Gilmour don't need much evocation


April 14, 2006


By Pink Floyd's vaunted standards, the lighting at David Gilmour's show on Wednesday -- the first of a sold-out two-night stand at the Rosemont Theatre -- was remarkably pedestrian.

Oh, sure, there was the dazzling strobe effect during "Take a Breath," one of the songs from the guitarist and vocalist's new solo album "On an Island," the entirety of which comprised the first set. And the lasers finally made a stunning appearance during "Echoes," the mind-blowing closer of the all-Floyd second set.

Otherwise, though, there was just a lot of plain white light, with no videos, no flying animal balloons and certainly no wall.

While the music is always the primary concern, this is worth mentioning because it epitomizes the goals the 60-year-old English rock legend has for this tour: peeling back the enigma by playing intimate venues and focusing squarely on the musicianship -- his own as well as that of an accomplished band, which includes Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright, frequent saxman Dick Parry and moonlighting Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera.

Gilmour also was making a statement against living in the past by highlighting his new music for almost half of the long evening, and by digging deep into Floyd's catalog for much of the rest. "Wot's ... Uh the Deal" (from 1972's "Obscured by Clouds"), "Fat Old Sun" (from '70's "Atom Heart Mother") and "Echoes" (the vinyl-album sidelong epic from '71's "Meddle") were welcome gifts for diehard fans, though few wouldn't have preferred something from '79's "Animals" ("Dogs"! "Pigs"!) to the two flaccid selections from '94's post-Roger Waters "The Division Bell" ("Wearing the Inside Out," a vocal turn for Wright, and "High Hopes").

We should applaud Gilmour's anti-nostalgic attitude, especially in light of recent tours by peers such as Queen, Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones, which all came complete with 40-year-old videos of the now-frumpy senior-citizen rockers in their stylish and ultra-creative 20s. But by structuring the two sets with a 15-minute break in the middle, Gilmour actually did his new material a disservice.

As sleepy and uninspired as the new tunes are on the album, there were moments of passion onstage, including the fiery guitar duel with Manzanera on the title track, the hypnotic four-guitar "Frippertronics" loops of "Then I Close My Eyes" and the crunching fury of "Take a Breath," which emerged as the best Pink Floyd tune anyone in Pink Floyd has produced since "The Wall" in 1979.

The rest of the new songs, though, were mere background music and excuses to unleash those still glorious, Saturn-bound guitar solos. They were something to endure rather than enjoy, with Gilmour wielding the old carrot and stick: Sit politely and pretend you like this, he seemed to be saying, and then you'll get the reward of your Floydian fix. Both the songs and the fans deserved better.

The fact remains that Pink Floyd produced one of the most timeless and powerful catalogs in rock history, and that despite some vocal trouble hitting the high notes, Gilmour and Wright -- as well as Waters, who is touring this summer with drummer Nick Mason -- can still reproduce it as well as ever, as evidenced by their brief and unexpected reunion at Live 8 last year, which most of us thought would only happen when pigs fly.

Without Waters, Gilmour is a masterful musician completely lacking in ideas. Without Gilmour, Waters is all ideas and no memorable music. Rarely have two former mates ever needed each other so much.

Gilmour says he was offered bushels of money to call his current tour Pink Floyd, and it's noble that he resisted, saying he wasn't interested in a much-hyped mega-tour at this stage in life and just wants to make music on his own terms, "keeping it real."

There's no denying, however, that a good solo Gilmour show could have been a great Floyd one if it had featured the band we know and love. Really, Dave, it's time to stop the silliness, pick up the phone and ring ol' Rog. None of us are getting any younger.