On January 10, 1994, Pink Floyd announced its upcoming North American tour in support of what would be its second studio album following the 1984 departure of bassist and band co-founder Roger Waters, The Division Bell
(Columbia/EMI), a little more than two months before its release on March 28 of the same year. The first of two 196 foot-long, 67-foot high, 7,000 pound (without the helium) painted airships made a record-breaking, three-week trip from North Carolina to Los Angeles, with the message: "I am authorized to read this message: You have spotted the Pink Floyd airship. Do not be alarmed. Pink Floyd have sent their airship to North America to deliver a message. The Pink Floyd airship is on its way to a destination where all will be explained upon arrival. Pink Floyd will communicate."
Let it never be said that post-Waters Pink Floyd did anything on a small scale.
According to the band's manager at the time, Steve O'Rourke, in a short video about the promotional event included in Pink Floyd's 18-disc The Later Years
box set, two large freight ships were, at the same time, on their way to North America from England. They would be met by 56 tractor trailers, which would transport the stage, sound and group equipment to an undisclosed location, ultimately provided by the US Air Force (later disclosed as Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino, CA) for two months of development and rehearsals. It was one of the largest hangars in the world, and the Air Force had to empty all the planes before Pink Floyd's production team could move in.
Let it never be said that post-Waters Pink Floyd did anything on a small scale.
Plans for the tour began a year earlier in January '93, as the band was working on the album, and just finding a rehearsal space was a challenge. The plans were for an entire stage that would be 200 feet wide (including the two PA towers on either side), housing the 120-foot wide, 80 foot high arch in which the band would perform, including state of the art lighting and a large, rotatable, round screen, located near the top of the arch, for the many 70mm films, created by Storm Thorgerson (aka, with and Aubrey Powell, and later Peter Christopherson, Hipgnosis), that would accompany many of Pink Floyd's songs, old and new.
Let it never be said that post-Waters Pink Floyd did anything on less than a grand scale.
Following the three-week promotional tour, where the airship was seen over a number of American cities, it returned to Weeksville, NC, where a sudden and severe storm destroyed the airship on June 27 1994.
Let it never be said that post-Waters Pink Floyd did anything on less than a grand scale.
Meanwhile, in March, 1994, a similarly painted airship flew over London's Battersea Power Station, before heading out on a promotional tour of the UK and continental Europe to announce tour dates that followed the North American tour (which ran from late March through end of July). Internally lit at night by two 1,000 watt light bulbs, the Battersea fly-over referenced the cover to what some Pink Floyd fans consider to be the band's last great album with Waters, Animals
(Harvest/Columbia, 1977), where a large, specially commissioned balloon in the shape of a pig (called Algie) was positioned over the same station. According to Wikipedia: "The balloon was inflated with helium and maneuvered into position on 2 December 1976, with a marksman ready to fire if it escaped. Inclement weather delayed work, and the band's manager Steve O'Rourke neglected to book the marksman for a second day; the balloon broke free of its moorings and disappeared from view. The pig flew over Heathrow, resulting in panic and cancelled flights; pilots also spotted the pig in the air. It eventually landed in Kent and was recovered by a local farmer, who was apparently furious that it had scared his cows. The balloon was recovered and filming continued for a third day, but as the early photographs of the power station were considered better, the image of the pig was later superimposed onto one of those."
Let it never be said that Pink Floyd, following the massive success of one of the biggest selling, longest charting albums of all time, The Dark Side of the Moon
(Harvest, 1973), and its highly successful 1975 follow-up, Wish You Were Here
(Harvest/Columbia), would do anything on less than a grand scale.
1984: How We Got to The Later Years
Following the 1984 release of two albums just two months apart (both on Harvest in the UK and Columbia in North America)Roger Waters' solo debut, The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking
, and David Gilmour's second solo album, About Face
(with some of the subject matter on the guitarist's record referencing his declining relationship with the bassist), Waters announced that Pink Floyd, whose last album, The Final Cut
(Harvest/Columbia, 1983), was the first in years not to be toured, would not reunite, declaring the band "a spent force creatively."
Of course, this would have come as little surprise to fans. The group's second best-selling album, The Wall
(Harvest/Columbia, 1979), and the group's biggest tour yet (limited, albeit, by its very scale, to multiple performances in a handful of cities), had been marred by internal strife and Waters' increasing compositional dominance of the band, with Gilmour credited as co-composer of only three of its 26 songs. Waters had unilaterally fired fellow co-founder Richard Wright during production and, while he remained on as a salaried musician for the album and tour, the keyboardist/vocalist would not appear on The Final Cut
This decision, in particular, contributed to the exponentially increasing tensions between Waters and the remaining members of the band (drummer/co-founder Nick Mason and, to the greatest extent, guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour), and which had been building for the past several years.
Gilmour joined the group for its second album, A Saucerful of Secrets
(EMI/Columbia, 1968), recorded before and after the departure of co-founding singer, guitarist and then-primary songwriter Syd Barrett, whose increasing unreliability and unpredictability for the burgeoning psychedelic rock band could no longer be accommodated (a combination of substance abuse and mental health problems). Gilmour would quickly become a major contributor to the band and one of its most recognizable voices, both as a writer and a singer, but even more importantly as a tremendously talented guitarist with inimitable tone and taste.
By the time the remaining trio came to record The Wall
's follow-upwritten entirely by Waters, with Gilmour (arguably Pink Floyd's best vocalist) only afforded a single song to singtensions had reached critical mass. Waters had brought another concept album to the band, this time an intimately biographical album that explored the bassist's relationship with a father who died fighting during World War II. Gilmour believed the album that would become The Final Cut
should consist, instead, of all-new material, rather than songs rejected and repurposed from The Wall
. With the bassist's belief (and, some might say, increasing megalomania, which continued to grow following Pink Floyd's 1984 dissolution) that Gilmour had contributed little to Floyd's lyrical repertoire, the two were at major loggerheads.
The situation continued to grow worse, with Gilmour removed from co-production credit on The Final Cut
. As with The Wall
, Hipgnosis was not used, Waters having fallen out with the design company's Storm Thorgerson. Instead, Waters designed the cover, further rendering the album more a Roger Waters solo album than a Pink Floyd record. Between marital problems, the increasing tension and Waters' apparent unilateral creative takeover of Pink Floyd, Mason's contributions to the album were largely limited, beyond his kit work, to electronics. Still, as only the second album to use the experimental Holophonic system, which emulated a more immersive, three-dimensional sound to parts of the recording, Mason's contributions remained important.
Gilmour and Mason were likely unhappy with Waters making the unilateral announcement of Pink Floyd's demise but it was, nevertheless, inevitable. Still, the protracted legal battle for rights to use the Pink Floyd name kept the group in limbo until 1986, when Gilmour began to bring a number of musicians together to record A Momentary Lapse of Reason
(EMI/Columbia, 1987). There remained challenges to pulling the remaining three band members together, including legal issues that forced Wright to be listed, until 1994, as a session player (albeit always getting top billing and being placed on a suitable weekly retainer).
Still, it was the beginning of a post-Waters era for Pink Floyd that resulted in three studio albums and two live albums (and concert videos) that have sold over forty million copies worldwide. The two toursthe first, running from September, 1987 through July, 1989, the second, throughout much of 1994were even more ambitious than The Wall
, taking full advantage of increasingly improved and sophisticated audio and video technologies, and constantly pushing the envelope. There was also, clearly, a different kind of determination within the band, launching a relentless period of touring that would reach seemingly countless cities across four continents. The entire tour was, quite simply, even larger in scope than anything Pink Floyd had ever done.
Let it never be said that post-Waters Pink Floyd did anything on less than an extraordinarily grand scale.
