Review: David Gilmour - Live in Gdansk
Released: September 16, 2008
I had a few preconceptions coming into this one: David Gilmour is easily in my top 20 guitarists of all time. He clearly did great work in Pink Floyd and his diminished role on the Waters-dominated albums of the late 70s and early 80s show just how vital he (and Rick Wright) were to the band's sound and emotional quality. That being said, Gilmour's post-Waters work is a mixed bag. His eponymous solo album has some good moments and Division Bell is Floyd's best work since at least Animals (Shut up Wall fans, you've been deceived). The Bob Ezrin-dominated Momentary Lapse of Reason is, a few tracks aside, pretty near unlistenable, About Face is terrible and 2006's On an Island is only slightly better. Gilmour has his moments, they're just not all good.
To top that off, I saw Gilmour's Floyd on their 1994 tour. It was pretty easy to be taken in by the light show. Playing "Astronomy Domine" didn't hurt either. But it didn't take long for the smoke to clear and I saw it for what it was: old men going through the motions. They might as well have just played the records. Looking back, it might be the worst concert I ever saw.
So, I brought my baggage along, good and bad, for the Live in Gdansk ride. And here we go, David Gilmour, a favorite guitarist who hasn't done much that is notable in 30 years, is performing in the Gdansk Shipyards, famed birthplace of the Polish Solidarity movement that ultimately changed the face of Europe. Oh yeah, the Baltic Philharmonic showed up too. This has the making or either greatness or disaster!
Unlike my previous live experience with Gilmour, Live in Gdansk is not a sterile, note-for-note regurgitation of the material (mostly Floyd tunes, by the way). Gilmour's sound is so clean and yet here, he manages to make it warm and rich and natural. It doesn't always work perfectly. He changes the pace of "Astonomy Domine" and the result seems rushed, stealing some of its psychedelic thunder. However, that is the exception. For the most part, Gilmour breathes unique life into these old songs. None replace the originals, but many stand in their own light. Perhaps no challenge was more formidable than "Echoes" and it's there that he really shines. After being taken aback initially, this version's very different energy had a manic sense all its own, making it quite clear that Glimour, despite many recent stumbles, has a lot left to give.
This is not Gilmour's and certainly not the Gdansk shipyard's top moment, but both have a rich history that would be hard to eclipse. Gilmour's set is, however, worthy of this place and time, providing some fine new takes on old classics.
If you're curious about my rating categories, read the description.