April 7, 2016
What could have been a cruel, expensive joke, turned out to be an unforgettable night ending with concert expectations set to a new height. Although the show started at 8:00 on Friday, April 1st, Gilmour arrived at 6:00 according to his Facebook page, saying: “Arriving at 6pm at the venue meant that no April Fool’s pranks could be played...just the final concert in Toronto”. The show began with the first three songs from Gilmour’s new album, Rattle That Lock. The video for “Rattle That Lock” was displayed on the giant trademark circle screen as the band played. Gilmour’s solo during “Faces of Stone” was beautifully executed with extended sections of improvisations. These sections picked the listener up and twirled them around new ideas, new possibilities, new phrases and subsections. There were pauses that were not there before, bends that added purpose and new directions. All of this was amplified by the video screen, as it displayed Gilmour’s fingers frantically unfolding this new musical voyage, and Gilmour’s face trying to comprehend this musical journey’s implications. Near the end of the solo, fragments of the original solo began to resurface, gently bringing the listener back to reality with the return of familiarity.
With the audience warmed up to the tune of Gilmour's performance caliber, he bestowed upon us "Wish You Were Here". Unlike "Faces Of Stone", it was very close to the studio version, with little variation. At certain points, Gilmour was hardly audible over the crowd singing along, especially during the line "Two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl". Sustained cheers were heard after the song closed, with people around me almost in disbelief that they had finally heard that song live from the man himself...
While people were comprehending what they just heard, "What Do You Want From Me" followed with an immediate uproar of excitement as the first guitar wail pierced the air, sending tidal waves of emotion throughout the arena, drowning the audience as we stood there, helpless but willing. As the song came to a close with the lyrics, "You can lose yourself this night/See inside there is nothing to hide/Turn and face the light", there was no doubt that everyone had experienced those exact words at that exact moment.
After the crowd settled, there was a slight pause, as instruments were being exchanged. My suspicions rose, as I had read that David Crosby had joined Gilmour at the beginning of the tour. Although Crosby didn't make the trip up North, the band still did a wonderful rendition of "A Boat Lies Waiting". "The Blue" followed, which took me by surprise and delight. Gilmour's Facebook page wrote: "Tonight ‘The Blue’, from the ‘On An Island’ album, sounded particularly moving, with the giant round screen showing close ups of string bending and mind blowing fret work". Unfortunately, it was the only song from Gilmour's 2006 album On An Island. I would have loved to hear more from that album, and had hopes to hear the title track, as he had previously played it with Crosby at the beginning of the tour.
"Money" kicked the show back up, only to have it sag back down from the questionable phrasing from the saxophone player, João Mello. It seemed like Mello was having a rough start, as his tenor was not in tune nor in time with the rest of the band. That being said, "Money" still rocked the arena, and was complete with Gilmour himself doing a dancing wiggle between the verses. Although Gilmour has been playing this song for over 43 years, he still manages to pack in fresh feeling and emotion by changing the dynamics. The middle section was a lot quieter than the studio version, which allowed him to increase the volume and intensity. By the end, the volume was cranked to 11.
Keeping with Dark Side Of The Moon, "Us and Them" followed, with the music video being played on the screen behind. Similarly, the video for "In Any Tongue" was also shown during its performance. Although the male background singer Bryan Chambers sang the high vocal sections for the piece, what Gilmour didn't do vocally was made up for in the solo. Similar to "Faces Of Stone", Gilmour had largely extended the solo section, which featured incredible highs and lows, not to mention intensive pulls that were not on the album. It was an incredible experience to watch an artist take a musical leap and shy away from the familiar. It made the experience that much more personal, as you felt you were hearing something that others may never hear. It was a personalized experience on a song that was once thought to be the end of the creation, but instead it is only the mere beginning of possibilities. The newly recorded material only exposes the tip of the iceberg in terms of the musicality that Gilmour still possesses.
The first set closed with "High Hopes", which the crowd really liked. As soon as a bell appeared on stage, the crowd went wild. Although the bell was rather small and tinny, the rest of the song made up for it. For most of the song, the music video played in the background. During the end solo, Gilmour's hands became the focus of the screen. His solo was once again similar to the album, with a few minor bends added and slightly different phrasing. The song caused a standing ovation, which closed out the first act.
Act Two began with "Astronomy Domine", which completely blew my mind as it is pre-Gilmour! It was an incredibly fun piece as the video screen depicted a lava lamp background while colourful lights went every which way during the descending "Ouuuuuuu" sections. It was a psychedelic experience I was not expecting at all!
"Shine On You Crazy Diamond Part 1" followed, which I thought was a beautiful section of the show. First, there was the nod to Syd Barrett with "Astronomy Domine", and then the tribute to Barrett through "Shine On", which was originally written for Barrett. The pairing of both songs really emphasized one another and was beautifully executed musically. Mello, the sax player, must have tuned up during the break, because his solos (both on baritone and tenor) were spot on. My faith in his abilities were finally restored...after much previous cringing...