Fans were tremendously surprised when Bob Geldof managed, through poking and prodding, to get the band to appear at the UK Live 8 charity concert in 2005...with Waters. It was Pink Floyd's first appearance together with the bassist in 24 years and, despite plenty of hope from fans, ultimately led to...nothing. Still, with Wright passing away two years later from cancer, it was great to see these four musicians back together onstage, even if only for a brief six-song set. It was one of the event's most memorable moments when, with Gilmour thanking the audience and beginning to walk offstage, to see Waters call him back for a group hug. It didn't, by any means, eliminate the tensions between Gilmour and Waters, but it did warm things up, even if only for a bit.
Still, the bassist's incessant "look at me" mouthing of lyrics largely sung by Gilmour, in order to garner attention, was more than a little curious. Waters wrote most of The Wall
, in addition to being instrumental in its stage production, which supported his growing sense of alienation from his fans, largely due to the impersonal nature of arena style shows. So it was a surpriseor perhaps not, given how fiscally successful his ex-band mates had been, performing Floyd classics alongside new materialto find Waters, by the time of Live 8, already resuming arena-scale shows at the turn of the new millennium, as he continues to do to this day. But that's a different subject for a different day.
All of which leads to The Later Years
: a five-CD/six-Blu Ray/five-DVD box set also including a bevy of printed materials and more, following the somewhat controversial The Early Years 1965-1972
(Pink Floyd/Legacy, 2016) box. The Later Years
covers the entire post-Waters, Gilmour-led era of Pink Floyd, during which it released A Momentary Lapse of Reason
, The Division Bell
and, following Wright's death in 2008, the largely instrumental The Endless River
(Parlophone/Columbia, 2014), alongside the live Delicate Sound of Thunder
(EMI/Columbia, 1988) and Pulse
(EMI/Columbia, 1995). The group also released, initially on VHS tape, two concert films that differed in length and track lists from their live album counterparts: Delicate Sound of Thunder
(Columbia Music Video, 1989) and P.U.L.S.E.
(EMI/SMV, 1995), the latter finally released on DVD eleven years later.
So, What's In the Box?
Like The Early Years
, The Later Years
is not intended to replace the period's releases, though it does include more original album material than on the previous box, albeit largely improved in some way, shape or form, and sometimes only available on DVD and/or Blu Ray. A Momentary Lapse of Reason
comes newly mixed to remove the original album's worst '80s production tendencies along with new elements (notably drum parts from Mason and greater emphasis on Wright's keyboards contributions at the time). This new mix is included on CD, as well as in stereo and surround sound on DVD and in high resolution 24/96 stereo and surround sound on Blu Ray. Longtime Pink Floyd engineer Andy Jackson's 2014 remastered surround sound remix of The Division Bell
is also included, on DVD and in high resolution 24/96 surround sound (no stereo) on Blu Ray. The four-sided version of The Endless River
is also included, in a way, on Blu Ray (in high resolution 24/96 stereo and surround sound) and DVD (in stereo and surround sound), in the form of Ian Emes' suitably atmospheric film, set to the music of this, the band's final studio album.
A significantly expanded version of Delicate Sound of Thunder
is included, remixed, on CD (expanded from 15 to 22 tracks and from 104 minutes to nearly two and a half hours), while the concert film is also included, restored and remixed (at its original length and using a 1.78:1 aspect ratio) on DVD and, in higher resolution image and sound, on Blu Ray as well. The Pulse
concert film is also included, in this case restored and re-edited (but, again, in its original length and also with the television-intended aspect ratio of 4:3 intact) on DVD and, in higher resolution image and sound, on Blu Ray, though neither includes the four-track, 26-minute "Bootlegging the Bootleggers" bonus tracks from the 2006 DVD issue.
But it's the previously unreleased material that makes The Later Years
such an essential addition to the group's discography and, for those who consider the post-Waters years something of a "Pink Floyd lite," worthy of revisitation and reconsideration. The box is also a major improvement on The Early Years
' overly large yet largely air-filled box, as the seven CD/DVD/Blu Ray combos contained could have fit into something considerably smaller. The Later Years
' packaging is impressive but, in a roughly 13"x13"x3" package, is far easier to find a shelf spot.
For the first time, the band's complete 1990 Knebworth concert (just under an hour) is available on both DVD and Blu Ray, with the audio also included on a fourth CD. The 1989 Venice concert, where the group played for ninety minutes on a floating stage, concluding its set with a lengthy fireworks display, is also available on the same DVD and Blu Ray for the first time.
Five live tracks from 1987 (three from Atlanta) and 1994 (one each from Miami and Hanover), all originally included as b-sides to 7' and CD singles in 1987, 1988 and 1994, are included on the fifth CD, which also features half a dozen previously unheard outtakes from the Division Bell
sessions, the whole thing totalling a little under seventy minutes. The seven Division Bell
outtakes, including a David Gilmour demo of "High Hopes," can also be found on the Blu Ray with the album's 2014 surround sound mix and the remix of A Momentary Lapse of Reason
Five bonus tracks filmed for Delicate Sound of Thunder
, along with three songs from the Division Bell
tour rehearsals, are included on a separate DVD and Blu Ray that also collect the various films used (on different tours and, in some cases, different locations) as screen films, projected onto the large round above-stage screen, along with music videos, the band's induction into the Rock and a Roll Hall of Fame by Billy Corgan, plus the Smashing Pumpkins singer/songwriter collaborating, with Gilmour and Wright (in rehearsal and onstage), on a version of "Wish You Were Here," the entire collection adding up to 154 minutes.
A final DVD and Blu Ray includes, in addition to Ian Emes' film set to the music of The Endless River
, a variety of interviews, documentaries, photo shoots, EPKs (electronic press kits) and the band's rehearsal and performance of its early hit, "Arnold Layne," at the 2007 Syd Barrett Tribute concert, following the original Floyd singer/guitarist's passing, like Wright, far too young in 2006, two years before his band mate's death. The total run time of this largely previously unreleased footage adds up to just over two hours.
The DVDs and Blu Rays are each housed in their own individual gatefold sleeves, with the actual media further protected with plastic inserts. The Later Years
includes two special 7' singles, each with a song on the A-side and specially etched image on the B-side: the first, features the band's performance of "Arnold Layne" at the Syd Barrett Tribute; the second, "Lost for Words," from the Division Bell
Tour Rehearsals. The Later Years
also includes, in addition to the long but narrow hardcover book housing the five CDs, with detailed track, personnel and production info: a sixty-page, 12"x12" hardcover book of photos designed by Aubrey Powell (also of Hipgnosis) and Peter Curzon (of StormStudios), including many previously unseen images; a newly created set of tour program reproductions from Pink Floyd's World Tour 1987/1988, Live 1989, and European Tour 1994; a brand new Lyrics Book, also designed by Powell and Curzon; and reproduced memorabilia (replicas of tour passes, stickers and posters), contained in a prestige card envelope that also holds the two singles, each in their own newly designed sleeves
For Pink Floyd fans, this represents both definitive versions of existing albums (in one or more audio/video formats), and enough new/previously unreleased material to total over 13 hours (closer to 16, if new mixes, films and restorations are included). Certainly the new versions of Delicate Sound of Thunder
better replace earlier releases with their restorations, remixes and/or new edits, while the surround mix of The Division Bell
is a welcome addition, previously only available in the multi-disc, multi-format The Division Bell 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
(Parlophone/Columbia, 2014) box set, or as a very limited standalone DVD from the Pink Floyd shop.
Unlike The Early Years
, which always felt like something was missing, The Later Years
feels positively stuffed to the brim.
