For One Night Only – Dave Gilmour: Live at Pompeii – Review

On the 13th September 2017, cinemas around the UK and many more around the world hosted the only cinematic performance of Dave Gilmour: Live in Pompeii, the film of a concert by the legendary Pink Floyd guitarist and his band, which took place in the ancient amphitheatre of Pompeii on the 7th July 2016.
Gilmour’s concert was the first public event to take place there since 789 AD although Pink Floyd played in the amphitheatre (with no audience) in 1971 for Adrien Maben’s film Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii.

Unlike Maben’s film, which was shot in daylight over the course of a week with no lighting effects, no audience and no stage, the new film, directed by Gavin Elder showed no such restraint. Dave Gilmour’s full stage show with lights fireworks, lasers and a huge circular screen showing animations were captured by cameras all around and above the amphitheatre and across the city. 

Elder’s brilliant direction picked out musicians and their instruments from all angles to ensure that every aspect of the performance was brought to the cinema audience. The sound quality was also excellent and although Elder’s film is artistically nowhere near as ambitious as its predecessor, it was entirely successful in transporting the cinema audience into that amphitheatre.

Musically speaking, Gilmour’s seven-piece piece band and three singers gave the kind of slick, professional performance that we have come to expect. If you need you music to be anarchic, angry and unpredictable then perhaps Gilmour is not for you. If, however, you appreciate a tight, driven band and inspirational musicianship, then this band then Dave Gilmour’s band ticks all those boxes. Gilmour’s signature guitar playing lived up to all expectations and on those songs where his 71-year-old voice has begun to struggle, he is happy to share vocals with other band members.

The track listing generally reflects the list for the rest of Gilmour’s 2016 tour with a mixture of classic Pink Floyd tracks and his solo work including tracks from the 2016 album Rattle That Lock. The only track that survived from the earlier film was One of the Days.

The newer material is always going to suffer by comparison to the classic tracks from Pink Floyd’s long and illustrious career but they come across well in this film, largely because of the performance of the musicians. “Rattle that Lock” and “What Do You Want From Me” were received enthusiastically in the amphitheatre but felt very much like an hors d’euvre.

As the evening progressed, Pink Floyd classics began to come thick and fast. “Wish You Were Here“, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, “Run Like Hell” and “The Great Gig in the Sky” were all performed perfectly before a glorious finale of “Time” and “Comfortably Numb“.

Neither the concert nor the film provided any surprises. There were no guest appearances or revelations from the stage. It was a straightforward concert film, but a very good one that delivered as both a concert and a film.

The CD, DVD, vinyl and box-set all go on sale on the 19th September. They won’t provide the experience of being in the cinema (which certainly felt like an occasion) but hopefully they will come close.

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