Last year David Gilmour re­turned to Pom­peii – pre­vi­ously the scene of Pink Floyd’s 1971 cin­e­matic tour de force. As his per­for­mance of that show nears re­lease, the man him­self presents a se­lec­tion of shots, cap­tion­ing them ex­clu­sively for MOJO, while his

Mojo (UK) - - News - Por­trait by Anna Wloch.

COM­ING BACK AND SEE­ING THE STAGE and ev­ery­thing, it was quite over­whelm­ing really. It’s a place of ghosts… in a friendly way,” said David Gilmour, on his first visit to Pom­peii for a full 45 years. For Gilmour, the ghosts of the an­cient Ro­man city were lit­eral – in the bod­ies buried un­der vol­canic ash and cal­ci­fied by Mount Ve­su­vius in AD79 – as well as spir­i­tual: his re­turn serv­ing as a re­minder of Pink Floyd’s visit to the same venue in 1971. That year, Bri­tish di­rec­tor Adrian Maben had had the idea to com­bine sculp­ture, “in some kind of sur­re­al­is­tic dé­cor. I naively thought it was pos­si­ble to com­bine good art with Pink Floyd mu­sic.”

Vis­it­ing Pom­peii’s ru­ined am­phithe­atre, clock­ing the acous­tics – “echo­ing in­sect sounds, fly­ing bats and the dis­ap­pear­ing light mu­sic” – Maben asked Floyd to be filmed there, sans au­di­ence, to fo­cus on the mu­sic and set­ting. The sub­se­quent Pink Floyd: Live At Pom­peii, one of the band’s most iconic per­for­mances, would play on the reper­tory cin­ema cir­cuit for years. In 2016, Gilmour de­cided to tour the pre­vi­ous year’s Rat­tle That Lock al­bum, “in the nicest, most beau­ti­ful places,” he said be­fore the first of two Pom­peii shows. This would in­clude other Euro­pean am­phithe­atres and a chateau in Chan­tilly. “They might be much harder to play,” he opined, “but I’d rather we did some­thing where peo­ple think, Wow, that was fan­tas­tic… it changes their mem­ory, turns it into some­thing greater.” The re­turn to the Pom­peii am­phithe­atre in­cluded an au­di­ence, “the first since gla­di­a­tors wres­tled sheep!” chuck­les Gilmour’s long-serv­ing bassist Guy Pratt. He dis­cov­ered this nugget of in­for­ma­tion from Pro­fes­sor Mary Beard, a spe­cial­ist in Ro­man his­tory, and it seems, Pink Floyd. When Gilmour’s wife Polly Sam­son sug­gested they ask Beard (one of their favourite au­thors) to the show, they dis­cov­ered that her first ever sight­ing of Pom­peii was in the orig­i­nal film, and that she’d al­ready bought tick­ets for the July 2016 shows. Like Gilmour, it was Pratt’s sec­ond time in Pom­peii: in 2014, he’d taken his son, Stan­ley (also the grand­son of the late Floyd key­boardist Rick Wright), to show off the site that the bassist had first seen, as a teenager, in the cin­ema. “This time, the am­phithe­atre was filled with tourists like my­self, and like most things, it was smaller in the flesh, but it was still stun­ning,” he re­calls. “But I didn’t imag­ine we’d re­turn to play there.” Pratt, who has known Gilmour for the last 20 years, says the man en­joys rem­i­nisc­ing, “es­pe­cially when Rick was around, they’d really go off! And David’s a fan­tas­tic


racon­teur.” But Pratt doesn’t re­call Gilmour get­ting nos­tal­gic on this trip: “David was really busy too, there were lots of peo­ple to meet, like the mayor. And though noth­ing’s taboo, I don’t ask him ques­tions like that. But as he said, the place was full of ghosts, so it was clearly mov­ing for him. And sad too, be­cause Rick wasn’t there. But it was also spe­cial, be­cause you can’t re­vert to auto-pi­lot on those kinds of shows. Un­fa­mil­iar­ity is good for the mu­sic.” Un­fa­mil­iar­ity ex­tended to the stage set-up. “The am­phithe­atre meant we couldn’t use our usual light­ing gantry,” Pratt ex­plains. “The top ring of the arena was the light­ing, which meant that when the lights changed, they changed all the way around, which was spec­tac­u­lar. So were the fire­works at the end of Com­fort­ably Numb. And the sound, with­out high walls to bounce off. Ac­tu­ally, it was like a club date, be­cause the au­di­ence was lim­ited to about two thou­sand, and when ev­ery­one rushed up front, you could see the whites of their eyes. The at­mos­phere was eerie when only a few peo­ple were in the am­phi-theatre, be­cause of the an­tiq­uity, but it was mag­i­cal dur­ing the shows.” The setlist in­cor­po­rated nu­mer­ous Floyd faves, in­clud­ing Med­dle in­tro One Of These Days, the one song to be car­ried over from Floyd’s Pom­peii set. “That was fuck­ing in­cred­i­ble,” says Pratt. “You can make those wind sound ef­fects on your phone nowa­days, but David hired a proper old wind ma­chine, which was turned by [drum­mer] Steve [DiS­tanis­lao] with a spot­light on him.” But Med­dle’s side-long epic be­he­moth Echoes, the cen­tre­piece of the Floyd film, was avoided, “be­cause it doesn’t make any sense with­out Rick. But David resuscitated The Great Gig In The Sky, which he rarely plays, as a trib­ute to Rick. The back­ing singers came up with a beau­ti­ful ar­range­ment for it.” Pratt equally com­mends The Great Gig… or­gan part played by new band mem­ber Chuck Leavell (Allman Broth­ers, The Rolling Stones): “You know Rick would have loved it, and that he’d have said, ‘I wish I could play like that!’ It was really fit­ting.” Gilmour’s new band also in­cluded gui­tarist Ch­ester Ka­men (who first played along­side Gilmour in Bryan Ferry’s Live Aid band) and key­boardist Greg Phillinganes. “I’m the last man stand­ing from the 1987 tour,” Pratt chuck­les again. “And even that was in doubt for a while, which I get – Bowie didn’t have Mike Gar­son with him all the time, and David had a bit of a Bowie wob­ble, like, ‘This might be the last time I do this…’ He’s never had a name-player band, so there might have been a bit of an itch. But it’s good hav­ing play­ers

