Tuesday, April 12, 2016

David Gilmour @ MSG April 11th 2016 Review

If David Gilmour, the now 70 year old lead guitarist and singer of the iconic Pink Floyd, were to sit on a tree stump and play a couple spoons while scatting I would likely be watching in awe, mouth agape and trembling. In my eyes he's not only the greatest living rock/blues guitarist but his soulful and unparalleled note bending is heroin for the years and I am a long time addict with no hope for recovery, and who'd want to be sober? Last night he brought his "Rattle That Lock" to Madison Square Garden and spoke poetry through his fingers on various Fender guitars as an audience of twenty thousand listened fervently for three hours.

When a legend like Gilmour-tied to one of the most popular and influential rock bands in history-goes on a solo tour, it's inevitable that a large portion of the audience is there to see the artist play the "hits" associated with that band. Last night was no exception, as I listened to a heavy set, Butterbean-esque dude at the urinal talking into his iPhone tell a pal "I'm just here for the Floyd shit, man. He's playing all that old, slow Gilmour stuff now, it's lame." It wasn't only his overly tight white button down shirt tucked into his way-the-fuck-too-tight grey pants that was wrong, but also his commentary on the Gilmour solo music playing in the background, unless you consider songs from a five year old release to be be "old stuff". Gilmour crafted his show into two sets (with a short break in between) into a Part 1 that included primarily tracks from his recent album, "Rattle That Lock" as well as one from the stellar "On An Island" in 2011. Yes, the music doesn't resonate the way Floyd era tracks do and they are mostly unfamiliar to the crowd but these are songs with depth, texture and drenched with the signature Gilmour note bends and tone-certainly not offerings that encourage trips to the soft Pretzel vendor. The first set also included classic Floyd tracks "Wish You Were Here",  "Us & Them" and "Money" as well as a couple offerings from 1994's The Division Bell, "What Do You Want From me" and "High Hopes". While it's "Wish You Were Here" that seems to always get the most enthusiastic reaction from any former Floyd member when it's played, for me it was the woozy and hypnotic "Us & Them" from Dark Side of the Moon that captivated me most in David's first set last night. I have long adored the track, but hearing it live for the first time in well over twenty years renewed my affinity. Both Gilmour and Roger Waters always have exceptional female backing vocalists as part of their band when they tour but the ladies present last night night with Gilmour were sublime and helped songs like "US & Them" soar to new heights. Vocally, however, it's difficult for me to imagine anyone outshining Gilmour himself as he's one of the true greats, combining luscious tone and soul with great strength. Considering he is now a seventy year old man, the fact that his vocal range and tonality has barely suffered an audible decline is almost miraculous. 

The second set opened with the Syd Barret era, "Astronomy Domine" from Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Part of the allure of any Floyd-related show is the visual stimulation, and per usual this Gilmour stage included a large circular screen and plenty of odd videography and intricate lighting displays, which were showcased with full force during the song. "Shine on You Crazy Diamond (I-V)" followed and sounded as flawless as I would imagine it had in the seventies in Wembly Stadium. "Fat Old Sun" from 1970's Atom heart Mother was next and closed with Gilmour doing his version of "shredding"-playing his ass off with the most intoxicating tone on Earth and note bends that probably made BB King wide eyed while he was alive. I saw Eric Clapton play with Steve Winwood at this same venue in 2008 and although I adore Clapton, and he too played his ass off that night, there is something communicated in Gilmour's fretting that no living guitarist that I have ever heard can convey. 

My favorite post-Waters era Floyd track has always been "Coming Back to Life" from The Division Bell. Beyond the personal reasons I love the song, the track itself is just nearly perfect. It begins with haunting, bent, reverberated notes notes and wiggles it's way into a pleasing solo from Gilmour, then softly transitions into a beautiful, grieving solo vocal. What makes this such an exceptional song is the way it falls off into a slow, chugging piece that transitions from melancholy to hopeful in music and vocal simultaneously. It closes with lavish, signature Gilmour soloing and last night MSG was pulsating as he closed out the song in his signature manner.

A couple more tracks from the solo Rattle That Lock followed, including the sultry jazz infused "The Woman in the Yellow Dress", which has finally grown on me after numerous playings of the album. It's a decent enough song but misses a little for me as Gilmour's style and sound aren't an exact match. The intense "Sorrow" from A Momentary Lapse of Reason followed and David's playing was taken to new heights on this one. The tone he achieves on his Fender's is, to me, the best ever in Rock/Blues and it was in absolute top form on this song, tearing at the walls of MSG. The second set closed with "Run Like Hell" from The Wall and always whips an audience into a frenzy and last night was no exception. The scratchy echoing at the beginning and flickering colored lights sets the tone for the songs high pitched main riff that follows. Gilmour closed out the night on this very high note, no pun intended, and left a crowd of twenty thousand dizzy and shouting for more. When he and the band returned they opened with Dark Side of the Moon's "Time" which led into "Breathe", both of which sounded exceptional and again sounded as though they could have been in a time capsule from the early 70's. 

No Gilmour or Roger Waters show would ever be complete without the iconic "Comfortably Numb" closing things out, and, coupled with the biggest reaction from the crowd, last night didn't buck the trend. David, and his Piano player (name escapes me) who handled the Waters parts, sounded immaculate and the green/red laser lighting added a common visual element so often present in live versions of the song. Gilmours solo at the end has long been on many fans top 10 solos list and I wouldn't imagine anyone who was present last night and would bump it down the list after hearing it ring out through MSG. David Gilmour is a artist of the highest order when it comes to the guitar and although there are a great deal of excellent players still around it's hard to imagine anyone claiming his throne on the very sad day when he eventually leaves this world.

Gilmour plays again tonight at MSG and then his tour heads overseas. As a longtime fan I can only hope he decides to extend it to stadiums and allows the momentum to keep driving forward because this is a talent that is still at the top of his game even as he's in his 71st year. 

Setlist for Madison Square Garden - April 11th 2016

Set 1:

Rattle That Lock
Faces of Stone
Wish You Were Here
What Do You Want From Me
A Boat Lies Waiting
The Blue
Us and Them
In Any Tongue
High Hopes

Set 2: 

Astronomy Domine
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (1-V)
Fat Old Sun
Coming Back To Life
(band introductions)
The Girl In The Yellow Dress
Run Like Hell


Comfortably Numb


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