Halfway to the stars
I’ve a personal bias here, having been listening to Pink Floyd for over thirty years. There’s little in their catalog that I haven’t, at the very least, appreciated. Solo albums by Gilmour and keyboardist Rick Wright have been flavorful and interesting, and it was good to see Wright sharing the stage with Gilmour on this tour. Much of Wright’s enthusiasm and humor were purportedly stunted by the band’s increasing theatricality in the late ‘70s, but he’s visibly jubilant here.
On an Island is Gilmour’s first studio recording since Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell in 1994—eight years after Floyd cofounder Roger Waters split for greener pastures—and both albums reflect the graying of their creator: sublime, comfortable and fundamentally romantic. With David Crosby and Graham Nash on backup vocals, the title track “On an Island” flows into images and thoughts of loss, desire, and gratitude. Most of the other songs follow suit, with Gilmour’s wife, photographer and novelist Polly Samson writing a great deal of the lyrics. It’s one of the few recent albums of any kind I’ve played repeatedly. In one of the DVD’s interviews, Gilmour calls it his best work in thirty years and I’m inclined to agree.
Geezers of my generation complain about the dearth of musicianship in contemporary popular music, the apparent extinction of bravura soloists like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck or Jimmy Page. Remember That Night captures Gilmour at his best, and of all the classic rock guitarists he's still my favorite. His subtle, wailing blues get me every time. The second half of the concert, digging deep into the Floyd catalog, had me smiling: “Echoes” is a particular treat, and guest David Bowie does wonders with Barrett’s “Arnold Layne”.
It’s a two-disc set, the second DVD packed with interviews, videos, studio sessions (you simply must play “Astonomy Domine” cranked), etc., etc. It’s one of the few bonus discs I’ve ever watched from beginning to end.
Astronomy Domine recorded at Abbey Road in 2006