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Home arrow Reviews arrow Concerts arrow Pink Floyd - Empire Pool, Wembley, 15th March 1977
Pink Floyd - Empire Pool, Wembley, 15th March 1977 Print E-mail
Written by John Martin   
Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Pink Floyd - Wembley Empire Pool, 15 March 1977 ticketThe following review of one of Pink Floyd's 1977 London concerts was written by BD contributor John Martin the day after the show, and has not been published - until now. The venue became Wembley Arena, but at the time of the band's In The Flesh tour, it was still making reference to its past life as an Olympic swimming pool. The pool is still there, by the way - under the floor. Anyway, John's review makes for a fascinating look at perceptions of the Floyd's live show at the time, as well as step by step detail on what was seen and heard during the concert, and we appreciate John sharing it with the Floyd community after more than 38 years...

Back in 1977, I was a 20-year-old student at Portsmouth Polytechnic. I had been a Floyd fan for about three years, and had never seen them in concert. I bought Dark Side in 1974, bought Wish You Were Here on the day it came out and then, finally in 1977 I bought a ticket to go and see them at Wembley Empire Pool. To say I was excited is an understatement. Four of us made the trip up from Portsmouth in a mate's tatty old Mini...

Set One
Eight o'clock: people still coming in as the lights went out and the first pulses of Sheep are heard in the huge hall. Wright's organ sounds very clear indeed. Lights are quite dim at this point. Suddenly the Floyd are in full flow and the group is lit up by lights: red ones, green ones, orange ones, blue ones. Six great musicians playing great music. The centrepiece of Sheep arrives and the stage is bathed in quiet light - the 23rd psalm is not heard very clearly, but is not meant to. Again the stage brilliantly floodlit, as Floyd move into the Avengers sequence and Gilmour is spotlighted as he plays the lengthy final solo. As he does so, mobile lighting gantries (looking like fireman's extension ladders) rise slowly into the air on either side of the stage, spraying brilliant flashes of light like iron filings in a chemistry set. Unfortunately the left hand side failed to go off (the only mistake I noticed, though doubtless the music press will find others!).

Sheep gets tremendous applause, and then Waters changes to acoustic guitar for Pigs on the Wing part 1, which is immediately followed by Dogs, with the spotlighted Gilmour taking lead vocal, and then Nick's drums enter to create the full Floyd sound. Gilmour has a guitar solo between the 2nd and 3rd verses, and between 3rd and 4th, and then the word stone is echoed eerily round the hall and Mason and Wright take over, inducing different moods as their patterns change. This piece is extended from the album, but eventually the guitars come back and Gilmour again takes up the vocals.

As vocals are finishing the first of the Floyd's really big effects becomes visible - a huge inflatable man appears over the right hand PA system - inflating all the time until he hangs over the stage on the right. As Gilmour's guitar takes over, a smaller inflatable, possibly a child, appears to be closely followed by a third object, which was soon seen to be a mother reclining on a settee, and the Dog family has appeared. As Waters' voice takes over the final, repetitive vocals the huge man figure swings from the stage right until he hangs over the group like a great bird. In the middle of the vocals he suddenly starts to deflate, as do the other two, but as the last line is sung and repeated, he is re-inflated to hang over the group once more. The audience are enthralled - it is very noticeable how Rick has been moving from one keyboard to another (Hammond to Rhodes and back) and this he continues to do from time to time throughout the concert.

Next is Pigs on the Wing part 2, which is emotionally sung by Roger, with acoustic guitar, and then we get the guttural grunts that fill the Empire Pool, signalling the beginning of Pigs (Three Different Ones). This time Rick and Dave are spotlighted by the mobile gantries as they play the intro and then Roger takes over with viciously sung vocals. The only thing missing was Rick's running down the scale at the end of each verse, which is there on the album. Nick works busily on the drums, and the centrepiece of the song is extended until quiet returns as the lead up to the third verse begins.

The light show during this song was fantastic, with rapidly changing colours and patterns. The third verse is sung by Waters, and it is noticeable that something is going on behind the left-hand PA. Suddenly a mist is emitted from the tops of both the right and left PA systems, the audience watches expectantly. As the band move into an extended instrumental section so two points of light can be seen above the left-hand PA, and then through the mist can be seen the snout of a giant pig. It slowly moves out until it is fully visible and we are all craning our necks to get a better view as it hovers over the audience, as if watching us. The searchlight eyes pick out the audience, and the pig moves out into the auditorium. It is clearly a male pig!! It also has a curly black tail looking like a large snake. As Gilmour's guitar solo comes to an end it makes its way back to its lair by the right-hand PA. As the enormous applause fades away the band announces it is taking a break.