ap­proach things dif­fer­ently, and the mu­sic ex­ploded on-stage in a way it hadn’t be­fore, be­cause of how fresh it felt. Peo­ple com­mented on how much fun David was hav­ing on-stage.” An­other sub­ject Pratt is un­will­ing to ad­dress with Gilmour is the mat­ter of whether Gilmour had laid those ghosts to rest, and was at peace with the Floyd legacy: “I think David is, be­cause he’d oth­er­wise have turned his back on some­thing like re­turn­ing to Pom­peii.” So – fol­low­ing the re­lease of the new, com­mem­o­ra­tive David Gilmour: Live At Pom­peii al­bum and DVD – what’s next for his friend and em­ployer? Pratt says there is half an al­bum’s-worth left over from Rat­tle That Lock. “David might be pot­ter­ing away,” he laughs. “And if he does play live again, it’ll be a while be­fore he does. But we’re al­ways in touch, and we both live in Brighton. But we tend to talk about rub­bish, as friends do, rather than mu­sic. He has 10,000 peo­ple ask­ing him about that, so I’d rather not be that guy. Maybe that’s why I’ve lasted so long in his band!”

DAVID WRITES: “It is def­i­nitely my am­bi­tion to cre­ate an event that peo­ple will re­mem­ber and can re­visit at home if they like and it’s hard to achieve that in a sta­dium. You want peo­ple to say, ‘Oh yes, that night when I saw that show’, and it was spe­cial be­cause of the venue to some ex­tent. For that to be part of the mem­ory helps to an­chor it.” DAVID WRITES: (Taken dur­ing the sound­check for The Great Gig In The Sky) “We did The Great Gig In The Sky, which we hadn’t done be­fore on that tour. I hadn’t played it for years and years, but we had re­hearsed it in Eng­land. Louise Mar­shall and our singers had put to­gether an ar­range­ment that was fan­tas­tic, and we couldn’t wait to try it.”

DAVID WRITES: (from left) Ch­ester Ka­men, gui­tar; Polly Sam­son, lyri­cist & cre­ative di­rec­tor; David Gilmour; Sarah Lee, pho­tog­ra­pher) “Polly is deeply in­volved in all of it with me. She has an opin­ion, which she will ex­press force­fully on ev­ery as­pect of ev­ery­thing that I do. It’s fan­tas­tic to have some­one as smart and as cre­ative as her to be my right-hand man so to speak. Right­hand woman! She’s bril­liant.” DAVID WRITES: “When Polly and I walked in, it brought back to me all sorts of mem­o­ries of the times we had when we were there. So go­ing back this time there were all sorts of mem­o­ries and ghosts hang­ing around in that place.” DAVID WRITES: (Mary Beard, Pro­fes­sor of Clas­sics at the Univer­sity of Cam­bridge, and David Gilmour) “Mary tells great sto­ries; she brings it all really down to earth. We‘ve heard the sto­ries that back then there would have been gla­di­a­tors and lions, but she just says, ‘Well you know, gla­di­a­tors are bloody ex­pen­sive bits of kit and if you kill one of them off you have to get an­other one.’ It’s just not that easy. How the hell are you go­ing to get a lion there? It’s more likely a cou­ple of goats wan­der­ing around with peo­ple chas­ing af­ter them.”

Dis­tant echoes: flash­back to Pink Floyd’s 1971 per­for­mance at Pom­peii’s Ro­man am­phithe­atre.

DAVID WRITES: “My ped­als? Elec­tric Mis­tress flanger pedal, BK But­ler hand­made Tube Driver ped­als, the Cali-76 stu­dio com­pres­sor, a vin­tage Big Muff fuzz box, a Boss graphic equaliser pedal and a MIDI EQ pedal.”

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