1987: A Momentary Lapse of Reason
With legal machinations regarding the use of the Pink Floyd name still ongoing, Gilmour began the task of assembling musicians for a new Pink Floyd album in 1986. With Waters' role as the band's conceptualist and, for the most part, lyricist, Gilmour admitted that the album was a challenge, collaborating with a number of other songwriters including 10cc's Eric Stewart and poet Roger McGough, before settling on former Slapp Happy keyboardist/composer Anthony Moore, who would also go on to provide some lyrics for The Division Bell
, in addition to collaborating musically on The Endless River
With neither Mason nor Wright having played in some time, and with legal issues requiring Wright be brought in as a session musician rather than a band member, a number of additional players were recruited for the sessions, including drummers Jim Keltner and Carmine Appice, though Mason did contribute electronics and sound effects to the album. And while he added some piano, Hammond organ and Kurzweill to the sessions in addition to backup vocals, Wright's work was heavily augmented by a number of other keyboardists, including album co-producer Bob Ezrin, Little Feat's Bill Payne (on Hammond organ), Pat Leonard (on synthesizers) and, most notably, Jon Carin.
Carin had jammed with Gilmour on the guitarist's houseboat on the Thames, composing the chord changes for A Momentary Lapse of Reason
's "Learning to Fly," and would go on, following the completion of the studio recording, to work with the band alongside Wright, from 1987 through to the group's final tour dates in 1994, and continues to work with Gilmour on his solo efforts since then.
Recruited by Gilmour, the The Wall
co-producer, Bob Ezrin, had already declined Waters' offer to produce Radio K.A.O.S.
. In Nicholas Shaffner's A Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey
(Delta, 1991), the first in-depth book on the band, he was quoted as saying that it was "far easier for Dave and I to do our
version of a Floyd record."
One of the most notable recruits for A Momentary Lapse of Reason
, given that the reformed Pink Floyd was still without a bassist, was Tony Levin
. A veteran session bassist and Chapman stick player, Levin began life largely in the jazz world but, by this time, had also become well-known in the rock world for his work with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson
. Levin's distinctive sound, approach and signature are all over A Momentary Lapse of Reason
, particularly his stick playing on "One Slip," a most unusual texture for Pink Floyd's original bassist, who was a far more "meat and potatoes" player.
Levin might even have toured with the band, but was already previously committed; still the band found the perfect touring and, subsequently, recording bassist/vocalist in Guy Pratt, whose resume by that time included work with musicians like Robert Palmer, The Dream Academy and Bryan Ferry, but who would go on to work with a vast array of artists including Robbie Robertson, Tears for Fears, Rod Stewart and Julian Lennon. An extremely versatile bassist who could also take on the occasional lead vocal in concert, alternating with Gilmour on one of the guitarist's few compositional co-credits on The Wall
, the up-tempo and uplifting "Run Like Hell," which would go on to become Pink Floyd's regular final encore. A Momentary Lapse of Reason
made clear that fans were more than happy to accept a Waters-less Pink Floyd, with the album peaking at #3 on the UK and US album charts, achieving silver and gold status in the UK a month after release, and gold and platinum in the US the following month, ultimately reaching quadruple platinum fourteen years later. Still, within (and without) the band, its reception was mixed: Waters called it "quite a clever forgery" and criticized the album's lyrics; surprisingly, Wright agreed.
Still, if it lacked the lyrical social/political conscience of latter day Waters-era Pink Floyd albums, it also returned, to some degree, to earlier pre-Wall
Floyd, with a better balance of instrumental and lyric-driven music more closely approximating albums like Dark Side of the Moon
and Wish You Were Here
. Three of its eleven tracks are entirely instrumental (occupying nearly a quarter of the record) and, with five tracks in the five-to-six minute range and the closing "Sorrow" nearing the nine minute mark (and the vocals not entering until well after a two-minute intro), there's plenty of room for both Gilmour's ever-tasteful guitar solos and the kind of instrumental atmospherics that were always a touchstone of the Floyd sound.
Still, while time has proven kinder to the album (it did, after all, outsell The Final Cut
), A Momentary Lapse of Reason
also represents alterations to the band's complexion, if for no other reason than Gilmour had assumed the role of primary composer, even if he did share compositional credits with a number or outsiders. Neither Mason nor Wright contributed compositionally, leading to some critics, like Q Magazine
, suggesting that it was really a Gilmour solo album.
If that impression existed when it was released, The Later Year
's remix of A Momentary Lapse of a Reason
renders it far less so, as a more fully Pink Floyd
album. With the heavy use of electronic and gated drums (which contributed the most to its '80s complexion) subdued or eliminated, with Mason replacing drum parts originally played by Keltner or Appice, and with Gilmour bringing more elements from Wright's playing to the fore, the record feels more, perhaps, like it alway should have.
On the intro to "Learning to Fly," for example, Mason's parts are similar but, at the same time, slightly simpler and with more air than on the original. During the first verse, Wright's shimmering electric piano becomes a more significant color that is barely present on the original mix.
During the song's instrumental middle section, Mason's fills are similar but, at the same time, different in the 2019 mix, while a swooping synth that first swells in ascension and then descends, can be clearly heard as an effective bit of ear candy on the new mix. The airplane, from the original mix, becomes both more dominant as the lead-in to the final verse while simultaneously panning, much more vividly, from left to right across the soundstage. And, during the final verse, the sound of air outside of a flying airplane is far clearer. There's simply a whole lot more space
in the entire mix, even though there are still a great many sonic components that contribute to the final result.
Elsewhere, Gilmour's imaginatively processed but innovatively compelling vocal features, "A New MachinePart 1" and "A New MachinePart 2," bookend the six-minute instrumental "Terminal Frost." Both tracks (the first, under two minutes and the second, less than one) also demonstrate alterations to the mix, even if subtle. The multiple delays on Gilmour's voice that follow the first part's opening line, "I have always been here," are replaced, in the new mix, with the simple decay of some particularly dense processing, leading (as does the original mix) to absolutely silence, as is repeated after the "Part 2" opening line," "I will always be here."
Barring the opening growl to "The Dogs of War" (reportedly a sample of laughter, which Gilmour felt sounded like a dog bark), the rest of the bark/laughter samples, more dominant in the original mix, are now more subdued, while the still throbbing pedal tone assumes a subtly altered pulse, resulting in a slightly different cross-rhythm. As the first verse leads into the first chorus, Wright's huge swell of Leslie-driven Hammond organ becomes the primary harmonic underpinning rather than original layers of largely female backup voices for the lines "One world it's a battleground / One world and we will smash it down," while the softer "oohs" that layer beneath the following "One world ... one world" remain similar to the original mix. They're differences that cumulatively make A Momentary Lapse of Reason
's revision a different yet, at the same time, still more than faithful enough experience.
There are plenty of other additions and adjustments to the original mix in this new version of A Momentary Lapse of Reason
. Some are subtle, others more overt, but the overall sense is that, despite there still being a multiplicity of instrumental and vocal tracks recorded for the album, the 2019 mix simply breathes
more. And while Keltner is renowned for his simple (yet never easy) playing and chameleon-like ability as a session player, Mason is sparer still, in no way altering the primary grooves that drive the songs, but simply feeling a lot more like Pink Floyd. And Wright, never a virtuoso but always an impeccable textural player, is more fully included here to create the kinds of atmospheres for which he was always known.
Gilmour's playing is largely unaltered, with his variety of extraordinary tones, ranging from deep growls to soaring overdrives and softly evocative warm textures, coupled with an inimitably melodic sense that's always fundamental to whatever the guitarist plays. His bends are visceral, with perfect intonation; his use of whammy bar often subtle but distinctly personal, rather than the kinds of pyrotechnical gymnastics that define so many other rock guitarists, Gilmour draws further attention to his playing through focused solos of a more compositional disposition, even if they are largely improvised.
