Monday, October 6, 2008

David Gilmour Live in Gdansk CD/DVD Review

Written by General Jabbo

In 2006, former Pink Floyd guitarist and singer David Gilmour was invited to play the Gdansk Shipyard in Poland to celebrate the 26th anniversary of Solidarity. That concert forms the basis of the Live in Gdansk collection. While there are a few versions of this package available including a 2-CD set, a 2-CD/1-DVD set, a 2-CD/2-DVD set and a 3-CD/2-DVD set, the one used for this review was the 2-CD/1-DVD version.

Backed by a crack band, including Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera (who co-produced the album) and former Pink Floyd bandmate, the late Richard Wright on keyboards, Live in Gdansk is the final show from Gilmour's 2006 On an Island tour and features the Baltic Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra conducted by Zbigniew Preisner, who did the arrangements on Gilmour's On an Island disc.

As expected, a number of Pink Floyd classic are sprinkled throughout the set, including the opening three numbers, all from Dark Side of the Moon: Speak to Me," "Breathe," and "Time."

Disc 2 of the CD is entirely Floyd songs and includes two Syd Barrett tributes — "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" and "Wish You Were Here" — both from the Wish you Were Here CD as well as Barrett's psychedelic classic, "Astronomy Domine," from the band's debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Gilmour dusts off "Fat Old Sun" from Atom Heart Mother and plays "A Great Day for Freedom" from 1994's Division Bell for the only time on the tour. The song was particularly appropriate given the subject matter — the struggles of post-Berlin Wall Poland and Germany. The true highlight though is "Echoes," performed in its 25-minute entirety. Wright's recent passing is all the more poignant given his huge importance in the sound of these Floyd classics.

For those who think Gilmour is all about nostalgia however, he plays all ten songs from On an Island, in a row no less, though not in the same order as the album. He does not play any material from his other solo releases however. Gilmour is in fine voice throughout and showcases his musical versatility, switching from guitar to saxophone to dobro to banjo. While the album does feature the Baltic Philharmonic on a number of tracks, they are merely used to color the songs and are often hard to notice except for when they are shown on the DVD.

The DVD cuts a number of songs from the CD, but includes all of the On an Island songs, as well as "Echoes" and "Astronomy Domine." Also included on the DVD is a Gdansk Diary, a 40-minute documentary about the show featuring interviews with the band members and crew, rehearsal footage, and Gilmour's meeting with Lech Walesa, the former president of Poland and leader of the Solidarity movement.

With a setlist almost identical to 2007's Remember that Night, Live at Gdansk is more of a companion piece than a must-have, but for fans of Pink Floyd and David Gilmour, especially those who don't already own the former, it is an excellent live document of this great talent.

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