Live At Pompeii

David Gilmour

On July 7 and 8, 2016, Pink Floyd vocalist and guitarist David Gilmour played two shows at the famed Pompeii Amphitheatre, the oldest Roman amphitheatre built around 70 BC and buried in ash when nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. For Pink Floyd fans, the venue holds a special place as the centerpiece for Adrian Maben's film, Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii, which features the band playing live within the confines of the amphitheatre before the cameras and no audience. Forty-five years later, Gilmour returned to the arena, playing this time before an audience — a first inside the amphitheatre in almost 2,000 years ago — and recorded and filmed it for his own Live At Pompeii release.

The concert was shot in 4K by director Gavin Elder, and from a cinematic point of view, is about as gorgeous as you can get, enhanced by Floydian-style lighting, the famous circular screen as a backdrop, plus the usual barrage of lasers and pyrotechnics. As could be expected, the visuals are matched by a superior soundtrack comprising the best of Pink Floyd, along with Gilmour's solo tracks, including cuts from his 2015 studio album Rattle That Lock.

Astute followers of Gilmour will notice that Live At Pompeii is his fifth live release. The last two, 2007's Remember That Night and 2008's Live In Gdansk, marked the last live performances of Pink Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright, who accompanied Gilmour and his band on 2006's On An Island tour. The tour was a dream come true for many because long-dormant Floyd tracks like "Arnold Layne" and "Echoes" were added to the setlist. By contrast, the Rattle That Lock tour didn't delve quite as deep into the archives. Which isn't to say there isn't a fair amount of enticing Pink Floyd material on Live At Pompeii, though it might have been nice to do "Echoes," a song prominently featured in Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii.

All that being said, Live At Pompeii offers a solid mix of old and new. Backed by a band that includes bassist Guy Pratt and drummer Steve DiStanislao, both holdovers from the On An Island tour, along with Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Levell and veteran session/touring keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, Gilmour still sings and plays guitar to the highest standard. The set begins with three songs from Rattle That Lock — "5 A.M.," "Rattle That Lock" and "Faces Of Stone" — with the lighting and billowing smoke setting a scene of serenity and drama. One look at the small audience and overall intimacy of the gig, and you'll wish you were there, too.

You'll probably laugh at all the phone cameras propped up when you consider the majestic feel of the footage. Even so, it will likely go unnoticed as you get sucked in by the sonic force of Gilmour's soaring lead guitar. Floyd classics like "Wish You Were Here," "Comfortably Numb" and "One Of These Days," the only song performed at the venue in 1971, sidle up comfortably next to more recent songs from the 80s and 90s, like "High Hopes," "Coming Back To Life," and "Sorrow." As much as "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" has been aired by both Gilmour and Roger Waters in recent years, the grandeur of a spotlight, screen images, the illumination and fire pots lining the upper perimeter of the amphitheatre are enough to raise the hair on your arms. "The Great Gig In The Sky" from The Dark Side Of The Moon is encapsulated by some truly mesmerizing vocals from Lucita Jules, Louise Clare Marshall and Bryan Chambers, and serves as a proper tribute to Rick Wright, who wrote the piece and passed away in 2008. Apropos to the moment, Gilmour tells the audience that the song that follows, "A Boat Lies Waiting" from Rattle That Lock, is about Wright.

What you're getting with Live At Pompeii is the best of David Gilmour on stage and in a near-prefect venue sublimely aligned with the mood and music. When you factor in the history, the look and feel, the cinematic sheen, and timeless aura of Pink Floyd, it's no wonder the guitarist wanted to film and record the two shows, present a limited theatrical run, then follow it up with a DVD and Blu-ray Disc (both rounded out with the Pompeii Then & Now documentary), along with a double CD and quadruple LP release, plus a deluxe box set with even more live material, footage and documentaries. It all makes for a tantalizing keepsake and a complete package documenting a remarkable career.

~ Shawn Perry

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