Sonically, while initially redolent of the '80s, especially with the use of drum machines, the album nevertheless also represents a return to earlier Floyd concepts, like found sounds, spoken word and nature recordings. The sound of a rowboat crossing the Thames is heard on the instrumental opener, "Signs of Life," while Mason's voice can be heard during the takeoff on "Learning to Fly, " a most autobiographical piece for Gilmour, whose flying lessons, apparently, occasionally conflicted with planned studio sessions for the record.
Pink Floyd, in addition to new material with a more familiar Floyd vibe (like the slow tempo'd "Yet Another Movie"), also introduces some new genre cross-pollinations, like the Celtic-informed "On the Turning Away," and the Gamelan-inflected musical segue between the more thundering "The Dogs of War" and, for Floyd, surprisingly up-tempo "One Slip." Elsewhere, the instrumental "Terminal Frost" covers a variety of feels, from slower atmospherics to a double time saxophone solo, while the episodic closer, "Sorrow," moves from its densely-processed electric guitar intro through to a more up-tempo vocal section that, as with the rest of A Momentary Lapse of Reason
, finds Gilmour's voice (always appealing) even stronger than in Waters-era Floyd. The song (and album) closes with the guitarist's most extended, scorched-earth solo of the set, perhaps this album's "Comfortably Numb."
The legal battle between Waters and his former band mates continued past the release of A Momentary Lapse of Reason
, even through to rehearsals and early live shows. In retrospect, it's remarkable just how petty things had become between Waters and the remaining members of Pink Floyd. Waters, who was launching his Radio K.A.O.S.
tour (but in considerably smaller venues), had apparently reached out to concert promoters, threatening to sue them if they used the Pink Floyd name. With Floyd using the Animals
inflatable pig, Waters had a court order issued for royalties due; Floyd added a large set of male genitalia to make it different, though A Delicate Sound of Thunder
does list, buried near the end of the film credits, "Original Pig concept by R. Waters."
A legal agreement was finally achieved near the end of 1987, allowing Gilmour, Mason and Wright use of the Pink Floyd name in perpetuity, while Waters was afforded a number of rights for use, including The Wall
in its entirety. With Floyd's A Momentary Lapse of Reason
Tour already launched, in Ottawa, Canada, on September 9, 1987, it was a legally risky move for the band, with the lawsuit still unsettled, but fortunately things worked out in their favor. And while the band would perform The Wall
's hit single, "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2," along with the epic feature for Gilmour as guitarist, "Comfortably Numb," and buoyant show-closer, "Run Like Hell," the group clearly had little interest in anything else from the album that Waters would ultimately tour, in its entirety, following his return to arenas in the new millennium.
1987-1990 Tour: Concert Audio and Video
With the successful release of A Momentary Lapse of Reason
, Pink Floyd embarked on a massive world tour that ran continuously from September, 1987 through August, 1988though, initially uncertain as to how it would be received, the group initially planned only a small run that continued to grow as arena after arena sold out. Clearly, there was still a large market for post-Waters Pink Floyd.
Following an eight-month break, the band returned to the road from May through July, 1989. Barring an appearance at the 1990 Knebworth Festival, the band would not tour again until 1994. The Later Years
box features a total of three complete concert videos from that time. The two-hour Delicate Sound of Thunder
video has been remixed and, equally importantly, restored, with 1080p resolution and, on Blu Ray, featuring high resolution 24/96 audio stereo and surround sound. Both represent a major upgrade, and the concert represents a first time experience for fans who didn't make it to the shows to experience the new, bigger Pink Floyd, with Gilmour, Mason and Wright (both drummer and keyboardist back to full strength) augmented by a sizeable group of musicians, most of whom would continue to record and tour with them through The Division Bell
and its accompanying tour.
Alongside keyboardist/vocalist Jon Carin and new recruit, bassist/vocalist Guy Pratt, the group also featured guitarist/vocalist Tim Renwick, who first garnered attention working with Al Stewart in the '70s, but also played on recording sessions with a diverse range of artists, from Shirley Collins, the Albion Country Band and Procol Harum to David Bowie, Mike Oldfield and, showing that personal matters didn't enter into hiring decisions, Roger Waters.
1987 Pink Floyd also included percussionist (and occasional second drummer) Gary Wallis, who would also record and tour with the band from this time forward. Beyond his skill with acoustic kits, his electronic drums and programming work led to other work with artists including 10cc, Tom Jones, Jean Michel Jarre and, notably, Mike and the Mechanics. With Gilmour, Wright and Mason all as static live performers as they'd ever been, Wallis' animated performances drew considerable attention, as did saxophonist Scott Page, his flowing, long-haired mullet and more visually engaging approach adding some excitement onstage, though he only appeared on a handful of songs.
In addition to musical work with other major acts including Supertramp and Toto, the American Page is something of an entrepreneur, involved in a surprising number of companies ranging from audio/visual post production, gaming software, online healthcare management and immersive live entertainment. Page would be featured on A Momentary Lapse of Reason
and the associated tour, but was replaced by smooth jazz saxophonist Candy Dulfer
for the Knebworth show, while The Division Bell
release and tour would mark the return of British saxophonist Dick Parry, already known to Floyd fans for his work on The Dark Side of the Moon
and Wish You Were Here
, most notably on songs including "Money," "Us and Them" and "Shine on You Crazy Diamond."
The Pink Floyd touring band also typically featured three female backing vocalists. The specific singers changed regularly over the years, onstage and on the band's studio albums, but amongst the more regular vocalists were Durga McBroom and Rachel Fury, both receiving some spotlight time during Wright's "The Great Gig in the Sky," a song from The Dark Side of the Moon
that would become a concert staple.
Given the original static, near-anonymity (rarely appearing on album covers) that defined Pink Floyd's members onstage from the start, they were always largely overshadowed by increasingly complex, state-of-the-art lighting and, later, screen projections of Thorgerson's films. So it's no surprise that the Delicate Sound of Thunder
Tour stage was a stunning mix of mobile lighting, lasers, a disco ball that opened, flower-like, during the climax of "Comfortably Numb," and a 32-foot, round screen high above the band, used for Thorgerson's films but also for the use of lighting to create highly effective flowing shifts of color. Add the band's use of a quadrophonic sound system and the A Momentary Lapse of Reason
Tour was, indeed, as immersive an experience as any rock show to date.
The group usually played two sets, with the first focused largely on new material, and second on older work from the '70s. While not in running order, following an always perfect set-opener of "Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Parts 1-5," the band played all but one of A Momentary Lapse of Reason
's eleven songs, with "One Slip" saved for the second set. With so many bands that returned after dissolving in the '70s focusing largely on their best-known material, even if they continued to release new albums, it was impressive that Pink Floyd continued to make new material a significant part of most live sets.
Watching Delicate Sound of Thunder
, Gilmour may be the featured soloist, along with saxophonist Page and, occasionally, Wright. Still, it's always a pleasure to find the guitarist giving Renwick room to stretch during a couple of songs, notably "Learning to Fly" and on the extended version of "Money."
The concert video of Delicate Sound of Thunder
, being shorter than a complete show, only includes six tracks from A Momentary Lapse of Reason
: the atmospheric instrumental album-opener, "Signs of Life," uplifting "Learning to Fly," darker-edged "Sorrow," more aggressive "Dogs of War" (with even grittier vocals from Gilmour), and particularly lyrical "On the Turning Away." Largely filmed during the group's August, 1988, five night run in Uniondale, New York (with video only drawn from two nights, two months earlier, in Versailles, France, for "The Great Gig in the Sky"), director Wayne Isham, director of photography Marc Reshovsky and film editors Lisa Hendricks and Jeff Richter all work together to provide an experience that's even better than "you are there."
Between an extensive multi-camera shoot that provides views of the band from a multitude of angles, full stage shots that highlight the band's evocative lighting, and switching from Thorgerson's films on the round screen to full widescreen segments, the video also avoids the rapid cuts that have become so annoyingly prevalent in future years. There's also the chance to see how lighting was spread throughout the arena, creating a vivid connection between the group and its audience, as the production converts the entire venue into a performance space.
