Los Angeles at dusk. Hiking up the hill to experience an evening of David Gilmour under a guise of pink clouds feels strangely appropriate. There’s a forecast for a Great Gig in the Sky.
All around the people climbed the hill in their own way, trickling into the venue as souls swimming in a Hollywood Bowl. After all, it is a legendary venue. Melodic dream vibrations of times past fill the air. Still tonight, a palpable sensation is present. Pink Floyd played here in 1972. Their guitarist, David Gilmour, is about to take the stage in the present moment. Above the Bowl, beacons of light shine. The three spotlights meet at one central point directly above the Bowl as if to signal a cosmic meeting about to begin; it’s a union of strings.
A tune from Gilmour’s latest record opens up the night. “5 A.M.” is deeply ominous and classical. The notes are paired with a guitar tone which glimmer like tender cuts from the frets. It’s a mellow instrumental to start.
Next is the title track of the tour, “Rattle that Lock.” Epic imagery of grey angels falling through the sky projects over the bowl. The large archways of the stage layer into each other like a white rainbow staircase. This set up offers a dramatic backdrop for the visual art displays. There is a story being illustrated in the air. There are snakes, dark universes, chains, and then suddenly red phoenix birds fly out from the center point, completely covering the bowl in every direction. It is a most magnificent site.
The more emotional tune, “Faces of Stone,” rings next. It is haunting and beautiful in all perfection. The song references his mother in a hazy dream of a melody. Before long that quasi-trance, dissociative effect of Gilmour’s guitar playing sets in. It’s reminiscent of tracks on the Meddle album. The mood is floating in the waves of scintillating guitar.
Of course, many are familiar with “Wish You Were Here.” There are no frills and wild visuals here, just a great classic song. Everyone sings along. David smiles in a way that is felt by all. The voices of the crowd singing may have been louder than the stage. Communion is in full effect. It just took a little familiarity.
“Money” rolls in with saxophone in full supply. The song has not diminished in any value. Gilmour exudes pure power in raging electric chords. The visuals are classic Floyd style, demonstrating the duality of society. On the screen there is imagery of wealth in stark contrast to the impoverished. The breakdown of this song is straight groovy. All the heads bop to the rhythm.
As the Bowl falls silent the opening notes of “Us & Them” arrive. What a treat. On Dark Side of the Moon the tracks play in a succession, which often leaves one feeling cheated when not all are heard. To get such a thick slice tonight is incredible. The feel is that of a transcendental dream. There comes that dissociative slip away, right into the waves of the riffs. The song, although sounding quite romantic, references society. Us & Them. All of ‘Us’ in the Bowl are enraptured with the music. In this moment it is especially clear how Gilmour communicates emotion with his guitar. It is indescribably really. There are no lyrics needed to feel the spirit, the message. There is a sense of sadness layered deep within this music, but in a way of comfort, of bringing to light and recognizing unavoidable, yet enlivening truths.
To complete the journey of the first set is “High Hopes.” There is even a bell on stage, signifying the Division Bell album from which it comes. The video tells a story, a sort of mediation on life in a surrealistic manner. The ‘slow decay’ and the ‘grass is greener’. The full band unifies like an orchestra hailing from the cosmos. The chorus line act as comets of voices shooting through the heavens.
In between sets the Bowl is a mad place. Wandering crowds are in full effect. The lines of people zig zagging through ramps and back halls begins to feel like a scene from The Wall. Humans march down pathways when directed.
In what feels like record time, the opening notes of “Astronomy Domine” echo through the beacons in the sky. There is no ease in back to the groove. Not quite back to their seats, the masses are flowing through aisles, finding any available place to stand and marvel at the groovy psychedelic wonder unfolding. There are rainbow strobe lights flashing from the stage. After all, it is a Syd Barrett tune from Piper at the Gates of Dawn. The song originates in 1967, and now here in 2016. So, what’s time? The song opens up the portal to Floydian psychedelia as if nothing else has existed between those moments. It’s right here. This James Bond on acid tune cruises down rainbow lane in a never-ending hall of mirrors.
Want more? Here comes “Shine on You Crazy Diamond Parts I-V.” Ironically placed after Syd’s groovy “Domine” number, this tune refers to when he got a little too far out. The video projected to the crowd is of a man diving into a pool of floating flowers. The man dives deeper and deeper into the pool- the ether of thoughts. A tantalizing guitar lead in, gentle percussion, and that Gilmour glimmer takes the crowd along for a ride ‘on the steel breeze’. Timeless.
At this point of the great gig, everyone shines their lights in the air. There are thousands of people illuminating their crazy diamonds in the sky. David says, “It’s a beautiful thing isn’t it?” Yes it sure is. That music. That soul. That smile of communion. David speaks with his guitar. Everyone can feel it in the air. There are moments of the set, like the human experience of existence, where perhaps one is not offering full attention and then those moments come, like this one, which demand attention. The song. The story. The moment. It says, “HEY YOU, out there on your own, can you hear me?”
The illuminating vibe carries on as a fat orange glow graces the stage, signaling “Fat Old Sun.” It feels like going home. Or, “Coming Back to Life.” Time has ceased long ago by this point in the performance. All is just flowing as the guitar echoes in the breeze. High tones and low tones of Gilmour’s guitar fill the Hollywood Hills in perfect harmony. “Today” there is a “Girl in the Yellow Dress.” Tomorrow there may be “Sorrow.”
The conclusion nears. Suddenly intense reverberations filled the Bowl. Punchy riffs lead into “Run Like Hell.” The Wall! It is a glorious moment. Glancing upon stage it appears all the musicians, Gilmour included, are wearing blacked-out sunglasses as an omnipresent neon light show flashes across the atmosphere. The entire crowd is standing from their seats. It would be impossible to stay down. Gilmour incinerates the air with his licks. Pounding steady groove. It’s a David Gilmour freak out session! The electrifying sounds coming out of this man’s instrument “Run like Hell” through the lanes of our brains.
Thank Floyd there’s an encore. A couple of classics is a good way to go out. There’s “Time” from Dark Side of the Moon. The guitar solo is the definitive Pink Floyd sound. Swirling through the waves of gentle scales, the song lifts one from thought into pure experience like a dancing partner that perfectly fits. A soft mirror reflects the cosmos threaded through space and Time, through the story of an instrument.
To seal the mood and the evening is “Comfortably Numb.” A silent retreat, “There is no pain you are receding”. Gilmour sings, “You are only coming through in waves. Your lips move, but I can’t here what you’re saying”. When the words are no longer heard, all that remains is the gentle glimmer of the strings. Shine on.