Columbia Records, 1995
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/28/2005
So this is what it came to. The final album released by Pink Floyd in the 20th century is a double live document, minus founding member Roger Waters and including a complete performance of Dark Side Of The Moon.
The odds were pretty good this would be an overblown progressive rock masterpiece. To ensure this fate, guitarist/singer/bandleader David Gilmour staged an elaborate light show, in which movies ran during the songs, lasers were everywhere and a backing band was brought in to re-create the songs perfectly so they coincided with said lasers. Hey, want a giant disco ball to turn into a flower and blind the audience during "Comfortably Numb?" You got it!
Part of me wants to look at this critically, to wonder why this was needed. One needs to see Floyd to understand it, or listen to the original albums on headphones (so buy the DVD, in short). A live album often seems like a way to cash in, and that's what this feels like, because it has everything a fan could want and very little spirit.
Consider: Many of these tracks appeared on 1988's double live set Delicate Sound Of Thunder, and they were better there, showing a band glad to be reunited under Gilmour's hand (as opposed to the then-oppressive hand of Waters). The songs repeated here are solid -- "Comfortably Numb" still has a great guitar solo and "Run Like Hell" has a dramatic buildup, but "Hey You" and "Another Brick In The Wall pt. 2" don't offer anything new. Same with "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and everything from Momentary Lapse of Reason -- great songs, nothing new here, no difference from the studio versions.
The new selections are from The Division Bell, and if you didn't like that album, these performances won't change your mind. Again, solid songs, especially "Keep Talking" and "What Do You Want From Me?," but the live setting offers nothing new. The only new song not from that album is "Astronomy Domine," a 1967 Syd Barrett number completely out of place here, but pulled off well by the guys. It's a surprise to hear.
Which brings us to the live Dark Side. Sadly, to pull it off, the band has to resort to tape loops and tricks for the sound effects, and as a result play the album very close to the original. But it is a powerful piece, and listened to as a whole once can understand why it made the charts for 743 weeks. The highlights are a dramatic "Speak To Me" (yes, really) and an extended "Money," with female backup vocals to augment the band.
So, the dilemma: This album is enjoyable, the songs are great, Dark Side is riveting and the encore of "Numb" and "Run Like Hell" is a killer punch. But the whole thing comes across as a production for extravagance's sake, not music's sake. It's as if Gilmour wanted to officially announce the end of Floyd while telling Roger Waters they were doing just fine without him. Maybe they were financially, but there just doesn't ever seem to be a need for this. Solid, enjoyable, and great music, but ultimately unnecessary.