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Games for May, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London - May 26th, 2007 Print E-mail
Written by Matt   
Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Games For MayAt the end of May, a pair of shows took place at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall. Part of a number of official and unofficial celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd's professional career, Games For May was a tribute to one of the band's key early shows.

We take a full look at the first of the two concerts, with two reviews and some exclusive pictures of the incredible event for you, too.

SET LIST AND PERFORMERS - see foot of page

Review and all pictures - by BD contributer Mark Stay
(click on thumbnails to see larger versions of pictures)

gfm1Not quite forty years to the day, but as near as dammit, Robyn Hitchcock and a hand-picked group of musicians set out to recreate what Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason called ‘One of the most significant shows we ever performed’. For any band this would be a tall order, but after the star-studded extravaganza of The Madcap Laughs earlier this month, which managed to gather the remaining members of Pink Floyd together and made the Breakfast News as a result, the bar had been set particularly high. Could tonight reach the same heights?

Fortunately, Hitchcock wasn’t interested in getting on the news; anyone who knows his work knows that he’s long been a fan of Syd’s music and this was clearly an evening intended to celebrate exactly that. He surrounded himself with a solid band that included his former Soft Boys compatriates Kimberley Rew and Morris Windsor. The signs were good on arrival; there were films of Syd and early Floyd playing in the lobby and eagle-eyed fans could spot the likes of Joe Boyd and Nick Laird-Clowes in the audience. Even the lighting was overseen by Peter Wynne Wilson, whose fantastic oil-based lighting has graced Floyd shows from the 60s to the 90s.

Heralded by a new recording of Dawn the band kicked off with a cracking rendition of Matilda Mother and stuck with the original event’s setlist from then on. The band were confident and Hitchcock’s vocals were strong and he does a mean approximation of Syd’s guitar style. Highlights of the first half included one of the best renditions of See Emily Play that I’ve ever heard - the songs throughout were faithful covers without being slavish copies and the band attacked each one vigorously. They were then joined by Woody, the drummer from Madness, for a song that Hitchcock that he felt would have been perfect for Madness; Bike. We then had a terrific Arnold Layne complete with dancing girls (including one very heavily pregnant one!) dancing at the back of the stage in 60s-style dresses and body paint.

gfm2 Hitchcock then invited Graham Coxon on to the stage. Coxon, formerly of Blur, added his Barrett-influenced guitar sounds to the mix and the band was re-invigorated, finishing the first half with a mind-blowing version of Interstellar Overdrive (after a brief discussion on how exactly that opening chord sounded... Coxon managed to nail it) complete with girls handing out flowers to the audience (I got a daffodil!) and a mannequin bust covered with tiny mirrors throwing light to every corner of the room. Bubbles then floated in the air and the first half was over.

 Things calmed down for the second half as Hitchcock started with an acoustic set featuring just him, singer and Cellist Isobel Campbell and guitarist Matthew Coleman. They ran through a selection of Syd’s solo work with some outstanding renditions of Terrapin, Dark Globe and Dominoes. Coxon returned for Wined and Dined and then the rest of the band came back for Reaction in G, introduced by Hitchcock thus, ‘We’ve never heard it, but we’re gonna play it anyway... we think it’s in G’ It was a great improvisation that didn’t quite match Overdrive, but it was followed by a triple whammy of Astronomy Domine, Lucifer Sam (sounding more like a 60s Bond theme than ever) and a second rendition of See Emily Play that, amazingly, improved on the first one of the evening!

Hitchcock had put on an amazing show. He was relaxed and on good form throughout; regaling us with just enough of his stream-of-consciousness monologues to lighten the tone and make the evening his (my favourite was about how he missed his mate Jim Morrision ‘Who was always there to step in when you needed help and to share his Hobnobs’)

He bid us farewell and hoped that we would all return in another forty years’ time. However likely that may be there’s no doubting that as long there are people like him around, Syd’s and Pink Floyd’s music will continue to excite.

Another view of the show - by BD's Bruce Tippen

Saturday’s ‘Games For May’ concert was yet another treat for those fortunate enough to get tickets. Following the phenomenal performances at The Barbican this was another top-class showcase of Syd’s songs. No Roger Waters or Pink Floyd this time but a truly emotional performance of a unique Pink Floyd concert.

Billed as a unique show, this event was based closely on the 12th May 1967 outing at its original venue, the intimate Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank. This Hall was only opened in March 1967 by HM Queen Elizabeth so Pink Floyd were indeed unique in not only securing this brand new classical establishment but also in presenting the first rock concert in a ‘proper’ concert hall ever!

gfm3 Rare footage and press clips welcomed the assembling audience set against a large back-cloth in the foyer. Many unique photos and, of significant interest, among the video footage, were sequences of Syd with girlfriend playing ball and climbing trees in a wood. Syd was outstanding in his bright yellow shirt and black jacket.

Joe Boyd was seen in the foyer and was congratulated on his involvement in the Barbican show. This time he was here to watch the show and he was very much looking forward to it. No programmes or merchandise sadly, just a fold over colour flyer handed out on the door and copies of Piper and Saucerful (1994 editions) in CD format at a kiosk.

On entering the arena it became immediately noticeable how much period lighting effects were being set-up by none other than Peter Wynne Wilson….proudly piloting his display of projectors, mystic lights, oil slides, lava style lamps and other hand made optical devices that looked great even switched-off!. Peter and his crew were happy to entertain questions from admirers of the lighting right up until the first sounds from ‘Dawn’ were heard.

