Pink Floyd | Pulse - DVD Review

Pulse

Pink Floyd

Upon hearing the news of Syd Barrett’s untimely demise, I felt a moral obligation to run out and buy Pulse, the long-awaited DVD comprising Pink Floyd’s 1994 concerts at London’s Earl Court. Despite the fact that Barrett is far removed from the cast of assembled musicians on the DVD, it still seemed like the proper thing to do. In all honesty, I would have bought it anyway. Anticipation of the DVD's release has been steadily building for almost a year. I suspect plenty of others would have purchased it as well.

Pulse, previously available on VHS, effectively captures the late 80s/early 90s version of Pink Floyd in glorious 5.1 surround and original 4:3 aspect ratio (there will be none of that 16:9 nonsense for this lot). Veteran purists may frown at the absence of Roger Waters, but given the humongous stage, a flotilla of lighting and effects, and nearly a dozen musicians, he might well have gotten lost in the shuffle anyway. The set list is also lacking particular highlights from the tour, notably "Astronomy Domine," the Syd Barrett composition the band opened many of their shows with in 1994 and included on the Pulse CD from 1995. Considering the timing of the DVD’s release, it would seem rather fitting, eerily coincidental actually. Even so, Barrett’s legacy is mildly celebrated during "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" – subtle enough to avoid too much fuss, yet reliably elegant and majestic as always.

A heavy, sequential dose of material from A Momentary Lapse Of Reason and The Division Bell, the two albums without Roger Waters, is adeptly trotted out and swept away before the flood of greatest hits pitches a tent and stays for the duration. With such a high-tech ensemble spearheaded by David Gilmour, along with founding members Nick Mason and Richard Wright, nary a sour note or off-key harmony seem possible. Of course, the centerpiece of Pulse is the performance of The Dark Side Of The Moon in its entirety. Here, it works especially well as Gilmour, who originally sang lead on every song except "Brain Damage/Eclipse," takes the reins and guides the band through a fairly spot-on rendition of the classic album.

The encore — "Wish You Were Here," "Comfortably Numb," and "Run Like Hell" — is predictable, yet expertly executed, fulfilling every fan’s wet dream of seeing Pink Floyd perform what are arguably three of their most popular songs. Still, after seeing Gilmour run through "Echoes" and "Fat Old Sun" on his 2006 solo tour, one has to wonder if the 1994 model of Pink Floyd was purposely streamlined for maximum profitability. As it is, the Earl Court shows were the end of an era — much different than that of the 60s and 70s. They would, in fact, be the band's last shows until 2005's one-time reunion at Live 8. To have it on DVD is to cherish a moment when many fans were densely fanatical, yet completely clueless about the band's future. Ah, those were the days.

In addition to the concert, the two-disc set is bursting with a tasteful slathering of extras. You can view all the highly visual, Strom Thorgerson films that played on the big round screen suspended behind the band. There are music videos for "Learning To Fly" and "Take It Back," as well as a montage of behind-the-scenes, backstage footage entitled Say Goodbye To Life as We Know It. Pink Floyd’s 1996 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame followed by a low-key performance of "Wish You Were Here" with Billy Corgan made the cut. As did a flurry of photos, cover art, commercials, tour maps, itineraries, and stage plans. To top the whole shebang off, a section called Bootlegging The Bootleggers features amateur video and audio of the band performing "What Do You Want From Me?," "On The Turning Away," "Poles Apart," and the Grammy-winning instrumental "Marooned." This alone makes the modestly priced package a special token for weary collectors and avid Floyd enthusiasts alike. While it may not be the most appropriate salute to Syd Barrett, Pulse stakes a significant claim for the band the Madcap Crazy Diamond helped turn into one of the most important and powerful musical forces in history.

~ Shawn Perry

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