it started it was
all over, and we were leaving the venue for real now. We passed
Gilmour’s wife and kids being hounded for autographs before emerging
into the bleak London night. We managed to get back to the tube station
easily and arrived at Kings Cross in plenty of time for our express
train home. It’s hard not to feel almost depressed when such an event
is over, so I decided to sleep as much as I could on the train home.
The next day I was back in Leeds
for lectures at 9am. During the lectures, I couldn’t believe that only
12 hours ago I saw my guitar hero on stage in London. When I got back
home, I logged onto the David Gilmour website to find something that
disgusted me totally.
The BBC had acted too quickly in
filling up the empty seats – some people hadn’t arrived yet, and when
they did arrive they were turned away! Imagine being a competition
winner and being turned away at the door for no reason. One guy had
even come all the way from Holland!
And so the post gig depression
has started. The only thing that could cure it was another gig. So I
booked to see Roger Waters in Hyde Park in July the next day.
At the moment, my debit card is
cowering in the corner. It doesn’t matter, I’ve got to see this whilst
I can. I’m only 18 and have never experienced Gilmour’s career before –
a nice link back to my original 30 words that won me the competition...
“Gilmour is my idol. I’m 18 years
of age, and due to this I have never been able to experience David’s
career, up until now. This is now my chance.”