London, Royal Albert Hall
23/09/15 (View: Stalls, centre)
David Gilmour is caged.
On a stage bathed in a blue wash, his six-string superconductor wails like a pained angel, a sound in stasis that screams to be free. He has a back catalogue, you see. And new material. But rather than imposing, the new songs are interwoven – a patchwork blanket that leaves us both comfortable and numb. While not intimidated by the might of Gilmour’s albatross, new material like the middling Tom Petty pop of Rattle That Lock is overshadowed by its wingspan, yet is somehow congruous. Elsewhere, lugubrious anti-ballad Faces Of Stone waltzes in homogenous tandem with The Division Bell’s surreal romance, concluding with the impish whimsy of an accordion wig-out. And when you find yourself in the Royal Albert Hall scribbling the words “accordion wig-out” in your review notes, you know that not only are you a pretentious dick, you’re a pretentious dick at something special.
“Hope you enjoyed my new album,” Gilmour asks sheepishly to a muted response. Almost hurriedly, Wish You Were Here breaks the silence, and feels both welcome and intrusive. For while the song’s yearning sentiment appeases the Floyd faithful, the nostalgia counters the new material’s steady osmosis.
Peppering the new with the old, David Crosby and Graham Nash perform backing vocals with varying degrees of success, most notably on Comfortably Numb’s colossal closer, a song that spreads its wings and bursts through the great Hall’s confines and, in spite of an oblivious Crosby howling centre stage, leaves the audience therein combustibly dumbstruck.
With locks rattled and the shackles lying at his feet, Gilmour’s caged albatross is singing again.
*This article is published in Record Collector magazine. See below for the gargantuan unedited version.