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David Gilmour - Live at Pompeii CD (album) cover


David Gilmour


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3.63 | 41 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, in an empty amphitheater to an invisible crowd of 1st century Roman ghosts. The lack of an actual audience made it an oddly haunting and intimate gig, but those days are long gone: nowadays the superstar guitarist is more accustomed 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.

Don't expect the same pyroclastic fireworks this time around however, despite all the laser-beam stage lighting on display. Like the volcano itself, the creative impulses behind this spectacle were mostly dormant, thanks in part to the constraints imposed by a hefty production budget. Nothing in such an expensive show could safely be left to chance: the live sound had to be studio-perfect, and the musicianship flawless (as would be expected, from one of rock music's premier elder-statesmen). But to achieve those aims the entire event was practically embalmed under an admirably slick, all-too impersonal surplus of professionalism.

The set-list included the usual Floydian chestnuts ("Comfortably Numb"; "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" etc), intermixed with a homeopathic selection of cuts from Gilmour's then-current solo effort "Rattle That Lock", an album of music almost designed not to leave any lasting 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 cruise ship and casino circuit, but there's a discouraging sense of corporate obligation surrounding his return to Pompeii, an unintended but tangible echo of that familiar dystopian chorus: " the Machine."

Neu!mann | 2/5 |


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