Stage Set-Up
The stage is at the far end of the pool, with a huge set of speakers on either side. There is a huge set of speakers on either side of the hall, with another at the centre at the back - original 5.1 surround sound! The Floyd consisted of the four band members plus Snowy White on guitar and Dick Parry on saxophone and keyboards. Dave Gilmour stood furthest to the left as we look), playing lead. Snowy stood next to him, on Rhythm guitar. Nick's drum-kit is in the middle, with Rick's keyboards set several yards to his left (our right). Between them, Roger stands playing bass, with a couple of other guitars leaning against Rick's keyboards. Dick Parry's keyboards are set behind, and slightly obscured by Rick's.

Lighting-wise there are two huge semi-circles of lights on the sides of the big circular screen at the rear of the centre of the stage. At either side is a large "genie tower" and spotlights. Besides this there are several lights in the roof, particularly for spotlighting Rick Wright. Other spots come from the far end of the stadium. Lastly (but by no means least) come the two huge lighting gantries perched on the end of extension ladders (cherry pickers). These are regularly moving up and down during the concert. The lights were used very much according to the mood of the music. In attacking sequences, such as Pigs, the stage would be bathed in a brilliant light, whilst during the quieter passages (eg part one of Shine On You Crazy Diamond) the stage was bathed in a softer light - often blue.

Set Two
After a break of about 20 minutes, the first notes of Shine On You Crazy Diamond are heard. The huge arena was in total darkness, the stage in darkness, and the only light was from the film projected onto the big circular screen on stage. A sort of knee-deep mist is blown around the stage. The film started with a man, then a beach at sunset, then a man running and so forth. This very surreal film was played throughout the first part of Shine On. This was beautifully played, with that wonderful 4 note intro from Dave being spine-tingling. The spotlight took Gilmour, Waters and Wright in turn. Towards the end Dick Parry moved out between Mason and Waters to play his saxophone solo. He took one overhead spotlight, with two from the other end of the arena (one from each corner). It was a glorious moment for him, and he played beautifully.

As the sax faded into the distance, so the film on screen changed to an animated metal monster moving towards the audience as Gilmour's rasping guitar settled into its mood. The moveable gantries soared into position high above his head as his solo continued and he broke into vocals as the monster became too big for the screen and became what looked like some kind of window-less skyscrapers which in turn cracked and spurted blood. As Gilmour began the second set of vocals, the skyscrapers became carried away by a sea of waving hands. This surreal film continued as Dave finished the second verse of Welcome to the Machine, enthralling the audience. Crowd noises bring the song to an end and the lift door opens.

Have a Cigar begins with one of the giant gantries spotlighting Dave from above as he plays the brilliant intro. Mason's drums follow and then Roger's vocals, sounding slightly different to the album. The sound is excellent, with light patterns changing constantly. At the end a transistor radio is raised from the stage and is spotlighted from the far end of the arena (as well as one from each genie tower). The sound of an acoustic guitar is distorted as if from a radio - Wish You Were Here begins.

This gorgeous song is extended by a repeat of the final verse, and then the wind blows through the arena, and the surrealist film returns to herald the beginning of Shine On You Crazy Diamond Part Two. As on the album this is the highlight, and the build up to the vocals is quite incredible. Dave started to play a new instrument (some sort of lap steel guitar I think). After the vocals comes a quieter section, with Rick's keyboards taking over, and stage was bathed in a soft green and blue light. As the song builds to a climax, a huge mirrored-glass sunburst rises up from the back of the stage and starts revolving, the centre one way, the outer sails the other. Each panel has an extraordinary number of reflective surfaces, and the effect is stupendous, as light rays are reflected in a myriad of directions. The whole arena is mesmerised as strange patterns are formed on the walls, the ceiling, the audience, with the revolving speed slowing down as the song reaches the end.

When it is finished, the band received a standing ovation that seems to last forever. Finally they returned for an encore of Money from Dark Side of the Moon. Again a film is used, showing money in cash registers, a spinning ten pence piece, a topless model, and various other forms of money, along with things associated with it. Roger sang the vocals, and Nick's drums were to the fore. Again the whole stage is bathed in light. The song was extended from the album version, both between verses 2 and 3 and afterwards. It finished with Mason bringing down the tempo and then with a final crash the concert was over...

16/3/1977

This review was written the day after the concert, while it was still fresh in my mind. I didn't do anything with it at the time, and for more than 30 years it languished a drawer, forgotten and unloved. Then, a couple of weeks ago I rediscovered it while looking for something else, and thought Brain Damage readers might be interested to see it. I've seen the Floyd on every British tour since but there's nothing quite like the first time. John Martin

 
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