MUSIC / Glad to be there: Pink Floyd - Earls Court

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The Independent Culture
I had never imagined Pink Floyd's rearranged first night on Thursday would repeat the previous evening's nightmare. But, just in case, on came Dave Gilmour before the start to say, 'Thank you for your confidence' - a phrase certain to induce panic.

Perhaps what he meant was: 'Thank you for your confidence that we can make it through the next three hours.' In the first 30 minutes, I had my doubts. As if to emphasise their inertia, the band seemed to have alter- egos. A young guitarist ran about as Gilmour, too rotund for his T-shirt, sat on a stool; an energetic keyboard player played above Rick Wright; a second drummer waved his sticks manically over Nick Mason's greying head.

As the auditorium filled to the sound of birdsong, a screen showed short films, the symbolism sometimes transparent - boys wandering through the woods, celebrating the rural, romantic idylls of early Floyd - sometimes opaque, as when two youths seemed to drown in a river of flowers. Were they telling us something? Had this been the fate of Syd Barrett? It was good to have such questions to ponder in the first half as the band mined their mega-seller, The Division Bell, exposing its conventionality, the inadequacy of Gilmour's vocals, and the want of the now departed Roger Waters.

And then, after the interval, everything changed, the band leaping to life as they celebrated and sometimes improved on the back catalogue. Gilmour gave improvisations that astounded even the faithful. 'Money' became a funky dialogue between backing singers and Gilmour's guitar. The searing solos on 'Breathe in the Air' and 'Us and Them' made lyrics almost superfluous. And then came their most beautiful melody, 'Wish You Were Here', a spontaneous, emotional, impossible-to-mock singalong for 14,000 people.

For 'Another Brick in the Wall', middle-aged professionals, many probably teachers, punched their fists and yelled, 'Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone.' It is a myth that Pink Floyd's audience is middle-aged. Rarely do all the age groups show enthusiasm in such unity.

And while the first half's films of hippies blowing kisses seemed incongruous for this millionaire band, at the climax, music and images came together. Blazing light covered the 200ft stage, as balls of fire shot from the floor and the band played The Wall's 'Comfortably Numb' and 'Run Like Hell' with a venom and vigour I had never heard before.

The hippie connotations are now all but meaningless: what this show showed once more was that as purveyors of stadium rock, Pink Floyd not only remain extraordinarily good, they have no equal.