Pink Floyd - Madison Square Garden, New York City, July 1977

Written by Brain Damage's Elliot Tayman

(Originally appeared in Brain Damage Magazine issue 40)


1977 was a landmark year for me. In June, I graduated from High School (like Waters, I loathed school). In July, I saw Pink Floyd perform live on their legendary Animals tour...

Animals was released in the U.S. in February 1977. A few months later Columbia Records staged a publicity stunt in New York City to promote the album. Led by a flat-bed truck with a video camera on the rear, live animals were paraded up 6th Avenue to Central Park. On the truck were also loudspeakers blaring out the Animals album. Following immediately behind were a few Columbia personnel walking a pig, a sheep, and a dog. Following these three symbolic animals were a hundred or so fans, including myself of course.

We all believed this event was directly related to the upcoming concerts at Madison Square Garden on July 1-4. So, everyone there had the same reason for attending - concert tickets!

But, and even though we were all fully aware that 1977 was the year of the "mail order only" ticket sales at MSG (Led Zep, ELP, Yes, Fleetwood Mac, etc.), after the parade we raced back down 6th Avenue to the MSG Box Office to see if the tickets were indeed on sale. Unfortunately they were not. We went home that day very puzzled and a bit disappointed.

A week or two later WNEW-FM began airing spot announcements for another upcoming publicity event. This would be a giant inflatable pink pig launching in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow (now called Strawberry Fields in memory of John Lennon) sponsored by WNEW-FM. The announcements made it very clear that this event was directly related to the ticket sale which, as expected, was by mail order only. The station DJs handed out a "WNEW-FM Priority Mail Order Form" (these would be given priority by the MSG Box Office over the regular coupon that would appear in the NY Times newspaper concert ad two weeks later). I secured a pile of forms and wasted no time in hailing a taxi to race me to the main post office. There I purchased money orders and mailed off several ticket orders. A few weeks later I received tickets to 3 of the 4 concerts. Better yet, one pair of tickets were for the 2nd row!

The first night, for which we had our 2nd row tickets, my friends and I arrived at MSG around 7:30pm. But before taking our seats we walked around the inside of the venue to check out the massive Floyd setup. It was great to see the return of the large round screen (which made its debut on the previous tour). We noticed that the 360-degree sound system was in place, as well as a long guide wire attached from the stage to the opposite end of the venue. We already knew from reading the concert reviews of earlier shows on the tour that this would be used to carry an enormous inflatable pink pig.

Since the Floyd are known for being a punctual band, we made sure to return to our seats prior to 8pm. A few minutes later the lights of the near-filled venue went out, and the familiar beginning bass chords of Sheep could be heard emanating from Waters’ guitar. Coloured stage lights came on in full force to reveal our four chaps "in the flesh". An extra guitarist could also be seen on stage (which we later learned was Snowy White). All during Sheep I could clearly see Waters looking all around the venue. This was, after all, the first time they played at MSG. With the roar of Gilmour strumming his lead at the end of the song, two mechanical arm-like devices, emitting showers of white sparks, rose from the sides of the stage.

Waters then performed an acoustic solo of Pigs On The Wing Pt1. Now it was Gilmour’s turn to start out with the familiar beginning guitar chords of Dogs. This song won the audience. Not only did we hear Dave sing for the first time that evening, we also heard him break out into some of the best guitar leads of the night. During the long middle segment, several large inflatables were floated to the ceiling - a father, a mother sitting on a couch, a little boy and a car. When the song picked up again, Gilmour sang Waters’ first verse (which I noticed immediately). Waters then picked up and crooned the powerful final verse to a standing crowd in awe.

Several minutes of applause had passed when Waters, once again, went solo. This time for the second part of the album's acoustical bookend - Pigs On the Wing Pt2. However, this live version was different from the one on the album: Snowy White played a sweet lead guitar solo in the middle of the song. Within minutes it was Wright’s turn to begin a piece. The beginning organ notes of Pigs (3 Different Ones), the final song to complete the playing of Animals in its entirety, drifted out to the crowd. It was during the lengthy mid-section of this song that the pig was finally revealed. With glowing eyes, he travelled along the guide wire from one end of the arena to the other, only some ten feet above the fans seated on the floor. Predictably, they were throwing things at him and trying to grab his feet (hooves, whatever). After he arrived back to his pen, the song picked up with Wright repeating the opening organ notes. To dry ice smoke flooding onto the stage, Gilmour's brilliant guitar solo finale ended the song and the first half of the show. Waters thanked the audience and announced that the band was taking a twenty minute break.

Exactly twenty minutes later the arena went black. I was about to hear my favourite album of all time played live by my favourite rock group. I got goose bumps as I listened to Wright begin, as he says, "the band’s favourite album". They performed Shine On You Crazy Diamond Pts 1-5 with Dick Parry making his evening debut on saxophone. During this moment I couldn’t help but think about Syd Barrett - to whom the song was written.

The Floyd moved on to Welcome To The Machine, finally using the circular screen. We all watched the most breathtaking animation video we had ever seen! From there Gilmour kicked in and jammed out the opening chords of Have A Cigar. With the absence of Roy Harper, the song’s original vocalist, both Waters and Gilmour shared the task.

It suddenly became quiet in the venue as we anticipated the start of the album’s title track, Wish You Were Here. During most of the song the audience sang along as well - a tradition honoured by audiences since. The song faded into wind sounds swirling around the speaker system.

Closing out the second set was Shine On You Crazy Diamond Pts 6-9, the better half of the song in my opinion. Dry ice smoke billowed on stage once again. The performance was captivating and the video sequence stunning. This took us to the end of the album where the band received a deserved standing ovation. They thanked the audience, said their good-byes and departed the stage.

The fans went crazy until the band returned to the stage ten minutes later for the first of two encores. Waters started playing the all-too-familiar bass intro for Money. The crowd screamed even louder. Gilmour sang, Parry saxed, the famous video was shown, and finally back to Gilmour for his electrifying guitar solo.

Wright began the second and final encore with his intro to Us And Them. Once again we heard Parry on sax and watched a video that is still in use by the band today. They played as a true foursome - a unified feeling as they wound their way through a song they all love. I would never again see them perform with that same feeling.

At the end of the song Waters cursed a local union for insisting the band use the lighting people employed at MSG. Apparently they didn’t do a very good job. I myself could not tell the difference. The band came together at the front of the stage to thank the audience and then calmly left. The house lights came on to a tremendous roar of disappointment by the fans. I wasn’t so sad though. I would be seeing it all two more times that week.