David Gilmour Ends Tour With Stunning Pink Floyd Hits, Soaring Solos
Madison Square Garden briefly became an 18,000-seat hotbox when David Gilmour ended his short North American tour there Tuesday night. The first thing you noticed as you walked through the halls was the dense, nearly physical cloud of weed wafting around you. The next thing was the floating orb above the stage; a staple of Pink Floyd concerts since 1974, it’s a circular projector screen that’s studded with lights to cut through the fog onstage. And then, once the concert began, you found that it was the round, warm notes of Gilmour’s guitars that were the most overwhelming. The experience was pure sensory overload, and since this was the Pink Floyd leader’s first tour in a decade, also a rare treat.
In late March, Gilmour launched a modest North American tour of the States to support his most recent solo album, last year’s Rattle That Lock, playing arenas and theaters in Los Angeles, Toronto, Chicago and New York. He played a nearly identical set list at all of the shows – mixing 14 Pink Floyd favorites with seven Rattle That Lock selections, a splash of On an Island and an intermission for the perfect cocktail – but it was a winning combination that wowed the Big Apple on the last date of the tour. There were thousands of lost souls swimming in a fish bowl (even if they all did sit down for most of the concert), and they were all rapt by his and his band’s performances of songs that date back to 1967, the year he joined Pink Floyd to sing, play kazoo and fill in on guitar as his college chum Syd Barrett spiraled into the ether.
Although the 70-year-old rarely spoke to the audience, other than for the occasional thank you and to introduce his 10-piece band, the night seemed like a celebration of nearly 50 years of cosmic rock. The show began with three Rattle That Lock tunes, which found the screen projecting gritty Wall-like animations, as the band settled into its groove. By the fourth tune of the night – Floyd’s bittersweet, poetic anthem to loneliness “Wish You Were Here” – the arena welcomed a new light source: pinpricks of cellphone flashes piercing the dark. Gilmour voice sounded as it did on the original – husky, sandpapery, weathered – as he mouthed notes along with the acoustic guitar solo. “Do you think you can tell?” he sang to an audience for possibly the thousandth time and, again for possibly the thousandth time, they roared back that they did.
Despite the fans’ obvious ardor for the hits of past decades, Gilmour’s solo selections won over the crowd. During “A Boat Lies Waiting,” he played a gorgeous, soaring lap-steel guitar lead that sounded like a theremin, elating the audience’s amateur photographers, and on “The Blue,” he yanked at his Stratocaster’s whammy bar until it created the sort of eerie, ghostlike wailing that Tom Morello uses pedals to duplicate. When he played Rattle That Lock‘s jazzy “The Girl in the Yellow Dress” – accompanied by its whimsical animated video – concertgoers took video of the whole song as though it were a classic.