Keeping with the early Pink Floyd theme, to much of the audience's surprise, Gilmour played "Fat Old Sun" from Atom Heart Mother (1970). Gilmour's Facebook page wrote: "‘Fat Old Sun’ is a huge crowd pleaser with some tasty lap steel played by Jon Carin. Before David introduced the band, the 14000 capacity crowd gave him and them a standing ovation, this was a concert first".
"Coming Back To Life" followed with beautiful vocals by Gilmour. His voice is still strong and can hold a candle to the studio version. "The Girl In The Yellow Dress" followed, and I was a little concerned with the possible quality of his voice. On the album, it seems the high notes were a bit of a stretch for Gilmour. However, Gilmour's live rendition showed no signs of strain, but rather comfort. He hit the high notes flawlessly and with ease. It was like watching a trapeze artist leap from bar to bar effortlessly, completely oblivious to the height danger. Gilmour's voice was smooth as silk during this piece, and in many ways, outshone the album version immensely.
The last song Gilmour played from the new album was "Today", which remained close to the album version. The audience seemed to really dig this catchy piece, as many people were dancing in their seats. Even Gilmour himself did a few more little dance jigs. The backup singers did a particularly moving performance with spot-on harmonies and pristine phrasing.
After the mini dance party from "Today", the growling snarl of "Sorrow" took over, completely devouring the audience's attention. Between the guitar moans, you could hear a pin drop in the audience. The anticipation of the next note mixed with the uncertainty of note length kept the audience on their toes, wondering what was going to happen next. Similar to "What Do You Want From Me", we were once again caught on the web of Gilmour's musicality. We were fixated in the moment, cherishing every second of silence before the next wave of primitive moans engulfed our minds. The bass was most prominent in this piece, almost as if it had been waiting the whole show for this moment to pounce into the forefront, as it shook the entire arena and pounded against your own heart with no remorse. The musical journey we experienced was undoubtedly an erogenous one.
Act Two ended with a magnificent strobe light show set to "Run Like Hell", one of Gilmour's personal favourites. The crowd went absolutely wild shouting "Run" and making X's with their arms (a Wall concert reference). Guy Pratt, the bassist, did an excellent rendition of Waters' vocals on the song, and even ran on the spot in some sections. Much to my amusement, all the band members wore matching black sunglasses during the song.
The encore consisted of "Time" and "Comfortably Numb", which contained a stellar laser show. Both songs were very similar to their respective album versions, but the lasers during "Comfortably Numb" took us to a whole other level. The video screen captured the details of the infamous solo, while the audience completely lost themselves in the moment, somewhere between the lasers and the fog.
It was clear that Gilmour had a lot of fun playing the songs from his new album. They are still new creations that allow for musical discoveries and flexibility in performance, unlike other songs like "Wish You Were Here", "Time", and "Comfortably Numb", whose forms and notes are engrained in our musical memories. As such, these songs were performed with very little variation, as the fans share a close connection to every note, and have a greater expectation of how the song should be played and perceived.
Although Gilmour played 7 of the 10 tracks from Rattle That Lock, I was a little surprised that “Dancing Right In Front Of Me” wasn’t played. Not only is it a fantastic piece and one of my personal favourites from the new album, it’s one of two pieces on the album where both the music and lyrics were written by Gilmour - a feat that doesn't happen often. Usually Polly Samson, Gilmour’s wife, writes most of his lyrics.
The problem with an artist like Gilmour, is that his repertoire is so vast that it's hard to cover everything, even in a three hour concert. I would have loved to hear "Childhood's End" (1972) as it was the last Gilmour-written piece until the Gilmour-led era of Pink Floyd in the 1980s. I would have also liked to hear something from the Meddle album, and "On The Turning Away", as both the vocals and guitar are top-notch examples of Gilmour at his best.
Gilmour's Facebook page wrote: "The audience took up where their compatriots last night left off, cheering and clapping from start to finish. A great audience spurs a band on, they feel the vibe, and so it was tonight. David’s singing and guitar solos were at the highest level, support[ed] by his superb band which gave him the context to ‘shine on’". The concert was definitely an experience of a lifetime, and I feel incredibly lucky to have witnessed such rich musicality and participate in its history. I highly encourage everyone to see this tour if they can. Gilmour still stuns his audience and continues to reinvent his music and master his technique. I can scratch this concert off my bucket list with a huge grin. Gilmour has destroyed every one of my preceding expectations, and has set my concert-going standards to a new locked-in height. Anyone who dares to challenge this new height must first Rattle That Lock...
Rattle That Lock
Faces Of Stone
Wish You Were Here
What Do You Want From Me
A Boat Lies Waiting
Us And Them
In Any Tongue
Shine On You Crazy Diamond Part. 1
Fat Old Sun
Coming Back To Life
The Girl In The Yellow Dress
Run Like Hell