by Vernon Fitch
Well, 1984 began quietly enough for Floyd fans. We were grateful that they had surfaced on vinyl the previous year with the outstanding Final Cut album, so nobody really expected another Pink Floyd record for at least three more years. That is, if there would be another Pink Floyd record at all. After all, Rick Wright had officially left the band and rumors had been circulating about Eric Clapton joining Pink Floyd. This rumor, however, was too fantastic to believe. After all, David Gilmour was as much responsible for Pink Floyd's sound as anyone. His guitar work not only distinguished the Pink Floyd sound, but his contibutions to the band's repiertoire were amongst the best songs that they put out. No, there could be no Pink Floyd without David Gilmour. No offence to Eric, but he just couldn't cut it in Pink Floyd territory. (Sorry Reg).
It seems Dave just couldn't sit around and wait another three years. In January, the Floyd grapevine brought news of Dave joining his brothers band onstage in London, unannounced. Then, in February, the news of a second solo album, titled About Face, sent me searching through the "new releases" racks at the record stores. I couldn't wait to hear what new classics Dave was about to unleash on us. After all, his first solo LP was great, and even the songs that didn't make the album were knockouts. (Comfortably Numb was originally an outtake from the first album!) So I searched the record stores and came across a copy of the Blue Light EP. This was an extended mix pre-release sampler from the album. I took it home and sent it rotating on my turntable. Upon hearing it, I just couldn't believe it. I didn't like it at all! It began with some funky horns. Then it went into a disco beat! After playing it a few times (never judge a record on one play) I began to rationalize the fact that I just didn't like its style. It was probably the record company's pick as the most commercial song on the album, and would be released as a single for consumption in the A.M. market. Yes, that must be it. After all, it wasn't the guitar work that I disliked. So I filed the record, put Dark Side of the Moon on the turntable, and hoped for better things from Dave on the rest of the album. I wasn't disappointed.
The album came out the following week along with the announcement of a tour to back the album. It was too good to be true. A David Gilmour tour! I couldn't wait. I would have to see it. No matter what. It would be the event of the year. Yes, even if Blue Light was the best he had to offer, he would still be great to see live. However, my presumptions about Blue Light were correct. The ablum came out and it was terriffic. Blue Light did turn out to be the weakest song on the record (in my opinion). The rest of the album was worth the wait. The song Murder is a killer (groan). It's good enough to have been on a Pink Floyd record and to be the best song on it, as well. (that's the ultimate compliment). Let's Get Metaphysical is an excellent showcase of Dave's guitar work and Near the End shows that Roger wasn't the only lyricist in the band. As expected, Dave came through with a great LP. So now the tour loomed even bigger as an event not to be missed. And Dave didn't let me down.
First, he put together a great performing band that consisted of: Mick Ralphs (guitar), Mickey Feat (bass), Chris Slade (drums), Raff Ravenscroft (sax), Jodi Linscott (percussion) and Gregg Dechart (keyboards). Then he began a month of rehearsals in London in February, incorporating songs from both his solo albums into the set.
The first performance by the band took place on British TV on March 13, 1984. They played two songs, Until We Sleep and Blue Light on Channel 4 for a programme called The Tube. Then, on March 31st, the tour officially began with a performance at the National Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. The set they played was: Until We Sleep, Run Like Hell, Love On the Air, Mihalis, There's No Way Out of Here, All Lovers Are Deranged, Out of the Blue, Let's Get Metaphysical, Cruise, Short and Sweet, You Know I'm Right, Murder and Blue Light, with encores of Near the End and Comfortably Numb. The band was quite tight and Dave was in good spirits. And this was only the beginning of the tour.
From Dublin it was on to Holland, Belgium and France. By the time that they played the Zenith in Paris, the order of the songs in the set had been changed slightly. Run Like Hell was moved into the middle of the set, probably due to the fact that it was one of the highlights of the show and this gave them a chance to work up to it. The other major difference was that All Lovers Are Deranged was moved up to follow Until We Sleep at the beginning of the set. The two songs worked well together and they were played back to back without a break in between. Dave must have felt more comfortable beginning the set with these two songs in this manner since this is the way he bagan the shows for the rest of the tour.
From Paris they went to Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and then on to London where they played three consecutive nights at the Hammersmith Odeon. As a special treat to his home town fans, Dave was joined on stage by Roy Harper to play the song they co-wrote, Short and Sweet. And on the third night, Nick Mason turned up to play drums on Comfortably Numb. In addition, Dave played a third encore, a song from his first album called I Can't Breathe Anymore. This marked the end of the European segment of the tour. From there it was on to North America for dates in Canada and the United States.
The North American tour started slowly in Canada. The first show was set for Chicoutimi, Quebec on May 8th, but had to be cancelled due to a lack of ticket sales. On the following day, they did play as scheduled in Quebec City. But on the 10th, the show at Rimouski was cancelled, again due to lack of ticket sales. The folks in the great white north didn't realize what they were missing. In addition to the songs previously mentioned, Dave had added the Pink Floyd classic, Money, to the set. The song was a perfect outlet for the band to jam on, not to mention the fact that it helped appease many of the older Pink Floyd fans in the audience.
The bands first appearance in the States was in Buffalo, New York on May 16, 1984. From there, they did the east coast, on through the midwest, and then on to the west coast. The songs they played were pretty much the same as for the European tour, with the exception that they were now playing Money instead of There's No Way Out Of Here. There's No Way Out of Here was only used occasionally as a third encore on the U.S. tour, and at some of the shows they only played one encore, Comfortably Numb. However, as the tour progressed, the band loosened up and began to extend many of the songs. Dave added a nice solo instrumental introduction to the song Cruise. And during the song Money, the band took turns doing improvisations. Dave and Mick Ralphs traded off guitar riffs following a piano improvisation by Gregg Dechart, with everyone enjoying themselves immensely. The most notable songs they performed, however, were Run Like Hell and Comfortably Numb. Dave's performance of his two Wall classics left me transfixed. The feeling that engulfed me was one of a spell being cast over the entire audience whereby, we were all a part of the event, as opposed to being witnesses to the event. We were being controlled by the music. Now, that's entertainment Pink Floyd style.
After the shows in California, the band took a week off during which the percussionist, Jodi Linscott, injured herself in a motorcycle accident. Some extra dates had been added to the tour (Florida and the east coast), so they had to do them without her. It was durning this period that Chris Slade showed his excellence on the drums. The power of his drumming was incredible. To me, he was the nicest surprise of the tour. At the end of the tour, when they went back to New York for a few shows there, they added Sid Evans on percussion.
The tour concluded at The Pier in New York City for the final performance on July 16, 1984. The tour was considered a success by everyone involved and let's hope that it will convince Dave that he should do it more often. As expected, it was the highlight of the year for me. For those of you who missed it, a video has been released in the United States (but not in Britain) that was taped at the Hammersmith Odeon during the London shows, along with a documentary that was done in Paris. It is recomended for everyone.
In conclusion, I'd like to say that although Blue Light is not the next shade of Pink, Dave is owed a great debt of gratitude for taking it upon himself to satisfy the hunger of the thousands of Pink Floyds fans worldwide who need to see their heroes in person. Thanks, Dave.