The first night of the two special "Atom Heart Mother" evenings being held in Chelsea's Cadogan Hall, in the heart of London, was always going to be a hard act to follow. With a superb mix of music, wordplay, and improvisation crafted by Ron Geesin, the event clearly thrilled many.
The second night boasted a guest appearance by David Gilmour, augmenting the existing musicians, which resulted in a sell-out show and an audience swelled with many more obvious Floydies than were seen the previous night. [Click thumbnail to left; picture by Joe Geesin] The audience were to witness a truly magical performance which will not be easily forgotten by the attendees...
The format of the show was unchanged from the first night, reviewed in full here. Naturally, Ron's improvised pieces in the first half were quite different, as were his comments and even some of the aphorisms he selected for the audience's pleasure. Performance-wise, the various elements of the first half seemed a touch better than the first night, with the benefit of that performance and an afternoon run-through clear to see.
The interval brought the expected rearrangement to the stage, moving the piano over to the side in front of the choir. Once this was done, a second guitar position could be seen, with David's amps and Cobb Strobotuner centre stage, and the Italian guitarist Federico Maremmi's equipment moved slightly to stage right. In front of David's kit were a pair of guitars, including what turned out to be a prototype of the forthcoming Fender "Black Strat" signature model, and David's lap steel guitar.
The second half started with the second reading of "Atom 'Art Mother - The Story" on the large projection screen. This revealed, through a series of pictures of the original score and various stages of the recording process, how the "Pink Floyd - 'Epic'" (later to be renamed Atom Heart Mother) was developed through a humorous monologue by Ron.
And then, the moment arrived that so many were waiting for. First on stage was David, who readied himself with the Black Strat, and then the rest of the massed ranks of musicians took their position. The noise of the retreating screen seemed to bother David slightly, who made it clear that he was not keen to start the piece until the quiet squeaking had abated. The first night had the piece begin whilst the screen was retracting and this proved a minor distraction at the very start.
It was hard to imagine that the last time David had performed the piece in public had been some 36 years ago. He effortlessly took control of proceedings with the master-class in subtle guitar work, working with the Mun Floyd's guitarist, sharing the lead guitar work, and at times, the conductor knew when to lay down his baton and let David control the flow.
The performance of the piece came across with an almost bluesy, restrained feel, as opposed to the previous night's straighter rendition. The addition of the slide guitar changed the dynamic of the piece, Gilmour swapping almost effortlessly between the two through the piece. At one point, an extended improvised section was heading into the territory found within the "spacey" middle of Echoes, with the bass player massaging his strings with a slide to great effect. The overall sound balance seemed better, with the drums less prominent, and Ron's delicate piano notes much clearer. Everyone's performance had stepped up a gear, with the Mun Floyd, the brass section, the choir, and Caroline Dale all playing their hearts out.
A sublime end to a wonderful weekend. With a venue such as the Cadogan, the atmosphere was much different to normal and with the limited capacity of the place, it proved a great opportunity for old friends to catch up with each other. You could feel the anticipation in the venue's bar beforehand, with some fairly wild rumours flying around which just added to the fun!
At the end of the evening, though, each person there knew that they'd witnessed something very special, something that they would never have expected, and that they would never experience again...
Picture credits - David and Ron at the end of the show, courtesy of Joe Geesin. The cow inside Cadogan Hall, Matt Johns, Brain Damage.
CONCERT REVIEW by BD CONTRIBUTOR, Nick Gribben
As soon as I found out Ron Geesin was doing the piece live I really wanted to go especially since it hadn't been done live for 35+ years and also because one of the original composers was going to be playing. But living in Glasgow I couldn't decide whether to make the journey or not. The decision was made easy when I found out that David Gilmour was also going to be playing.
I flew down on the day and made my way to the hall around sixish as I was to pick up my tickets from the box office. Outside the 'Stage' door there was a camper van parked and as I walked past it, I walked straight into David Gilmour who was with his wife Polly and the kids. I managed to shake his hand before they all disappeared into the van. I then picked my jaw up off the ground, went in to get my tickets, and then sat in the foyer still dumbstruck with the foregoing at which point I then spotted and chatted with Storm Thorgerson. Meeting both was worth the journey alone!
I then filtered into the hall. The first half comprised of some funny and mind boggling poetry and aphorisms read and written by Ron, and also some pieces of recently written music by Ron - the most memorable being the eerie 'Blue Blackbird' (which was similar to the choir section of the album version of A Saucerful Of Secrets) which was performed by an outstanding choir and gave you a taste of what was to come.
The second half began with a big screen which stated "Atom 'Art Mother" where Ron gave a talk about how the piece was created by the Floyd and him, during which he showed articles and photos of the time, and poked fun at the members of Pink Floyd remembering how "Back then David was called 'Dave'". He also described how the original recording was one beat out when all the tapes were put together and how he would be doing it "The right way, the wrong way", which for him was the right way, and then "doing it the right way which was the wrong way"!
He then brought the band on stage including Dave, sorry David and once the big screen disappeared the music started.
What followed was just awesome. The acoustics in the hall were tremendous and none of the musicians could be faulted, which could also be said about the audience, which was well mixed with people in bow ties and suits, to old rockers in jeans and Pink Floyd t-shirts. There were no whistles or shouts of "Go on yourself Dave" during the quieter sections; you could hear a pin drop.
The brass sections were tight and beautifully played; Mun Floyd played as though they had played the piece a hundred times before, they were always smiling and really enjoying the occasion; Ron was great on the piano; the choir made the hair on the back of your neck stand up, and then there was David... His guitar work, both on slide guitar and on his Fender, were just what you would expect, with the solos very close to the original versions, with one of them starting on the slide and within a blink of an eye finishing on the Fender. But even though it was an extended version it was over too soon. After which we got an 'encore' of the 'right way' which started with David's last guitar solo. But again it was all over far too soon.
It was a fantastic night and one that I never expected to see. A great experience all round and one that will live with me for a long time.