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'Live At Pompeii': David Gilmour creates another masterpiece Print E-mail
Written by Marty Yawnick   
Friday, 15 September 2017
David Gilmour Live at Pompeii - screenshot from EPK

If you have the chance, see this in a theater. See it in a big room with a lot of people. Yes, your 100-inch big screen TV kicks all kinds of ass. And your Dolby Surround 7.1 sound is awesome. See this in a cinema while you can, via the encore screenings in a number of cinemas on Monday, September 18. More information here.

'Live At Pompeii' is a concert film of David Gilmour's 2015-16 'Rattle That Lock' tour. The Blu-ray will be released on September 28, but it premiered on September 13 in cinemas around the globe and everyone was invited. It was shot in the Amphitheatre of Pompeii, the site of the film 'Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii' shot back in 1971. Over 40 years later, Gilmour returned for two sold out performances on July 7 and 8, 2016.

I was looking forward to seeing the cinema presentation of David Gilmour's 'Live At Pompeii' with both a warm space cadet glow and a little trepidation. I was fortunate enough to see this tour live in 2016 at the Hollywood Bowl, the type of unique venue where Gilmour really likes to perform. I still bask in the afterglow of that night. It was an outstanding performance combined with the magic of a classic and timeless venue. How could a carefully edited film screened at about 30 dB quieter than the live show hold up to the actual performance?

The answer is very well. The film is its own experience. We were in a packed theater with a room full of other fans who get it, making the evening a moving shared experience. Really… see it in a cinema.

Directed by Gavin Elder, the film opens with an impressive, sweeping aerial shot of the Amphitheatre at Pompeii -- Mount Vesuvius looming in the background -- and then wastes no time diving in to the music...

A music icon with over 50 years in the biz, David Gilmour gave the crowd what they wanted on this tour. The tour's set list was a good overview of his career – both solo and with Pink Floyd -- and the film reflects that. Songs were selected from decades of Pink Floyd material going all the way back to 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' (an album that predates Gilmour in the band) and spanning everything up through 'The Division Bell'. He stuck to his two most recent albums when drawing on his solo works. On tour, there were a few pleasant musical surprises. A couple of them made it into the cinema presentation. The rest appear on the Blu-ray.

The film was cut mostly from the second night. The performance itself is simply outstanding. It is one of the best concert film performances I have ever heard. The band sounded vibrant and alive. The music itself was tight but the feel of the performance was loose and natural. Musically, the performances on screen rarely strayed far from the recorded versions but surprisingly there was still a lot of new "stuff" scattered throughout the film in the form of subtle flourishes where the band added some of their own flair.

Still, the star of the show was David Gilmour and like his live performances, he did not disappoint. Solos and other guitar work were tight, on pitch, and mostly what they needed to be even if they were not an exact recreation of the record. David's vocals sounded even better here than they did live early in the tour (I suspect there may have been a little touch-up work done in post....).

The audio mix for the film is outstanding -- quite possibly one of the best I've ever heard. It's perfectly balanced and has the right amount of ambience, warmth and presence. It's a full-sounding mix that rewards you with subtle detail upon careful listens. It sounds little like a typical, flat live-in-concert mix and much more like a recorded-live-in-the-studio mix. This was a great sounding tour in the venues and they successfully captured that sound for the film.

The cinema presentation was mastered in both Dolby Surround 7.1 and Dolby Atmos (the Blu is 7.1 only) and the 360-degree soundstage is used extremely effectively throughout. The surround mix is very natural and free from gimmicks to detract from the concert experience. Music in the front mostly, crowd in the back — just as you'd expect. This attention to sound helps to immerse the viewer into the experience. There were wonderful moments in the theater during anthemic songs such as "Wish You Were Here" where the crowd in the auditorium sang along as loud as the crowd on the soundtrack. Scattered throughout the performance were just enough musical surprises coming from the back of the soundstage to make you really appreciate a good sound system. There were a few big surround sound set pieces, such as the intro to "Time" coming from everywhere, but my favorite surround moments were some of the small ones like keyboardist Chuck Leavell's "Hello…" echoing front to back in "Comfortably Numb". Nice.

David Gilmour Live at Pompeii - cinema marquee

Through it all, the band looked like they were having fun, Gilmour included. There was smiling, interaction, and if you look closely you could even see the occasional joking around at the edge of the frame. He and his core group of musicians have been playing together for years and know how to read each other's cues and the film gave the audience the pleasure of seeing them up close. It was full of little nuances like that which might be missed unless the image was 30 feet tall.

One of the many things that I loved about 'Live At Pompeii' is how the film did not get in the way of the music. Often, concert films look like concert films. The cameras are often framed too tight and the film is filled with quick edits. As a viewer, you might get a great view of the sweat but often little feel for the ambience of the overall event. Here, though, Elder's visuals complement and don't really compete with the music. There are plenty of close-ups of David's face, but more often the cinematography is wider and more open often giving you a better feel for the event. The camera is allowed to linger, letting you take in more of the stage or catch more of the band's interactions. Wider shots mean that there is often a lot of things in the frame to look at and there is a lot to see onscreen, whether it's the crowd, Mr. Screen, or how lighting designer Mark Brickman's remarkable light show seem to converge with the gorgeous amphitheatre itself. Pompeii is as much a star here as anyone else in the band. Elder wisely uses the amphitheatre as a backdrop throughout. He never lets you forget where the show was filmed and the result is often magnificent.

I have one complaint about the cinema presentation. Running at 104 minutes, it wasn't long enough. This won't be a problem on the Blu-ray release. Six songs were cut from the film (and I think a minute or so from "Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Part I" as well). I suppose they were trimmed so that the cinemas could squeeze in one more showing of "It" for the evening.

There have been a lot of rock bands over the past 50 years. Extremely few of them now are still making new music that a lot of people get really excited about. Only a handful of those still have the cachet to be able to fill a large venue the way the members of Pink Floyd still can. Whether you experience it in a cinema or in your living room (or were one of the lucky 6,000 or so to experience it in person), 'David Gilmour: Live At Pompeii' is an event and the film stands as an excellent record of his 'Rattle That Lock' "Old Man's" Tour. It's an outstanding bookend to the career of one of rock music's most iconic musicians.

Including the special feature 'Return To Pompeii', the cinema presentation ran just over two hours. The Blu-ray disc, which will be released on September 29, contains the entire show plus much more bonus material. 429 minutes in the deluxe box set? Sweet! Full details of the contents of each edition, along with ordering links, can be found here.

A second screening in cinemas has been added to many cinemas for Monday, September 18. More information is available here.

Marty Yawnick is a graphic designer, writer, and recovering DJ who is also a lifelong Pink Floyd fan and remembers the album release of Dark Side of the Moon because it seemed to be everywhere. He hails from Dallas, Texas. He currently writes and publishes TheWallComplete.com, the story of all the bits that were cut from The Wall album before its release. Follow him on Twitter @TheWallComplete.

 
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