While "One Slip," from the second set, is also included from A Momentary Lapse of Reason
, there's one nod to 1972's Meddle
, with "One of These Days" a feature for bassist Pratt and the atmospherics largely contributed by Wright. The Dark Side of the Moon
is well represented with a full five songs ("Time," "On the Run," "The Great Gig in the Sky," "Us and Them" and "Money"). The anthemic title track to Wish You Were Here
, along with The Wall
's "Comfortably Numb," beginning to stretch to even greater lengths during Gilmour's closing solo," and a rousing "Run Like Hell" close out the show as a triple punch encore. And while original PAL versions of the Delicate Sound of Thunder
concert video didn't include "Money," the version in The Later Years
While not included in the main film, five more tracks from the Delicate Sound of Thunder
Tour are featured on the separate DVD and Blu Ray discs of bonus material, including: "Yet Another Movie"; "Round and Around"; "A New Machine Part 1"; "Terminal Frost"; and "A New Machine Part 2." There are now, as a result, video performances of every song from A Momentary Lapse of Reason
and, barring three additional tunes, every song played during the tour.
Excluded from the video but included on The Later Years
' expanded, two-CD Delicate Sound of Thunder
audio release, are a nearly eight-minute performance of Wish You Were Here
's "Welcome to the Machine" and a similarly extended version of The Wall
's "Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two)." Only Meddle
's side-long "Echoes," the concert-opener for the tour's first eleven dates before being swapped out in favor of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts 1-5," is not documented anywhere on either the audio or video version of Delicate Sound of Thunder
, because it was long gone from Pink Floyd's set by the time the group hit the Nassau Coliseum shows, where they were recorded.
The original two-CD version of Delicate Sound of Thunder
was, despite not coming close to a full show, a considerably different experience to the concert film. Omitting "Signs of Life," but adding "Round and Around" and "Yet Another Movie," it also included "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)," which remains absent in any released video footage, while also excluding "On the Run" and "The Great Gig in the Sky."
Initially denied, it was later clarified that both audio and video recordings of Delicate Sound of Thunder
were subjected to some in-studio post-production work, most notably: some acoustic guitar added to "Comfortably Numb"; a number of vocal harmony re-takes; Wright, replacing his vocals on "Us and Them"; and Sam Brown replacing Rachel Fury's background vocals on "Comfortably Numb."
Still, these are relatively small fixes/additions to the concert video and original audio release (initially on vinyl, cassette and CD) of Delicate Sound of Thunder
. But with the expanded, two-CD version included in The Later Years
, there's now the opportunity to hear every track found on the concert video, bonus video tracks and original audio release, in addition to "Welcome to the Machine," appearing here for the very first time. And so, finally, the two-CD Delicate Sound of Thunder
now includes versions of every song played during Pink Floyd's 1987-89 tour (barring "Echoes").
The July 15, 1989 show in Venice was the band's penultimate show, after nearly three grueling years of touring (despite there being an eight month break between '88 and '89, while on tour there were surprisingly few days off), and was recorded and broadcast, via satellite TV, to over 100 million people in twenty countries.
The inclusion of the complete ninety minute Venice show in The Later Years
box represents the first time it's been available commercially (as is also true of Knebworth). The shortened set, still in television's 4:3 aspect ratio but with the sound upgraded and, on Blu Ray, in 24/48 high resolution, is notable for the band performing on a floating stage. But there was considerable history behind the show.
The free concert was problematic before it began. Originally planned to take place in St. Mark's square (coincident with the Feast of the Redeemer), the city's councillors were so concerned about the impact of high decibel music on the mosaics of St. Mark's Basilica, and that the number of people expected to attend might actually sink the entire piazza, that it vetoed the show. All this, just three days before the show was scheduled to take place.
The band agreed to reduce the volume from 100 decibels, at its peak, to 60, and relocate to a floating stage 200 meters from the piazza (a good thing, since attendance was over 200,000 in a city whose population was, at the time, only 60,000, so it may well have sunk the square). Still, despite being a massive success (and, for the band, no small challenge), the show led to the resignation of both the mayor and the city council that had approved the show, after massive outcries, and accusations of the largely well-behaved audience leaving 300 tons of garbage and 500 cubic meters of empty cans and bottles behind (though there was no substantial permanent damage, other than the minimal harm to a small group of statues).
Despite its reduced length, the set list still emphasized A Momentary Lapse of Reason
with, following a brief "Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Part 1," a full six songs from the album alongside the usual popular titles ("Time," "The Great Gig in the Sky," "Wish You Were Here," Money," "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2," Comfortably Numb" and Run Like Hell"). That the production team managed to retain so much of the band's visuals in this outdoor, floating stage context was a major feat.
The performance, with so many shows under the group's collective belt by this time (and with only one more show left, three nights later, in Marseille, France, to end the tour), is notably strong, with Gilmour's vocals, in particular, having becoming even more fluid, assertive and flexible, delivering a particularly potent "The Dogs of War."
Knebworth, a year later, turned out to be even more problematic. Again an outdoor concert, the band's hour-long set was delayed by an uncharacteristically recalcitrant Paul McCartney who, having been put on the schedule before
Pink Floyd (and not being at all happy about it), played encore after encore to push Floyd's starting time back. The weather had been touch and go throughout the day, but by the time Pink Floyd hit the stage, the rain and wind were so pervasive that the round screen, having filled up with water, was ultimately shut down.
Still, as the video shows in a (for Floyd) short set that is largely about the hits, with only "Sorrow" included from A Momentary Lapse of Reason
, all things considered it is still a successful set, worthy of inclusion in The Later Years
. Closeups of Gilmour show him soaked, and yet his cold, wet fingers still manage to work well enough to render his solo in "Comfortably Numb" a memorable one, even if not the best he'd ever played. "The Great Gig in the Sky" and "Run Like Hell" also manage to be solid performances.
The audio CD from Knebworth, included in The Later Years
, shows a band delivering a solid, if not absolutely exceptional, performance, while the video of the concert, on DVD and, with high resolution 24/48 sound (in both surround and stereo) on Blu Ray, even better reflect a band that may have faced considerable adversity but, at the same time, overcame it with a positive attitude and clear desire to put on the best show it could for an audience in the vicinity of 120,000.
The band would subsequently disappear from live performance for the next three years, and would otherwise remain relatively dormant. In the meantime, ex-band mate Roger Waters launched a memorable, special live performance of The Wall
in Berlin on July 21, 1990, with a plethora of high profile guests like Van Morrison
, Sinéad O'Connor, Joni Mitchell and Bryan Adams, and similarly big name groups like Scorpions and the by-now trio of The Band (Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson).
Having not garnered the same kind of success as the remaining Pink Floyd, Waters had also been working on his third solo album, Amused to Death
(Columbia, 1992), which would represent a significant commercial step up for the bassist/singer/songwriter. His best received solo album yet, reaching #8 in the UK and #21 in the USA, Waters would also begin to do things that, just a couple years prior, would have been anathema to him, including a promotional tour where, by all accounts, he'd become an engaging and engaged interview subject, though he remained as highly opinionated and critical of the current music scene as ever. He even produced a video for MTV, on whom his former band mates had received plenty of rotation for its videos from A Momentary Lapse of Reason
As Waters continued to demonstrate a deep concern for the world around him in the subject matter of his solo releases, Pink Floyd's material was considerably lighter in substance, despite Anthony Moore's still-compelling lyrics. And, while he had said that he'd tour the record if it sold three or four million copies, its sales of about a million (still his best-selling and highest charting solo album yet) meant that he would not be seen on the road for another seven years.
