David Gilmour and the Guitar Greats

by Vernon Fitch
copyright 1985

Last November 20th, 1984, at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey, a number of guitarists were assembled to perform a one-time only concert. A single back-up band was provided for all the guitarists, presumably in order to speed things up during the show. If each guitarist had brought his own band the set up times between bands would have made the concert an impossibility. However, this idea of using a single back-up band also had its drawbacks. Since the band had to learn the music of all the different guitarists, each guitarist was limited to performing only one or two songs. This way the band had half-a-chance of giving a good performance. So this was not your everyday concert.

The show began with Dave Edmunds Crawling From the Wreckage, followed by Brian Seltzer, Dickey Betts, Neal Schon, Steve Cropper, Johnny Winter, Link Wray, Toni Iomi and Lita Ford, and, finally, as the last guitarist to make an appearance (saving the best for last), David Gilmour. Dave came on stage with his red Fender stratocaster guitar, and seemed to be amused by the proceedings. The songs Dave chose to perform were You Know I'm Right and Murder from his About Face album. These were a good choice (in my humble opinion) although Murder was a bit of a surprise. On the album, as well as on Dave's current tour, the song begins on an acoustic guitar and later switches to electric guitar. This gave it a feel of starting as a folk ballad and concluding as a powerful rock ballad. At this show, however, Dave had to perform the whole song on electric guitar (switching guitars in the middle of the song would have been impossible, given the circumstances). The first part of the song, therefore, suffered a loss of some of it's feeling. Dave's vocals brought some of the feeling back as he gave an excellent vocal rendition of the song, but again the instrumental sections suffered as Dave's guitar was out of tune for much of the song. In addition, the bass player, obviously not that familiar with the song, made some mistakes during the song. The instrumental jam at the end of the song went pretty well and the audience response to the song was good. Dave seemed to have enjoyed himself, and I'm sure he gave it his best under the circumstances. However, after having seen Dave perform the song on his 1984 tour with his own band (near flawless performances with much more feeling and energy), I can only look back at his performance at the Capitol Theater as a novelty. It was different.

After each guitarist had made an appearance individually, they all came out on stage together for a couple of final jams. The first song was an instrumental, which sounded to me like some old twelve bar blues number. With ten different guitarists on stage at the same time playing the same song, there was, as expected, some confusion as to who would play a lead (while the other nine played rhythm. Talk about overkill!) Fortunately, Dave took the initiative and played a nice lead in a blues/rock style (going back to his roots?). The second song was the rock classic Johnny B. Goode. Dave Edmunds sang the vocals, while the other guitarists tried to figure out who would do a solo. Once again, David Gilmour (being the shy guy he is) took the burden upon himself and rattled off an excellent solo. The song ended (eventually) to a standing ovation. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves at this one-time only event.

For posterity, MTV videotaped the entire show, and the video was shown on MTV in February 1985. I enjoyed the show, but as I mentioned earlier, it was more of a novelty than anything else. If you want to see a truly great video of David Gilmour, be sure and check out the officially released (CBS) video of Dave with his band (with guest stars Nick Mason and Roy Harper) recorded live at the Hammersmith Odeon in April 1984. Till next time, Think Pink.