Six years ago today, one of the most significant events in Pink Floyd's history occurred. On a beautiful summer's day in London's Hyde Park, and in other major venues across the world, many of the greatest artists came together to perform at Live 8.
The shows were in aid of a message, not money - the message being that poverty and death in Africa is avoidable if just eight men, gathered in a room in Edinburgh in July 2005, made the right decisions regarding national debt. The success (or not) of that aim is a separate issue...
Apart from the global importance of the day, the additional significance of July 2nd for Floyd fans was obvious, but clearly, as time has passed, this significance has grown dramatically, with the tragic passing of Roger 'Syd' Barrett, and Richard Wright. This weekend, we look back at that day...
The Floyd's reunion arguably dominated much of the day, and despite the wonderful performances of many of those on the bill, their reunion was the headline of July 2nd. Indeed, their influence drifted in and out of the day - most obviously, when The Who were on the stage earlier in the evening. Part way through their set, the screen behind them showed a green heartbeat for around 10 seconds. A bit of a giveaway of what was to follow!
Live 8 made a huge impact on Floyd fans (especially those lucky enough to have been in the Hyde Park audience), and their reactions and pictures resulted in Brain Damage devoting a chunk of the site to these - click here to browse through the Live 8 section - but to remind us all of our highlight of the night, and why it is still regarded as such a key performance, the Pink Floyd-related part of our illustrated review (written straight after) is shared again below.
The six years that have passed have done nothing to diminish the musicianship and the act of reconciliation and indeed have strengthened over time as people appreciate the foursome's willingness to put the past to one side, for the greater good. Inevitably, the evening resulted in frequent calls for the band to get back together on a longer term basis, to record and/or tour, which in reality was never going to happen.
Thankfully, such clamouring did not dull the views of Roger, David, Nick, and Richard, all of whom talked fondly about the day in various interviews. Indeed, it seemed to invigorate Richard who subsequently toured with David on his 2006 On An Island tour.
"I think Live 8 was probably it," Waters told the BBC's Rebecca Jones last year. "And Live 8 was so beautiful, and Rick obviously was still with us then. If that's the way we draw a line under Pink Floyd, so be it. I won't be unhappy about that."
The pictures in this article are exclusive to Brain Damage, and many are professional shots very kindly provided to us by our friend Budiarto Shambazy, from Indonesia's Daily Kompas.
"Home, home again..."
Almost on the dot of 11pm, came the only band that didn't have (or didn't need?) an introduction. The stage shrouded in darkness, with the heartbeat showing on all the screens this time, and the sound of that vital organ thudded around Hyde Park. I spot the backstage curtain being moved, stage right, and see David Gilmour, with a huge smile on his face. This bodes well...
A hushed anticipation gripped the crowd. Even the non Floydheads were aware of how big a moment this was - and the atmosphere was electric.
On walk the band - Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright, Jon Carin (who is stationed in the dry ice and darkness, behind Richard), and Tim Renwick. Oh and Roger Waters... Us fortunate ones down the front send up a roar of appreciation, which spread like a wave to the back of the park, adding to the cheers for the start of Speak To Me. An incredible reception - the biggest of the
Whilst we all knew that Roger was appearing with them - after all, it was THE story of the event, for a couple of weeks beforehand (following those momentous phone calls on the night of Friday 10th June), it was still a very strange, but wonderful, sight to see him on stage next to David. After all, most Floyd fans in the audience were either too young, or not even born, the last time that happened!
With the heartbeats in the air building, and the trace on the screen slowing dissolving to a moon, the lights around the stage died, leaving everything shrouded in darkness. The scream builds, and "Breathe" starts with no indication that the four of them had ever been away, or apart for all those years. The tightest of starts, fluid and beautiful, and setting the scene for their whole set.
In a nod to the location, and the history of the band, the screen behind showed Algie the pig floating between the chimneys of Battersea Power Station. (I was later to discover that a BBC cameraman panned across to the REAL building, to the right of the stage in the distance. Nice!)