1993-1994: The End? The Division Bell and Pulse
In the meantime, Pink Floyd remained largely dormant, other than extracurricular activities like, in the case of Gilmour, Mason and manager Steve O'Rourke, competing in the 1991 La Carrera Panamericana
automobile race and delivering a soundtrack to Ian McArthur's resultant 1992 film of the event.
By the beginning of 1993, the band began preparing for its next studio album while, at the same time, the production team commenced work on what would be the band's most ambitious live show ever. The band, with producer Bob Ezrin returning, began work at Britannia Row Studios, with Gilmour, Wright and Mason spending time improvising in order to develop ideas for new material, alongside Guy Pratt, returning from the extensive A Momentary Lapse of Reason
tour. His work during these sessions, according to Mason, contributed significantly to the mood of the music.
A more relaxed recording experience, in no small part because the band was no longer in a protracted legal battle with Waters, the difference between the largely Gilmour-driven A Momentary Lapse of Reason
and The Division Bell
's more fully collaborative effort is palpable. Gilmour recorded the best of the music on a two-track DAT (Digital Audio Tape)even recording Wright's playing surreptitiously, ultimately leading to three of the album's eleven songs.
While the album ultimately featured just two entirely instrumental tracks, the core quartet's two week improvising sessions resulted in over 65 pieces of music. Most of The Division Bell
's finished songs would run in the five-to-six minute range, with two clocking in at just over four and the closing "High Hopes" at over eight, meaning that there was still plenty of room for instrumental and textural explorations throughout the record.
The band relocated, along with Ezrin and engineer Andy Jackson, to The Astoria
(Gilmour's houseboat), where the band members would assign each piece a ranking out of ten, though, apparently, Wright voted a full ten for his ideas while his band mates gave them none, skewing the results. Still, the original 65 pieces were reduced to 27, which were either subsequently eliminated or merged together. There may have been a lot of unused material but Jackson took some of the music and shaped it into an unreleased ambient record with the tentative title The Big Spliff
. While the band decided not to release the record, some of it would ultimately find a home on the almost entirely instrumental Pink Floyd swan song, The Endless River
(Parlophone/Columbia) in 2014, largely a tribute to Wright, by then gone for six years.
While the absence of legal wrangling with Waters made the recording a far more enjoyable experience (not to mention greater confidence following the success of A Momentary Lapse of Reason
and its subsequent touring), the issue of Wright's membership on the band still hung over its collective head. The Division Bell
's music was ultimately written by Gilmour and/or Wright, with the pair co-composing four songs, the guitarist contributing another five on his own, along with one in collaboration with Ezrin, and Wright solely responsible for the lovely ballad, "Wearing the Inside Out," which would also represent the keyboardist's first lead vocal (alongside Gilmour) since The Dark Side of the Moon
and, along with his co-compositions with Gilmour, his first songwriting credits since Wish You Were Here
The majority of The Division Bell
's lyrics were written by Gilmour's then-fiancé, novelist Polly Sampson, who would subsequently contribute to Gilmour's post-Floyd solo albums On an Island
(EMI/Columbia, 2006) and Rattle That Lock
(Columbia, 2015), though Gilmour is also co-credited, alongside (on two tracks) Dream Academy singer-songwriter Nick Laird-Clowes. While management was not necessarily enthusiastic about Sampson's participation, Ezrin later credited her with helping the guitarist who had, following his 1990 divorce from his first wife, Virginia Hasenbein, developed a cocaine habit,
Despite being largely less than warmly received, The Division Bell
nevertheless leapt to the top of album charts in ten countries (including the USA and UK). An improvement in the overall production, the album brought saxophonist Dick Parry back, along with Jon Carin, Tim Renwick and Gary Wallis, with Ezrin also adding some keyboards and percussion, and a full five vocalists employed, including Sam Brown and Durga McBroom (who would also go on to tour with the band alongside Claudia Fontaine), plus Carol Kenyon, Jackie Sheridan and Rebecca Leigh-White.
A largely more subdued album, The Division Bell
's 2014 surround sound mix is included, in 24/96 high resolution, on the same Blu Ray as the remixed/updated A Momentary Lapse of Reason
, but neither album is included on DVD. While not a concept album per se
, the overall subject revolves around communication (and lack thereof).
Following the ambient instrumental opener, "Cluster One," which in some ways harkens back to the studio LP of 1969's Ummagumma
(Harvest), the propulsive but balladic "What Do You Want From Me" (featuring some strong guitar work from Gilmour and, with its rich-toned but spare drumming, a clear sign that Nick Mason is back) appears to be about looking for God's purpose, with the lyrics striving to find his/her purpose and desires, while acknowledging that: "You can have anything you want
You can drift, you can dream, even walk on water
Anything you want."
Similarly slow for the first half but moving briefly into double time in the second before returning back to its original tempo, "Poles Apart" is defined by some unexpected compositional complexities and symphonic hints, amidst Wright's gorgeous (and, with Carin, no doubt augmented) keyboard textures and Gilmour's layered guitar. According to Sampson, the song's first half is about Syd Barrett and the second, about Roger Waters. It's easy to see why. Strongly referencing Gilmour's recruitment to first augment and subsequently replace Barrett, with whom he not only remained friends but went on to co-produce the suffering singer/songwriter's small but significant post-Floyd discography: "Did you know it was all going to go so wrong for you?
And did you see it was all going to be so right for me?
Why did we tell you then
You were always the golden boy then
And that you'd never lose that light in your eyes?"
"Marooned," the album's other instrumental, possesses more defined form, and is a feature, amongst many, for Gilmour's soaring lap steel work, while the following "A Great Day for Freedom" references the optimism of the Berlin Wall's destruction and the disappointment that soon followed. While denied by Gilmour, it's also been suggested that the song references the day after Roger Waters left Pink Floyd, though only these lyrics could be seen as even intimating that event: "I dreamed you had left my side
No warmth not even pride remained
And even though you needed me
It was clear that I could not do a thing for you,"
It's true that Wright's voice never approached Gilmour's in terms of either range or emotional resonance (and Gilmour could never be accused of melisma
). Still, the keyboardist's unadorned and straightforward approach, bolstered by backing vocalists Durga McBroom and Sam Brown, simply evoked the emotions of Anthony Moore's particularly painful song about isolation. Given Wright's still ambiguous legal standing as a band member (so much so that Wright apparently came close to not participating), the song possesses an even greater, personal resonance.
Thankfully, however, after not being credited as a band member on either A Momentary Lapse of Reason
or Delicate Sound of Thunder
, by the time The Division Bell
was released and its subsequent tour (excluding two "test" gigs in San Bernardino, CA and Orlando, FL, on March 3 and 23, respectively) begun, two days after the album's release on March 21, 1994, Wright had once again become an official member of Pink Floyd.
"Take It Back" may be one of the album's most buoyant tracks, but its subject matter is still less than optimistic, read either as a comment about ecology (Mother Earth) or, perhaps, a lover (Gilmour's ex-wife, perhaps?). Still, its uplifting music made it a strong inclusion in the band's subsequent live repertoire. Opening with an atmospheric intro that, with Gilmour's unusually clean and warm-toned work, sounds like something Mark Knopfler might have been capable of, with its possible reference to Gilmour's improving state of life (off drugs, new fiancé). It's still a relatively subdued, but nevertheless more propulsive track that, alongside Mason's perfect, simple choices, is also a feature for some similarly spare work from Wallis.
The darker-hued "Keep Talking" is the album's most direct statement about the lack of communication that, presciently, is even more relevant today. Featuring one of Gilmour's grittiest and most impressive solos of the set, turning more effective still with the introduction of a talk box later in the song, the guitarist's call-and-response vocals with his backup vocalists are also particularly efficacious: "I think I should speak now (why won't you talk to me?)
