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David Gilmour - Live at Pompeii CD (album) cover


David Gilmour


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3.50 | 29 ratings

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2 stars The first time David Gilmour played in the ruins of Pompeii was for the classic 1972 Pink Floyd concert documentary filmed by Adrian Maben. The empty Roman amphitheater made that gig an oddly intimate event, but those days are long gone: the superstar guitarist is more accustomed now to selling out the largest arenas on Earth, and his return to Pompeii in July of 2016 was the biggest thing to hit the ancient city since Mount Vesuvius blew its top in AD79.

There aren't, however, any similar pyroclastic fireworks here, despite all the laser-beam stage lighting: the volcano is currently dormant, as were most of the creative impulses behind this spectacle. Nothing in such an expensive production could safely be left to chance: the live sound is studio-perfect; the musicianship is flawless (as should be expected, from one of rock music's premier elder-statesmen); and the entire event was practically embalmed under an admirably slick but all-too impersonal surplus of professionalism.

The set-list includes the usual Floyd chestnuts ("Comfortably Numb"; "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" etc), interspersed with a homeopathic selection of cuts from Gilmour's then-current solo effort "Rattle That Lock", an album of music designed to pass through one ear and out the other without leaving any impression. Expect no surprises whatsoever: even the ecstatic singing in "The Great Gig in the Sky" is an almost verbatim wail-for-wail copy of Clare Torry's original on "The Dark Side of the Moon", although the added male accompaniment provides a nice contrast.

The crowd of 3,000 fans in attendance (Gilmour deserves credit for insisting on playing smaller heritage sites on this tour) apparently didn't want anything more: notice how the first hint of pre-recorded radio static sends them into a Pavlovian frenzy, anticipating the opening notes of "Wish You Were Here". The song morphs into an emotional sing-along homage to Richard Wright, following a more explicit dedication to the departed Floyd keyboard wizard in "A Boat Lies Waiting". But that bittersweet moment is spoiled by a somewhat tone-deaf transition to the more acerbic crowd-pleaser "Money", which if you think about it might have sent the wrong message (the "Time/Breathe Reprise" medley would have been more appropriate).

After the outstanding "Live in Gdańsk" concert from 2008, my expectations for this set were (of course) rewarded with an inevitable sense of mild disappointment. Gilmour hasn't yet reached the same nadir of other Golden Age proggers reduced to playing the nostalgia circuit, but there's a discouraging sense of corporate obligation surrounding his return to Pompeii, an unintended but tangible echo of that all-too familiar dystopian chorus: " the Machine."

Neu!mann | 2/5 |


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