Inside a 1994 Surrealistic Musical Spectacle

by Vernon Fitch


*** originally published in Japan in the Japanese music magazine Marquee, volume 054, June 1994 ***

© copyright 1994


Pink Floyd is back! The legendary band, known for its spectacular live performances, returned to the stage on March 30, 1994, at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, Florida. Headed by the familiar David Gilmour-Nick Mason-Richard Wright musical triumvirate, the band augmented its lineup for this tour with long time Floyd collaborators, Tim Renwick on guitar and Dick Parry on sax, Momentary Lapse tour musicians Jon Carin on keyboards, Guy Pratt on bass and Gary Wallis on percussion, and three female background vocalists, Sam Brown, Durga McBroom and Claudia Fontaine. Scheduled only for outdoor stadiums, the tour began on a rainy night in Miami before a sold out crowd of 63,000.

The stage on which this event was to take place was covered by an enormous half shell that encompassed a quarter of the side of Joe Robbie stadium. This shell was so large that it dwarfed a massive array of instruments on the stage itself, most notably the drum and percussion setups. The edge of the shell was a flat surface on which were projected the eyes of Pink Floyd. On either side of the shell were two towers with large clusters of speakers mounted on each one. Perched on top of the towers were rounded enclosures, the purpose of which would become known only later. Additional speakers were also mounted throughout the stadium, and a large mixing/computer control center, looking almost like a giant insect, sat positioned straight back from the stage in the middle of the field. As we made our way to our seats, animal sounds began to emanate from all around us. Shortly thereafter, the lights dimmed and the eyes of the Pink Floyd stage ominously stared, unblinking, back at us.

Astronomy Dominie

A pulsating sound raced around the stadium. On the interior of the giant shell, worlds flew by. We were being taken back in time and space, back to the beginning of Pink Floyd. "Lime and limpid green, a second scene, a fight between the blue you once knew. Floating down, the sound resounds around the icy waters underground." Astronomy Dominie filled the huge stadium, as the stage turned blue and a psychedelic liquid light show, reminiscent of the sixties, bombarded our senses. Hidden in the darkness on stage were just four musicians, the band as it was at it's origin. While we were being tuned in to a previous era, we were still awaiting the present. Only the music of this distant era came through. As the song concluded, we were once again taken flying through space. Universes passed us by, time sped past and we arrived in the present, with the full band taking the stage.

Nick Mason, drummer extraordinaire, continued us on our journey with Learning to Fly. Multicolored lights filled the shell as fog emanated from the rafters to engulf the band. When David Gilmour began his guitar solo, lasers appeared, shooting beams of green and golden light in triangular patterns on the stage and out beyond the stadium roof, sketching patterns on the clouds. The gold lasers, which are very rare and banned in many parts of the world due to their high intensity, sparkled in a surreal quality due to the light rain that was falling. One could only wonder whether the rain had been orchestrated by the band as part of the show.

Following Learning to Fly, we were presented with three songs off the new Division Bell album. What Do You Want From Me was played in a very bluesy style, with Dave on vocals and accents from the female backup singers, and Take It Back was very reminiscent of Dave's solo work on About Face. During Lost For Words, we were treated to some interesting three-dimensional laser projections hovering in the fog above the audience. As the new album hadn't been released yet, this was our first exposure to some of the new material from the Division Bell album. Sorrow, a song from the Momentary Lapse of Reason album, brought some familiarity back to us and Dave treated us to an extraordinary guitar solo on this one. This was followed by A Great Day For Freedom and Keep Talking , two more songs off of the Division Bell album. Keep Talking featured some excellent keyboard work by Rick Wright and was visually accompanied by numerous rows of symbols projected on the stage shell while white spotlights along the front of the stage formed symbols of communication.

To end the first set, the band brought us back in time again with an impressive rendition of One of These Days. Wind sounds engulfed the audience as the bass echoed the familiar intro. Colored lights washed over the band as lasers shot out into the night. Fog began rolling off the stage as Dave took a seat at his slide guitar. "One of these days, I'm going to cut you into little pieces!" The sound exploded into a frenzy and two giant pigs appeared, poking their faces out of the enclosures at the top of the two towers on each side of the stage. With glowing eyes and wicked grins, they danced wildly in time to the song. Back on the stage, giant towers of flame exploded upwards of 15 feet into the air. These pillars of light accented the racing music in what proved to be one of the most powerful presentations of the night. After this intense display came to an end, David Gilmour announced that they were going to take a slight intermission and be back for more. We sat, breathless, with visions of delight etched on our retinas.

