Continuing the welcome arrival of reviews looking back 15 years at the Division Bell tour, Graham Phelps has shared his vivid memories of the show he saw in Raleigh, North Carolina on the US leg:
I must say that I am of a select few thousand Floyd fans who can claim to have seen the band on the day of an actual eclipse.
The path to my first and only Floyd show was a fortuitous one, to be sure. I do remember greeting with mixed emotions (and from the actual radio news conference, no less) that the band would be playing my home state in the spring of the following year. Feelings were mixed because, even though I live in North Carolina, Raleigh, the capital, is still a relatively long drive...
One Saturday evening, my uncle was visiting. I told him about Floyd coming to Raleigh, and, with tickets already on sale by then, how I probably was going to miss out this time as well. My uncle kindly took me aside and, as "my eyes still grow damp to remember," told me that he had procurred two tickets: one for him, and one in anticipation of my obviously wanting to go. Life often springs these little surprises.
From my home, Raleigh is a three-to-four hour Interstate drive east. My uncle agreed to tackle the drive. We also had a guest, a friend of my uncle's from his work, who was as psyched about the show as we were. Halfway to the capital, the sky began to darken...
I had known about the aforementioned eclipse ahead of time. It was only a partial, so we would not be treated to complete darkness, but the effect was eerie all the same. The sky gradually dimmed to an unnatural yellow-orange, giving everything (trees, road signs, even MacDonalds arches) a trippy, "psychedelic" edge right out of "Live at Pompeii." I couldn't help but wonder if the ever-mercurial Floyd had a secret plan to commemorate the event. Unfortunately, Detroit would get the surprise I had in mind a little over two months later. However, subsequent events would bear out that any disappointment was happily forgotten.
We arrived with bucketloads of time to spare.
An elderly gentleman, the apparent owner of a nice, grassy lot not far from the venue, had set up shop, offering parking for $5. We decided to hoof it the rest of the way. The snaking, human throng of which we were a part, edged forward as fast as brisk paces would take us all. We all banked left, aided by traffic cops, for the final approach to the venue. Before reaching the gate, we passed a chain-link fence, beyond which we were afforded our first view of what was in store.
The massive, arched stage, flanked by two speaker towers, each topped by a strange arched, cave-like opening, immediately made the vast stadium seem too small to hold it. Even more mysterious was the purpose of the long, covered, greenhouse-like structure at the center of the field. I was well aware of sound and lighting necessities, but this construct was something more. Entering the stadium, the true scale of the arched stage became apparent. From the walkway, there seemed to be a thin veil of haze between us and this massive stage, the kind you get when you near an object so large that distance becomes a factor.
We found our seats (off stage left, a third of the way down the lower level), and the stadium began to fill.
Then I heard the trickle of flowing water. Then the pleasant chirping of birds. Then the peel of a distant church bell. Then somebody getting on a lawnmower. Closing my eyes, and shutting out the surrounding multitude, these sounds did not seem like mere recordings. They were real. They were occurring right then and there. One was actually not sitting in a crowded stadium, but in the middle of an English country yard. The reason for the tent-like constucts all around us was clear: Quadrophonic sound... and state-of-the-art, at that.
Finally, the moment arrived. The stadium lights extinguished. Whistles and shouts gradually but quickly coalesced into a magnificent roar, through which the sound of radio voice messages and Morse code suddenly cut through. Planets began to roll across the massive, semi-circular stage. Thinking back, there was no better way to commemorate the day's celestial event than with "Astronomy Domine."
I will not make this adventure any longer by plumbing through the entire set list, but the highlights simply must be addressed. "Learning to Fly" with its dancing lasers and astounding "all systems go" sound effects was a particular favorite. The sparkling stage lights for "Take It Back" in synch with Gilmour's delayed Strat is seared into the memory, as is the chest rattling intro to "Sorrow," resplendent with its awesome waving lasers. The closing, extended jam was hypnotic.
"One of these days," a demented, demonic voice said, "I'm going to cut you into little pieces." Suddenly, two giant pigs lurch from the "caves" at the top of the sound towers as the band shifts into overdrive. The inflated swine seemed unnerved by the repeating mushroom clouds below them, as well as the steely whine of Gilmour's lap steel, but they finally escaped their enclosures in a shower of sparks and pyro flares.
No, that didn't happen, did it? For the next fifteen minutes, I pondered on it.
That was until the lights went down again, and the ethereal opening chords of "Shine You Crazy Diamond" rose through the speakers. The late Mr. Wright's synth solo seemed to cut to the bone as "Mr. Screen" made his first appearance, rising like a luminescent gas giant from behind the stage.
The new films for "Time" and "Money" were welcome and surprising additions, but the S.O.S.-style light rendition of "Hey Teacher" at the base of the stage for "Another Brick in the Wall" signaled that this show was about to go to another level.
During Master Gilmour's first "Comfortably Numb" solo break, my uncle tapped me on the shoulder. He pointed to the enigmatic construct in the center of the stadium. It had opened. And a large, globular object was being hoisted from it. But we didn't have time to think about that, for down on stage "Mr. Screen" itself was kneeling before the awesome power of David Gilmour, concentrating all its bordering lights on the great man. A shift of gears from the good Captain Mason, and we were suddenly in a sparklingly lit parallel dimension. Thousands of petals of light danced across the faces of the gathered thousands, while the tiny, backlit Gilmour coaxed high notes unimaginable from his Strat. The massive mirror ball rotated, then began to open like a flower. Then it was over.
"Hey You" was an inspired first encore, a surprise enough to maintain the audience's interest, but quiet enough for us folks to catch our breath after "Numb's" mirror ball. And we would need it...
Gilmour gradually cranks "Run Like Hell" to life like a vintage Ferrari. Lasers, pyrotechnics, stage lights and sound effects all make an appearance as if they too were taking a final bow. One last final chord, amid a full fireworks display worthy of the Fourth of July, and "Mr. Screen" blows his edges...
"Thank you, very much indeed! Good night to you!"
No, it couldn't be over, could it?
But it was over. Thanks to some prudently saved money, I indulged in the merchandise vendor afterwards, as if buying souvenirs would keep the images I had just witnessed frozen in mind with all its tangible reality. A "Wish You Were Here" T-shirt for a friend at home (which I wish now I would've have kept. Is this wrong of me?), a program, and, perhaps my proudest purchase, a wall-sized poster complete with the twin, steel faces of The Division Bell's cover. The poster remains to this day, hung in a prominent place in my bedroom, and reverentially lit by a converted aquarium lamp, giving it an appropriately otherworldy glow. A shrine to memories.
Some memories, I hope, and indeed we all hope, are immovable.