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Home arrow Reviews arrow Concerts arrow Pink Floyd - Rose Bowl, Pasadena, April 17th, 1994
Pink Floyd - Rose Bowl, Pasadena, April 17th, 1994 Print E-mail
Written by Arthur Bristol   
Saturday, 20 February 2010

Pink Floyd in Pasadena April 17th 1994Welcome to another look back through the mists of time, with a review of Pink Floyd playing in Pasadena in April 1994. Brain Damage regular Arthur Bristol shares with us his memories of the show, which he almost decided against getting tickets for...

My first opportunity to experience a Pink Floyd concert was during "The Division Bell" tour in 1994. However, at that time, I didn't know whether I could see them with clear conscience. A grand scale public feud had been raging between Roger Waters and the rest of the band. Although I had been a Pink Floyd fan for a long time, under these circumstances, going to the concert would be disloyal to the beloved quartet of the 1970's. Surely, the concert would be clouded by the shadow of Roger's absence. How could I bear this disappointment?

With this concern, I hesitated to buy tickets, knowing full-well they would probably sell-out. At the same time, "Keep Talking" became such a rock-radio staple; I began thinking of Stephen Hawking as a lead vocalist. As the days passed, it seemed ridiculous to miss the concert. This might be my last chance to see Pink Floyd. What if Roger put aside his quarrels, joined the band on stage and I wasn't there to see it? Could I live with that? Finally, it occurred to me: three of the world's most important musicians would be on stage together playing some of the best music of all time. Certainly, this music was more important than the squabbling of petty attorneys. It was obvious; I had to go to the concert. If I didn't go, I would be disloyal to myself.

On the day of the show, I arrived early. As the day progressed into dusk, eventually the Rose Bowl was packed solid. I imagine about 100,000 people were there, a sea of humanity. I was seated on an aluminum bench, halfway up the side of the bowl, about three-fourths of the way downfield from the stage. I had driven outside the Rose Bowl a thousand times in my life, but I had never been inside.

I was surprised to find Pink Floyd's travelling stage remarkably similar to the bandshell of the Hollywood Bowl. It was immediately apparent that this tour was a major undertaking with tons of equipment and a large number of employees involved. The atmosphere among the crowd was quite elated and the air was charged with anticipation. Timeless songs were waiting backstage. The experience would be the memory of a lifetime.

The sky was not dark yet as the small group of Pink Floyd began to play their opening track, "Astronomy Domine". Richard Wright, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, three of the original Ummagumma players were performing with their new bass guitarist. Psychedelic ink-slide projections throbbed visually inside the bandshell, behind the band. This was heaven. I hadn't expected Pink Floyd songs from the 1960's. Here I was in 1994 with surviving heroes from a nearly forgotten era breathing new life into this obscure classic. The idealism of Woodstock and Flower Power were swirling through the air of the Rose Bowl. Here I was, having a spiritual epiphany at a commercial event with corporate sponsors!

For the life of me, I never dreamt that my Pink Floyd concert would begin with a Syd Barrett tune. Surely, their best known material was released in the 1970's. Of course, David Gilmour joined the band to fill Syd's vacant post, but they didn't need to resurrect Syd's music to create a satisfying concert. Or did they? Pink Floyd validated their origins by beginning with this song. It was amazing to feel this song weave its way through my bloodstream, all the way into my muscles and bones. As much as I loved the recording, the live performance was beyond imagination.

How can "Astronomy Domine" from Ummagumma, run so deep in my veins? How can a live concert lift a song to a transcendent experience? That's simple; it's the power of musical visionaries in cohesive unity exploring territory beyond standard rock music conventions. Early Pink Floyd's commitment to free-form improvisation forged a unique identity. With time, this tiny boat grew into a giant ship, and this giant vessel was finally at port in my home town. Their voices, the keys, guitar, bass and drums lifted-up into the Rose Bowl sky. Their music filled the air of the stadium, resonating in the cells of my body, bridging the passageway from "life before Pink Floyd concert" to "life during Pink Floyd concert".

The sky had darkened during that first song, and the twilight sky was now a rich cobalt blue. Almost everyone had found their seats, as the Floyd vaulted into the present, focusing on songs from "Momentary Lapse of Reason" and "The Division Bell". For their second song, they delivered their MTV mega-hit, "Learning To Fly", with their expanded line-up featuring an auxiliary percussionist, an extra keyboardist and guitarist, and three dedicated backing vocalists. I was impressed by the immaculate sound reinforcement, especially in a stadium this size. Extra speakers on scaffolding near the top of the crowd, three-fourths of the way downfield from the stage, brought quadrophonic sound-effects and musical nuances to life.