I can't seem to speak now (you never talk to me)
My words won't come out right (what are you thinking?)
I feel like I'm drowning (what are you feeling?)
I'm feeling weak now (why won't you talk to me?)
But I can't show my weakness (you never talk to me)
I sometimes wonder (what are you thinking?)
Where do we go from here (what are you feeling?)."
Neither "Lost for Words" nor the closing "High Hopes" do anything to break the overall introspective and subdued mood of The Division Bell
, and that may be one reason why its critical reception was largely lukewarm. It also reflects the stronger disposition towards straightforward songwriting that defines post-Waters Pink Floyd. Still, that's really an unfair criticism, since the last couple of albums with Waters were a far cry from the more experimental work of albums like Meddle
, or even The Dark Side of the Moon
. And with The Division Bell
a fully democratic record, it's a better representation of Pink Floyd than A Momentary Lapse of Reason
, as it also foreshadows Gilmour's subsequent, post-Floyd solo albums, which are also relatively languid efforts, and that's no criticism; languid can, in the right hands, prove to be a good thing.
With the band busy recording the album, management and the production team were concurrently preparing for the tour to support it, as described at the beginning of this article. Still, with Pink Floyd's members all now nearing or having recently entered their fifties, and as ambitious as the live performances would be, as documented on the live Pulse
video that, as it's included in The Later Years
, has been restored and re-edited, the planned tour was not to be as long as the A Momentary Lapse of Reason
tour, though it would be no less grueling.
Beginning at the end of March, 1994, just after the album's release, Pink Floyd only toured for seven months and, rather than hitting as many continents as its '80s tours, the band only travelled across North America, the UK and continental Europe, playing approximately 110 shows in nearly 70 cities, with multiple shows in a number of larger locations, including ending the tour with a fourteen-night run at Earls Court, London, where the October 20 show would be documented on Pulse
, the film. Pulse
, the two-CD set released shortly before the film, on the other hand, is a compilation of performances drawn from a variety of European dates.
The giant round projection screen has returned, but this time housed in a massive, 120-foot wide, 80 foot high arch that, including the PA towers, extends the entire structure to 200 feet in width, with each PA stack hiding one of two giant inflatable pigs on top until they inflate and illuminate during "One of These Days." The lighting has become even more sophisticated still, though it's unfortunate that the Pulse
film, despite being re-edited and restored, was not originally shot in widescreen, and so remains only with a 4:3 aspect ratio. Nevertheless, it's an even better visual experience than the 2006 DVD release, and the Blu Ray version includes, for the first time, uncompressed audio in 24/96 high resolution.
While not intended at the time, as Pink Floyd's final tour it's an especially strong set list. Still mirroring the Momentary Lapse of Reason
tour by largely placing newer material in the first set and older hits and deep cuts in the second, there were two set lists used, with one changing the show-opener from "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" to a much earlier, even more atmosphere-heavy Floyd favorite, "Astronomy Domine." The alternate set list began with "Shine on You Crazy Diamond," but this time including "Part 1" through "Part 5" and, for the first time in decades, "Part 7." The rest of the first set, barring ending with "One of These Days," included a mix of tracks from A Momentary Lapse of Reason
and The Division Bell
, but it was the second set that would make this a momentous live swan song for the band.
From the opening sound of a heartbeat, mirrored by a heart monitor projected onto the projection screen, Pink Floyd launched into The Dark Side of the Moon
in its entirety, for the first time since the mid-'70s,. With a larger group making much more possible, alongside absolutely stunning visuals, the absence of Waters was most certainly not felt.
And the visuals ranged from the dramatic to the more subtle. As Thorgerson's film is projected on the circular screen, red spotlights shine down, from on high, on Wright and Carin alone during the pulsating electronics of "On the Run," which reaches its conclusion with an airplane (on fire) flying across the arena, only to crash at the far end of stage left. As the chiming alarm clocks signal the intro to "Time," green spotlights shine on Mason and Wallis alone, during a passage where the atmospheric changes are punctuated by percussive hits; the simple lighting couldn't be more perfect.
As relatively faithful as the performance of Dark Side of the Moon
is, there are some changes to the music, most notably during "Money," which is extended by nearly three minutes and, in addition to Parry's visceral tenor solo and an initially faithful turn from Gilmour, drops the dynamics way down for a short, largely scripted passage for the background vocalists. Some alterations to the chord changes lead to a brief bass solo that gradually builds into a reggae-inflected solo for Renwick, before returning to the original groove as Gilmour solos once again, this time taking far greater liberties.
Like Mark Knopfler, Gilmour is a guitarist who knows how to perfectly balance playing parts of solos that are recognizable and, to a large extent, expected from the audience while, at the same time, being both interpretive and knowing when he can cut loose with greater improvisational freedom.
Following Wright's spare but effective and texturally deep synth solo on "Any Colour You Like," The Dark Side
approaches its powerful climax with the folkloric "Brain Damage" and, finally, with the lighting reaching almost blinding proportions for the album-closing "Eclipse," as a film of a solar eclipse occurs in the circular screen, leading to a stage-wide impression of, well, the dark side of the moon. It's an epic performance and a dramatic end to the main show.
Round lighting patterns across the entire venue's ceiling shine down softly onto the crowd, again rendering the entire venue a performance space. The vivid lighting, visuals and, even, pyrotechnics (timed explosions during the climax of "One of These Days," for example) again help to compensate for Gilmour, Wright and Mason's general immobility. Still, with lots of smiles to go around and plenty of eye contact amongst the band members, there's still enough to watch of the group itself. Nevertheless. the soft choreography from the three backup singers, along with the more animated Wallis and Pratt, make the band more engaging to watch than in its early days, when the band foreshadowed the emergence of shoe-gazer groups.
As always, "Comfortably Numb" is a highlight, nearly ten minutes long and capturing Gilmour at his absolute best, blending expected signatures and plenty of the unexpected as well. Spinning triangles of light project stark whites onto the band and out into the crowd as Gilmour sings "there is no pain you are receding," while a massive flood of light blasts the stage and the crowd when Wright, Carin and Pratt sing "there'll be no more, ah
" out into the crowd.
As Gilmour takes his first solo, green laser lights project from behind the band and out into the hall. During his extended second solo, the round projection screen gradually turns ninety degrees downwards, so the lights now face down on the band. As with Delicate Sound of Thunder
, the giant disco ball drops down above the audience and, with stark white lighting coming from all angles as it opens up, flower-like, Gilmour is similarly silhouetted onstage with a single white spot from the side. Combining vivid laser shards with pulsating strobe lights, the closing "Run Like Hell" ends Pulse
on high note, with the projection screen seeming, with the final musical crash, to explode and self-destruct.
The "Bootlegging the Bootleggers" may be absent from The Later Years
, but three rehearsal tracks are included on the fifth Blu Ray (and fourth DVD), including "Lost for Words" and two different versions of "Great Day for Freedom," which help illuminate how the band would try different things during rehearsal, before coming to the final version used in concert.
1995-2014: Passing & A Gentle Finale: The Endless River
Nearly eleven years after Pink Floyd's tour in support of The Division Bell
, pigs flew, hell froze over... choose your own adage. Bob Geldof was organizing an even more ambitious series of concerts to take place two decades after he'd launched the two Live Aid benefits concerts that, with other countries joining in and organizing their own shows on the same day (July 13, 1985), all with the purpose of raising awareness and money in the interest of famine relief. Geldof's shows in London, England and Philadelphia, USA, were broadcast live on satellite TV, and reportedly seen by 1.9 billion
people in 150 countries around the globe.
Planned to precede, by four days, the annual G8 summit of world leaders planned, that year, to take place in Scotland, this time Geldof was planning a series of similarly big name-driven, day-long festival performances, with a thousand artists scheduled to perform at concerts in ten locations around the world that would all occur between 12:00 and 20:00 (local times), the event was intended to encourage G8 attendees to: double aid sent to the world's poorest countries; fully cancel those countries' debts; and change trade laws in order to allow them to build their own futures.
