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DAVID GILMOUR IN CONCERT

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  David Gilmour
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio:  EMI Capitol
Features:  See Review
Length:  91 Minutes
Release Date:  November 5, 2002

“Hello…is there anybody in there?…”

Film **1/2

David Gilmour was one of my earliest guitar heroes…in fact, I still consider the first time I ever listened to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon as my life's most definitive musical moment.  His bold, soaring guitar was the perfect compliment to Roger Waters' manic lyrics and songs of pain and alienation.  

This year marks the release of his first solo concert DVD, which is a pleasant but surprisingly low key event given the man's musical history.  In simple terms, what you'll see here is the antithesis of Pink Floyd.  No theatrics, no light and smoke, no urgency…just a modest man and his acoustic guitar, sometimes alone, sometimes backed by an all acoustic band.

Beginning the show with “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is an interesting choice…one of the Floyd's most elaborate and slow building bombastic tunes, it's stripped down by Gilmour into its most bare essentials:  an acoustic guitar with a pedal powered synth and vocals.  The audience approves, but the length of the song makes it a little tedious for a single instrument to capture.  However, near the end of the show, he performs the reprise with full band, backing vocals, and electric guitar, and it's a showstopper, so fans get the best of both worlds.

Gilmour's playing is impeccably clean throughout.  He may not be the young man whose guitar powered some of the 70s most theatrical rock music, but you could never tell it by his ever nimble and graceful fingers, which this concert video thankfully highlights generously.  He stays unplugged for most of the show, but when he grabs his electric to play “Comfortably Numb”, the audience roars with excitement.

For a first solo video offering, one could mostly fault Gilmour for his selection of tunes, which is very light on familiar material.  Add to the aforementioned Floyd songs a stirring rendition of “Wish You Were Here”, and that may be all most fans recognize.  Nothing from Dark Side is included, nor anything from Pink Floyd's years of resurrection without Waters, like “Learning to Fly” or “On the Turning Away”…the latter would have been perfect for this solo vehicle.  One fan even shouts out a request for something from Animals, to which a bemused Gilmour respectfully declines. 

The inclusion of the Syd Barrett penned “Terrapin” is a nice touch, but the remainder of the running time is filled with unfamiliars.   Some I liked a lot, like the elegant “Smile”, others grew a bit tiring.  Gilmour's band is solid and supporting, but fans might be disappointed to see that on some occasions, he's content to strum and let his other guitar player sound out the lead licks!

The concert gets better as it goes along, and rounds out with some bonus footage from a different show, including the Richard Wright penned tune “Breakthrough”, in which Wright himself joins Gilmour on stage, and another version of “Comfortably Numb”  Gilmour's gimmick for that tune, judging by the two performances, is to select an audience member to croon Water's parts of the song, and it works nicely.

Gilmour is a superb musician, but perhaps too modest to be a showman.  The music is good here, but he simply isn't that exciting to watch.  There is not a lot of energy in this performance, which, mixed with the notable lack of recognizable songs, is a bit too much to overcome.

Video **

One problem with DVD is that it tends to really accentuate the shortcomings of material filmed on videotape.  I appreciated the anamorphic enhancement, but it wasn't enough to overcome the basic flaws of video:  the touches of noticeable color bleeding, the soft edges, the murkiness in lower lit settings.  It's still a very watchable concert, but with inherent problems beyond DVD's ability to correct.

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 mix serves much better.  The concert is good and loud, and digital technology makes it sound as clean and clear as if you were actually there.  The rear stages add a little ambience, but only in measured doses, and the .1 channel is used sparingly but effectively during the stronger numbers.  An impressive offering overall.

Features **

Most of the features include extra tracks recorded here and there, though a lot of them are the same songs as in the concert.  A couple of notable exceptions include versions of Elvis Presley's “Don't” and the old standard “I Put a Spell on You”.  There is also a choral version of “High Hopes”, an 8 minute home movie with Gilmour, lyrics, a sound system tester, and credits.

Summary:

Fans will no doubt want to check out David Gilmour in Concert to see a master guitarist doing what he does best.  It's a terrific sounding disc, but it may disappoint some music lovers by the low key performance and the shortage of Floyd favorites to sing along with.