As David moved from his slide guitar to take the vocal, faces within the band were still pretty
serious. The occasion seemed to be impressing itself on them; maybe not the 205,000 in the park, nor the 2 billion-plus worldwide audience, but the occasion of being back after some 24 years, playing a song they last did as a team back in 1975.
First line over, and faces relaxed. This was going well - very well indeed. Roger mouths some of
the lyrics, turns and exchanges a huge smile with Nick. Richard, along with Nick and Roger, looks around too - David is the only one faced forward throughout - concentrating on delivering the words. A powerful bridge between "Breathe" and "Breathe Reprise" is a nice touch. "Breathe Reprise" commences with a great run down the fretboard from Roger, during "Home, home again...", taking the mood down again from the dynamic bridge.
David still looks pretty nervous at this point, but seems to calm a little after exchanging a brief smile with Roger. A wonderful start to proceedings...
They bring the song to its conclusion, and a "Thank You!" from Roger leads to the sound of coins jingling. The familiar bass refrain of "Money" kicks in, and despite a
slight timing issue at the start (the looped sound effect running at a different speed to the instrumentation) the band soon fell into the groove of a song that they've played so many times before.
This was the first time I'd seen them so visibly enjoy running through it, though. The tiredness seen on the umpteenth performance, as part of a long tour, was nowhere to be seen. And neither were backing singers, adding in a tired "woo-hoo" throughout. This was a stripped-back-to-basics performance - how the song should be heard. With Dick Parry coming on to provide sax duties, and a great reading from all the musicians, this was a joy.
Missed on the TV broadcast was the way that messrs Gilmour and Waters delivered the final, crashing note of the song - facing each other, bringing the almost vertical necks of their guitars down decisively and in unison.
Confusion on some faces in the audience as the radio gets tuned in at the start of "Wish You Were Here" - no, the radio mics aren't picking up bogus signals! Tim Renwick kicks off the acoustic guitar strumming, and, for the first time ever, Roger then uses this as background for an introduction, his voice cracking with the emotion: "It's actually quite emotional, standing up here with these three guys after all these years. Standing to be counted with the rest of you. Anyway, we're doing this for everyone who's not here, particularly, of course for Syd."
It is Syd whose face appears on the screen behind them, and provides the focus for the vocal, shared between David and Roger.
And so, onto the song that was to conclude this most remarkable and unexpected reunion. With a
matter-of-fact "Here we go" from Roger, the band launched into one of the tightest, and certainly the most memorable, versions of "Comfortably Numb" I've ever heard.
The screens fade to black, and the lights on the stage dim. A solid red screen fades up, which is
repeated throughout the concert arena (meaning only those close to the stage can see what the musicians are doing - but then I guess this echoes the original 1980/81 shows with the band behind The Wall) as Roger takes up the vocal. Another lovely duet with David, who has his vocal augmented with Carol Kenyon, providing added depths to his tender delivery.
The first solo starts, Nick takes off his headphones (worn just for the first part of this song), and the red screen turns into a white wall. Next verse, and the wall has turned blood red again; Nick looks lost in the moment, eyes shut, taking it all in.
The final solo sees the white wall again, and Gerald Scarfe's red pen slowly and deliberately writes MAKE POVERTY HISTORY over the left, middle and right hand stage screens...as David rips out one of the most blistering solos ever on his black Strat. And then it was over, with the final crashing chords echoing into the London night sky.
Instruments get put down, and the foursome convene at the front of the stage. Then came the moment we never thought we'd see - the four of them, arm-in-arm, revelling in the moment and thanking the crowd for the incredible reception. Any doubts they must have had before going on, surely were swept away.
At almost 25 minutes long, Pink Floyd had the longest set in the show. And they made the most of it - a remarkable, moving, unforgettable performance...and with the songs stripped back to basics, with little of the (in some cases) unneccessary frills added in later years. Each member of the band appeared at various point to be lost in the music, the angst and anger of the preceeding years stripped away and forgotten, to leave a band, together, playing its heart out - standing up to be counted for what they believe in, and showing an awareness of what is really important in this brief thing we call life.
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