With artists like Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder
, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Dave Matthews Band, Youssou N'Dour, Neil Young and Björk amongst the many major artists on the various concerts' rosters, it was, nevertheless, Geldof's biggest success to convince Pink Floyd, all four members, to reunite for a performance that may have only lasted 30 minutes, but would go down in history as one of the event's most memorable concerts. It took no small amount of finagling, too; with Gilmour initially declining (citing that he was busy working on what would become On an Island
), Geldof then approached Mason, who contacted Waters, who then called the guitarist (their first conversation in years), and convinced him to go ahead.
It was not Pink Floyd at its best, but it was such a momentous, completely unexpected event that it drew some of Live 8's biggest attention. In the interest of completion, while the band's Live 8 set is included in the four-DVD release from the same year, it would have been nice to have had it included, as a separate mini-set, in The Later Years
. Still, between contracts and still-ongoing difficulties between Gilmour and Waters, it was likely not possible.
But that they played together again, even if only briefly, was important for another reason: three years later, on September 15, 2008, Richard Wright passed away of from cancer. It was a tremendous loss; he may not have been a masterful technician, but he was a tasteful and creative player and musical conceptualist, as much a colorist as a performer, and there's no doubt that his contributions to Pink Floyd over the course of forty years, have been of significant influence to subsequent generations of musicians.
With only Gilmour and Mason left, it meant that Pink Floyd was effectively dead, especially with Gilmour now focusing on his solo career, having released On an Island
and touring it with a band that included many of the usual suspects from past Floyd tours...and, momentously, including Wright on what would be the keyboardist's final tour. The album was a success, reaching #1 on both the UK and US charts, as was the tour, spanning three months, from March to May, 2006, with a handful of additional dates in July and August (most notably the Gdánsk, Poland show that would be the final performance that year, collaborating with a symphony orchestra and subsequently released as Live in Gdánsk
(EMI/Columbia, 2008) in multiple formats and editions).
But while it appeared, with Wright's passing, that Pink Floyd was no more, in 2012 Gilmour and Mason decided to revisit the leftover material from The Division Bell
's sessions. Gilmour and Mason are interviewed in the Endless River
EPK, included on the sixth Blu Ray and fifth DVD. They discuss making the album, much of it having been improvised but some of it stemming from song ideas that were never used, and how it would ultimately turn into a two year project. Mason also reveals that The Division Bell
was originally intended to harken back to Ummagumma
as a two-CD set, with one consisting of songs, the other, instrumentals.
That idea may have been abandoned, but the end result was, perhaps, even better. The Endless River
was developed as four "sides" of continuous music to match the two-LP vinyl release that would be one of The Endless River
's multiplicity of formats and editions. An album that's as much a tribute to Wright as anything else, his wonderful textures and melodic ideas flow throughout a 53-minute album that's included here, on DVD and Blu Ray, through Ian Emes' film of the album, appearing here for the first time. In addition to stereo and surround sound (high resolution 24/96 on the Blu Ray), it's a fully widescreen film that uses a wealth of imagery to work with the music, which ranges from near-ambient style, with Gilmour's extensive use of EBow
, to more propulsive (but still largely slow tempo'd) tracks.
The final piece, "Louder Than Words," as the only vocal track on both the album and film, is a particularly fitting way for Pink Floyd to put a gentle close to what was, by then, a fifty year career by reflecting upon it: "We bitch and we fight
Diss each other on sight
But this thing we do...
These times you get
Rain or shine or stormy weather,
This thing we do...
With world-weary grace
We've taken our places
We could curse it or nurse it and give it a name."
And the closing: "It's louder than words this thing that we do
Louder than words, the way it unfurls
Its louder than words, the sum of our parts
The beat of our hearts is louder than words
Louder than words, this thing they call soul
Is there with a pulse, louder than words
Louder than words."
Former Roxy Music guitarist, Phil Manzanera, who'd worked with Gilmour on On an Island
, was brought in to co-produce The Endless River
and, while the core of the music came from The Division Bell
's unused material, Gilmour and Mason also added additional elements, both themselves and through the participation of friends old and new, with former Pink Floyd recording and touring artists including Guy Pratt, Jon Carin, Bob Ezrin, engineer Andy Jackson and Anthony Moore, along with saxophonist Gilad Atzmon
, making his first appearance with Floyd and Gilmour.
While not particularly well received critically (largely average to lukewarm), it managed to find its way into dozens of countries' top 10 charts, with many of them hitting the #1 slot, including the UK, Canada, France and Norway, and reaching #3 on the US chart. With certified sales of over 2.5 million, given the time, the state of the music industry and that it was almost entirely instrumental, it is certainly a more than very respectable sales figure.
As an atmospheric album and, now, an equally ethereal and, at times, celestial film, The Endless River
's inclusion in The Later Years
box is important, as it renders the box fully inclusive of all the band's releases between 1987 and 2014, with the only omission being the two-CD version of Pulse
, which features a number of tracks not found in the concert film (as the concert film also features some songs not included on CD). Still, having been remastered and reissued on CD and as a four-LP vinyl box just a year ago, there seemed little reason to replicate it, without anything different, in the box.
While the band's third act, as documented on The Later Years
, is considered by many fans to be their least favorite period, revisiting all the material in box set may well be a revelatory experience, and certainly suggests that the entire period is worthy of re-evaluation.
From albums appearing in remixed and/or remastered format, a final album turned into a 52-minute film, and live concertssome, previously unreleased and others with improved visuals and sound, plus a couple of shorter live performances (the Syd Barrett Tribute and Rock and a Roll Hall of Fame Induction)everything is significantly upgraded, especially on the Blu Rays with, in some cases for the first time, uncompressed high resolution audioand there's plenty of music, familiar and not, to revisit and reconsider.
And there's a veritable plethora of documentary footage, from album cover shoots and interviews with the 1994 production team to the Endless River
launch and EPK, alongside a Pulse
TV advert. There are six music videos from the three studio albums, including an alternate version of "Learning to Fly," alongside nine Storm Thorgerson films used during the A Delicate Sound of Thunder
Tour and a further ten from the Division Bell
Tour. Add to that the unused footage from Delicate Sound of Thunder
and rehearsals from the Division Bell
Tour, and The Later Years
is certainly a most comprehensive look at Pink Floyd's final act.
And it's great that the band and label took criticisms of The Early Years
to heart. The large but still more shelf-capable box also includes, in addition to all the audio/video material, far more printed material than The Early Years
, including the 60-page hardcover of imagery, a variety of tour programs and a lyric booklet. The only real oversights for this box are an absence of written material and a stereo version of the 2014 Division Bell
remaster/remix, especially since a high res version of it is available as a purchasable download from the usual online high res shops.
Some essays, perhaps from noted music journalists, or comments/interviews with Gilmour and Mason would have helped flesh out the box completely. Still, with so many biographical and discographical books out there about the band, perhaps it would be redundant.
But these are both relatively minor quibbles. While an expensive box that may be priced beyond the budgets of at least some of the band's fans, it's nevertheless more appropriate when compared, again, with The Early Years
, as terrific as that set was (but even more expensive). Visually, the box is drop-dead beautiful, housing all of its components for easy access.
For those who've not paid much attention to post-Waters Pink Floyd, The Later Years
is the box set to rectify that. For fans of the era, between the previously unreleased or upgraded audio/video content, and a far greater amount of printed material than with The Early Years
, The Later Years
is a better conceived, designed and executed package. And for those who've been less than generous about Gilmour, Mason and Wright's final work together, the content-rich The Later Years
may very well be the release to change their minds.