Now that the stage-lights were lit and the sky was dimming, you could see the entire enormous stage. The unlimited potential of the lighting installed on this colossal apparatus began its ever-changing, never-ending demonstration. A circular video-screen displayed images above the eleven musicians, at key moments. I once heard Chris Squire of Yes remark, "I always thought a Pink Floyd concert was more about the lightshow than it was about the music". However, in my opinion: the lightshow and the music at my 1994 Pink Floyd concert were inextricably intertwined in subtle perfection.

And yet, the visual display was mindboggling. The band shell could be illuminated in one color, two colors, or more and the colored light appeared to be eminating from inside the shell. While the shell was infused with color, projected white lights or various colored lights with different shapes were moving over the illuminated shell. It was like watching the sky one moment, and then swimming under the sea during the next. There must have been a thousand or more lights on this rig, with a large percentage mounted on remote-controlled swiveling bases. There were spotlights for the band, spotlights for the audience, helicopter searchlights, and spotlights for props. There were lights everywhere. Over the years, I often wondered: why didn't this sound and lighting system go on tour without Pink Floyd? The crew could throw on the "Pulse" CD and let it rip.

The rhythm of the songs and the dancing of the lights continued into the dark of night. The songs sounded beautiful and the lighting infused the experience. Highlights of the first set included David Gilmour's guitar solo from "Sorrow", accentuated with giant laser beams, and the altruistic message of "On The Turning Away".

To conclude the first set with a dramatic climax, they reached down in their goodie bag and brought out "One Of These Days". During the haunting middle-section, Guy Pratt delighted us with his echo-bouncing, bass guitar solo until the band rejoined him for the coda. Explosive pyrotechnics punctuated the final phrases for the last minute or so, as giant, angry, plastic warthogs wiggled wildly, high on the sides of the stage apparatus. These warthogs lurched violently forward and back in their pedestals, teetering on the brink of disaster, menacing the crowd with their surprising spectacle. They were probably secured safely, because if not, there would be serious injuries in the front rows. And while they were menacing, there was a cartoonish silliness at play, so this was an extraordinarily unusual mixture.

During the intermission, I was stunned. I felt like I had seen an entire concert already, but for some lucky reason, I was getting two concerts for the price of one. No sense in arguing about this one. I took the opportunity to stretch my legs, and I strolled around the stadium and the concessions. Everyone was happy. T-shirt sales were strong. Beer was flowing like Niagara Falls. People were sharing their contentment, satisfaction, and anticipation for more to come. This was a special place in time, an experience that remains vivid as I write this account sixteen years later.

The second-half of the show began with a magnificent rendition of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". People scurried to their seats as the initial drone of the keyboard strings swelled for "Shine On". This was more than anyone could ever want from life, to be at a Pink Floyd concert while they were playing "Shine On". David Gilmour's initial guitar solo in "Shine On" was welcomed with applause and cheers of recognition. To conclude "Shine On" in perfection, the band was joined by Dick Parry, the same brilliant saxophonist featured on "The Dark Side Of The Moon", "Wish You Were Here", and "The Division Bell".

The remainder of the setlist for the second half included most of the tracks from "The Dark Side Of The Moon", randomly strewn between "High Hopes", "Wish You Were Here", and "Another Brick In The Wall". The songs were beautifully played, imbued with pulsating and swirling lights, and peppered with laser beams. The second half ended with the beloved masterpiece, "Comfortably Numb". And the crowd roared, summoning the Floyd for an encore.

To wrap-up the concert, we were treated to an encore of "Hey You", and "Run Like Hell". The popularity of "The Wall" had been enormous, and Roger Water's handiwork had been tastefully presented throughout the show. It was a fitting ending to a concert that included a wide variety of music distilled from an enormous catalog. And the songs were delivered in a spirit of joy to an enthusiastic crowd. During "Run Like Hell", green, yellow and red laser beams shot out in every direction, threatening us to run like hell back to our cozy and familiar cubby holes. Mirror-ball light reflections swirled through the crowd, and a giant mechanical flower-contraption unfolded itself in the center of the stadium behind the sound-mixing desk. This was the bridge from "life during Pink Floyd concert" to "life after Pink Floyd concert".

The beauty of Pink Floyd's music is experiential. While you are listening, their music becomes your environment and nothing else exists. It is an exquisitely unique place. The recordings give you a sense of being with the band, somewhere beyond all time and space. The spirit of their souls comes billowing from the speakers, touching your life.

As we walked back to my pick-up truck in silence, stunned by the event, we reflected on what we had heard, seen and felt. Before the show, parking attendants had directed us to park on the adjacent golf course. Now, as hoards of cars packed into a bottleneck to leave, we sat there on the bench seat in the cab of my pick-up truck, silent and bewildered. We were parked on the incline of a mogul near a sand trap, looking up into the branches of a few proud oak trees. The lighting was stark on these trees above the consistent, lush green of the perfectly manicured grass. Beyond this eerie, minimalist foreground, the rest of the surrounding golf course was pitch-black. And it occurred to me then: we were looking out the windshield into a Storm Thorgerson album sleeve design just waiting to be photographed...

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