Reminiscent of Cirrus Minor, we were treated to a minute or two of Floydian idyll specially re-recorded for the show. (Indeed all three taped effects were re-recorded) This is credited to Roger Waters in Glenn’s book ‘Echoes’ which reproduces the original set list and credits. Robyn Hitchcock and the band appear and start with Matilda Mother set to superb lighting effects. A fairly faithful rendition (as were all songs) to Piper…this band were tight and the sound was loud and crisp. Robin Hitchcock’s voice pitch’s very well to re-create Syd’s resonance.

Straight into Flaming and Scarecrow with visual treats all the way. True psychedelic images in stunning primary colours. Three backdrops behind the band with different projections on each as well as colour lights. Peter Wynne Wilson demonstrated how these colours are cooked live by adding liquids to boiling mixtures and aiming lights right through the brew onto the stage. A Master Chef indeed.

A slight variation from the original set list as Jugband Blues gets an airing complete with trumpeter. A moving moment with poetic delivery by Robyn Hitchcock who clearly loves Syd’s songs and words. This leads nicely into the centrepiece for the show – See Emily Play. Anyone hoping for the original Games For May will still have to wonder what that may have sounded like. No stretched version here or alternate lyrics but a very powerful ‘Emily’. Bike followed in jaunty style but no end section. We were not invited into Syd’s ‘other room’ tonight and Graham Coxon….still to take to the stage, was spared those threatening geese noises. No ducks either on the stage in case you were wondering! There was an unusual bust that was revealed from its covers during the show. The top half of a female manikin covered in mirror chips, rotating on a black and white harlequin stand. This looked like an original piece maybe from the original show. Spots were aimed onto this shining girl (maybe it was Emily) just like in later Floyd shows with the crystal ball. This was actually an eerie sight as the model looked like something from a magical show with a haunting serene quality.

gfm4 Arnold Layne and Candy followed when Graham Coxon took to the stage. A blistering Candy revealed a very strong live piece. The words were mostly true to Candy with the odd nod to Let’s Roll Another One. An additional drum kit was used to beef up the sound for the final two numbers for this part of the show which included hippy girl dancers behind the band complete with body paint. A short (6 mins) but powerful Interstellar was driven by Graham Coxon followed by an extended Pow R Toc H. The band handled the improvisation well but you have to hand it to the Floyd as supreme masters when you listen to their early pieces.

The ‘Bubbles’ tape ends the first set for this show unlike the original. Very close to the bubbles sequence from The Journey this minute and a half of taped effects were accompanied to copious bubbles from machines and pretty girls handing out flowers (mainly daffodils). The concert flyer talks about having ALL of Piper and the singles A’s and B sides. Not quite, though a good 80%. Missing from this set and the original were (strangely) Astronomy Domine and Chapter 24. The Gnome and Stethoscope also failed to materialise but more was to follow.

After the interval Robyn Hitchcock re-appeared with a cellist, Isobel Campbell and an acoustic guitarist Matthew….  It was now time to hear a collection of Syd’s solo songs performed by the trio as an interlude before the finale. A different choice from those aired at the Barbican and all performed with true emotion and versatility. Robyn Hitchcock gave his personal tribute to the song If It’s In You as one of Syd’s finest and it has to be said, it came over beautifully. A brave move.

The band re-appeared for Reaction In G……introduced as an unreleased piece so tonight they could play it any way they liked! And they did….with touches to the versions available on live shows but with much of their own input. A very loud and powerful piece which prepared our ears for Astronomy Domine and the official encore Lucifer Sam. That descending riff echoed around the bowels of the Hall reaching right inside the fabric of the building and the people inside. The audience knew it was over and a feeling of wanting was mirrored by the band who also felt it should not end.

A final version of Emily was treated to us all with full glorious honours from the effects crew who threw everything at the stage to shroud the band in colour and mystery. Throughout, you could see the silhouettes of the band just like in those early stills. Robyn Hitchcock commented ‘Don’t we look slim’ when looking at the shadows earlier in the show! The final taped sequence called ‘Ending’ was played as the audience departed….a collage of electronic keyboard sounds. A two-hour show of delights for early Floyd and Syd fans. The original musical part of the show must have been shorter although the songs would have been extended instrumentally. No films were played inside the show and no racing cars or other live arts on stage! Two days on from the original date and Roger and Syd were being interrogated by a certain musical expert. ‘Why does it all have to be so terribly loud…….BECAUSE WE LIKE IT THAT WAY!!!

SET LIST

First half

Dawn (Tape recording)
Matilda Mother
Flaming
Scarecrow
Jugband Blues
See Emily Play
Bike (Woody from Madness)
Arnold Layne (Dancing Girls)
A Candy and a Currant Bun (with Graham Coxon)
Pow R Toc H (with Graham Coxon)
Interstellar Overdrive ((with Graham Coxon, Flower girls, mirror mannequin)
Bubbles

Second half
Acoustic set with Isobel Campbell (Cello/Vocals) and Matthew Coleman (Guitar)
Terrapin
Love You
Late Night
Long Gone
If it’s in you
Dark Globe
Dominoes
Wined and dined (Coxon returned)

Reaction in G (Rest of the band returned)
Astronomy Domine
Lucifer Sam
See Emily Play (Encore)

The Band
Robyn Hitchcock (Guitar, Vocals)
Terry Edwards (Keyboards, Sax, Brass)
Paul Noble (Guitar)
Kim Rew (Guitar)
Morris Windsor (Drums)
Special Guests:
Daniel ‘Woody’ Woodgate (Drums)
Graham Coxon (Guitar, vocals)
Isobel Campbell (Cello, Vocals) with Matthew Coleman (Guitar)
Plus one other guitarist who appeared a few songs from the end - Shamefully, I didn’t catch his name! If anyone can fill this gap, please let me know!

 
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