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

As the lights dimmed for the start of the second set, the giant circular screen that has been a trademark of the Floyd shows for so many years rose out of the stage and positioned itself above the band, within the shell. On the screen, a movie began playing as the opening chords of Shine On You Crazy Diamond sent chills up our spines. The movie, which was brand new, was extremely surrealistic. It began with a young boy (Syd) learning to deal with life. He sought solace in a stuffed bear, a momento of his childhood, which he lost as he grew into manhood. As a young man, he dove into the swimming pool of life, trying to survive and stay above water. However, forces beyond his control forced him underwater. As he sunk deeper and deeper into the water, life totally overcame him. He was then sucked down a tube, through some strainers and into a bottle that read DRINK ME. In this Wonderland odyssey he was poured out of the bottle and ended up as an old man, alone, standing on the bottom of the swimming pool he once dove into. However, the swimming pool was now empty, but for the scraps of his life scattered here and there, to which he used a push broom to sweep away. Shine On You Crazy Diamond.

Breathe and Time followed, both accompanied by new films as well. The film used during Time depicted a journey through the grinding gears of various time pieces. Another new song from the Division Bell album, High Hopes, followed, accompanied by a film, lasers and a strong guitar performance by Dave. As this song ended, the speakers around the stadium tuned in to Pink Floyd radio as the beginning guitar chords of Wish You Were Here rolled of the acoustic guitar. This brought a cheer from the crowd, and the audience embraced the song with a sing along with the band.

As the stage turned white and white lights poured out into the audience, the band started into Another Brick in the Wall . Four rectangular towers rotated up, out of the stage. On these were mirrors and white spotlights, giant cogs in the Pink Floyd machine. The crowd delighted in this song by chanting along with the lyrics. The Great Gig in the Sky followed. Soft stage lighting and lasers highlighted extraordinary vocal performances by each of the three female background vocalists. Continuing with two more songs from their classic Dark Side of the Moon album, Us and Them and Money both featured new films. The film intro for Money was especially interesting. It began with a poor man who was selling his belongings for money. Out of the sky, an alien spacecraft appeared, bringing an alien with one giant eye as his head. When the man discovered that the alien could duplicate things, he showed the alien some money and, after examining it, the alien pointed his ray gun at the money and duplicated it, resulting in a swimming pool full of money. The man, overjoyed with his new wealth, dove into the pile of money. However, the alien then pointed his duplicator ray to the sky and money began falling from the heavens for everyone. Since everyone now had hoards of money, it had little value. Wealth can be fleeting, as the man ended up poor again in the end.

The final song of the second set warrants special mention. Comfortably Numb has been a signature tune of the band for the past decade. It is one of those special songs that the band always presents in classic fashion, both musically and visually. This time it began with textures of light filling the band shell as the circular screen complimented these with distinct circular designs. Lasers wove patterns in the air above the crowd and fog added a surreal effect to the whole scene. After the classic question and response lyrical sequence was completed and Dave began his legendary guitar solo, the mixing tent in the middle of the stadium began to slowly open up. Rising upward, out of the tent, was a gigantic rotating mirrored sphere. Reaching a height high above the crowd, the sphere was bombarded with spotlights from all corners of the stadium, transforming the entire stadium into a swirling sea of lights. At the same time that this was happening, overhead, in the airways above the stadium, the Pink Floyd airship appeared. This psychedelic blimp, painted with Division Bell artwork, flashed the words PINK FLOYD in giant white letters in the sky above us. Returning our gaze to earth, the giant mirrored sphere opened up and a multicolored rotating fog light flashed a signal from the center of what now looked like some sort of giant metallic flower. A beacon from the center of the musical universe! The beacon continued signaling, as the song wound to an impressive ending. The band bid us farewell. Mesmerized, we screamed furiously for more.

Run Like Hell

Returning to a roar of approval, Pink Floyd encored with a powerful version of Hey You. The crowd, which by this time was in ecstasy, sang along word for word. Following this treat, the stadium darkened and the sounds of Dave's guitar intro to Run Like Hell echoed in quadraphonic throughout the stadium. As the lights came up on the band, the circular screen moved into a horizontal position over the band, shooting spots of beautiful colored lights down onto the stage. Lasers shot out of the sides of the stage, while the Pink Floyd airship beamed messages from above. The crowd, fists in air, chanted "Run, Run, Run, Run" along with Dave, and the whole concert was brought to a stunning climax with a fireworks display above the band.

As we were brought back to the reality of the south Florida night, I turned to a friend who had never seen a Pink Floyd concert before. Before I could say a word, he remarked "I've never seen anything like this before!" Indeed, Pink Floyd concerts stand unmatched in the world of music. They are the surrealists of modern musical presentations, using large stadiums as a canvas for their unique artwork. And the artists have begun their work once again.