20 years ago today: Pink Floyd plays B.C. Place, Roger Waters stays home
Twenty years ago today—or June 25, 1994, for the calendar-challenged—Pink Floyd played B.C. Place Stadium. Well, I guess it wasn't really Pink Floyd, since Roger Waters wasn't in the lineup at the time. But still...
Here's my review, which was printed in the Straight the week after under the headline: If Pigs Can Fall, Pink Floyd Rules.
As streams of perked-up Pink Floyd fans strolled north across the Cambie Street bridge en route to the big white marshmallow of B.C. Place, a lot of them were eyeing the sky. It was a fine time to revel in the postcard beauty of orangy pre-dusk clouds floating in a blue-grey sea, but this night there seemed to be a special reason for scanning the heavens. I, for one, was hoping to spot one of those flying pigs that Floyd is famous for, or maybe the world's largest blimp—the 61-metre-long Pink Floyd airship—which has been cruising around North America since the announcement of the British prog-rock titans' first tour in six years.
But the only unnatural item gracing the airspace around the dome was a wimpy Province balloon in the shape of a blimp that was tethered in an adjoining parking lot.
Fortunately, that was the only bogus, unspectacular thing I would see during the next four hours; everything that followed would slip easily into the mind-boggling, unforgettable, and hard-to-believe categories. (Mind-boggling because of the astounding laser-and-light show, unforgettable because of the CD-quality sound production and David Gilmour's sparkling guitar work, and hard-to-believe because Ryan O'Neal was beside me in a media suite shouting things like "'Magic Bus', motherf***ers!" and "'Satisfaction', you idiots!")
Although the concert was slated to begin at 9:30 pm, it didn't actually start until 10, when the hordes of stragglers outside the gates had finally been filtered through the turnstiles. In that intervening half hour, all it took to the get the packed house howling was for someone to push the button marked "Sounds of a Whirring Fan" for a few seconds. The crowd was obviously stoked and ready, and Britain's kings of prog-rock didn't keep them waiting for what they had come to see.
Near the start of the set, during the soaring "Learning to Fly", the group kicked in its legendary laser show. Green and yellow blasts of pure brilliance tore across the expanse of the stadium, and the beams looked solid enough to walk on. They came to a searing point just above the folks in the nosebleed seats, who were lucky that there were no miscalculations made by Pink Floyd's Technical Director of Where the Lasers Gotta Go.
Catch one of those suckers in the head and you'll definitely see the light.
The centrepiece of Floyd's stockpile of visual weaponry was a 40-foot circular movie screen onto which typically bizarre Floydian film clips and mind-blowing computer-animation bits were flashed with amazing clarity. Watching that strange cinematic world unfurl, you could easily get wrapped up in the dreamlike images of humans thrashing about in water, balloons and balls floating across barren landscapes, and guys in suit coats and top hats on stilts—but trying to make sense of it all could drive you nuts. Better just to surrender to Gilmour's magical palette of sounds and let his state-of-the-art guitars, complex amplification, and high-tech effects loops outline the story for you.
Although spectacle certainly plays a major part in any Pink Floyd show, it doesn't—at least on this Division Bell tour—overshadow the musical presentation. And although its members may have resembled insignificant insects in relation to their vast surroundings, the band—composed of Gilmour, second guitarist Tim Renwick, bassist Guy Pratt, keyboardists Richard Wright and Jon Carin, drummers Nick Mason and Gary Wallis, saxophonist Dick Parry, and backup vocalists Durga McBroom, Sam Brown, and Claudia Fontaine—was monstrous in its own right.
With the exception of a speedy, jazzed-up version of "Money", they performed the old classics exactly as they were recorded, and if you closed your eyes you could imagine being at home with your own copy of Dark Side of the Moon. The group's quadrophonic sound system gave the football stadium the sonic ambiance of a living room, and the only chink I detected in the mighty Floyd's aural armour came during "Wish You Were Here", when a short squeal of feedback caused Gilmour to scratch his grey-haired head.
As expected, the three-hour show focused on the enormously popular Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall recordings, as well as the new Division Bell. Instrumentally, the most exhilirating moment for me came during Gilmour's incendiary lap-steel blast on "One of These Days"; vocally, it had to be the gut-wrenching solos by McBroom, Brown, and Fontaine on "The Great Gig in the Sky"; lyrically, I'd have to go with "Wish You Were Here".
Thanks, Rog, wherever you are.
Other highlights of the night? Well, there was the biggest damn mirror ball a man's ever seen, which turned the dome into a crystalline love palace during "Comfortably Numb". And I finally got to see my flying—well, falling, anyway—pigs. Oh, yeah...and Farrah Fawcett borrowed my binoculars a couple of times. Ooo-wee. I'm never gonna wash 'em. Ever.