The Australian Pink Floyd Show, Vienna Stadthalle, 8 February 2010

Something of a guilty pleasure for me, this, but it was an evening I found impossible to resist. Pink Floyd were, at one time, the most important group in the world for me. I remember discovering them in 1983, around the time The Final Cut was released. My teenage obsession with Gary Numan had pretty much run its course by then, as Numan was still wilfully and stupidly insisting on leaving behind the electropop that had made him great in favour of long, uninspired excursions into pallid white funk. It was clearly time for me to jump ship.

I latched onto Pink Floyd as a direct result of the marketing and promotion for The Final Cut. Not having heard a note of their music (except for “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2”, of course), I was for some reason intrigued and attracted by the stark lowercase text on the album cover and posters, and by the general air of mystery the cover exuded. When I bought it and the needle dropped down on “The Post-War Dream” for the first time, I immediately felt that this was music I’d been waiting all my life to hear. Slow, dark, serious and strangely moving, the song made an impression on me which has never dissipated, and the whole of The Final Cut still has the same effect.

Over the next few months I doubled back and quickly devoured every single Pink Floyd album, finding in particular Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall to be every bit as mysterious and troubling as The Final Cut had been. In its glacial pessimism and its grim sense of psychological trauma, this was music for grown-ups, and listening to it made me feel less of a child than I had been before.

In the ensuing battle between Roger Waters and David Gilmour over who was the rightful owner of the Floyd legacy, I placed myself firmly in the Waters camp. As a huge generalization, vocals and lyrics have always been more important to me than music (cf. Peter Hammill). I knew Gilmour was a great guitarist, but I also sensed that most of the Floyd moments I cherished stemmed from Waters’ lyrics, concepts and sense of drama, not from Gilmour’s admittedly miraculous guitar. The contemptible A Momentary Lapse of Reason only served to confirm this, while Waters’ brilliant Radio KAOS was a record I returned to many times.

It’s a matter of great regret to me that I never saw Pink Floyd live. I sometimes ask myself who I would most like to have seen live that I never did and now never will, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall show would certainly be at or near the top of the list (Joy Division would be the other serious contenders, since you ask). Waters’ Radio KAOS show was hugely enjoyable (by a stroke of massive good fortune I ended up with tickets for the front row of Wembley Arena, and I was even the “lucky” person on whom the spotlight shone when Waters shrieked “STAND STILL LADDIE!”). The Gilmour-led affair that I snoozed through at Wembley Stadium the following summer, though, was such an abomination that I refuse to even recognize it as a Pink Floyd concert.

These, then, are some of the reasons why I ended up watching the Australian Pink Floyd Show at the Stadthalle’s Halle F (a much more pleasant venue than I’d expected, to be honest). Watching this constantly thrilling, immaculately performed facsimile, it suddenly dawned on me that this group was no less Floyd than the Waters-less (Watered down?) version of Floyd had been. OK, so it didn’t have Gilmour, Nick Mason or Richard Wright, as the 1988/1994 touring Floyd had done; but that band had those people in, and it still wasn’t Floyd. And so, apart from the fact that “Brain Damage/Eclipse” was unaccountably omitted from the set whereas no fewer than three atrocities from the Gilmour period were performed, I have no complaints.

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