On a hot October day in 1971, Pink Floyd and their crew assembled their live gear in an empty ancient Pompeii amphitheater and, with a film crew along for the ride, recorded one of the first epic concerts of their career, playing “Echoes,” “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” “Careful with that Axe, Eugene,” and other prog numbers that set the stage for Dark Side of the Moon. A few years later, they’d be playing in stadiums actually filled with people, and well, you know the rest.
In 2016, guitarist David Gilmour returned to the same amphitheater with his current band in tow, and filmed another concert movie (also called “Live at Pompeii”). This time the stadium was filled (though not on the ancient seats), nighttime was exchanged for daytime, and the set list was a combination of Floyd classics, older rarities like “Fat Old Sun” and “One of the These Days”, and plenty of tracks from his then new solo album Rattle That Lock, released in 2015.
Gilmour opted not to play “Echoes,” telling Rolling Stone that it was too much a Rick Wright song and didn’t feel right to play it without him. It was the first public performance in the ancient Roman amphitheatre since AD 79. (The guitarist was also made an honorary citizen of Pompeii).
Well, Gilmour just released the full concert on YouTube after a worldwide cinema screening of the concert in 2017. The YouTube playlist contains tracks that weren’t in the film, so for fans, this is just an extra special bonus.
The band includes Chester Kamen on guitars, a session musician who has played with both Gilmour and Waters on various occasions; Guy Pratt, who’s been Pink Floyd’s touring bassist since Roger Waters split; Chuck Leavell of the Allman Brothers; Greg Phllinganes, and Steve DiStanislao.
The show begins as the last rays of sunlight disappear behind Mt. Vesuvius, a nice Floydian touch. It ends, appropriately enough, with “Comfortably Numb,” (embedded above) but not with an exact copy of its famous guitar solo.
“I just try and let the solo come out,” Gilmour said in the same Rolling Stone interview. “I couldn’t play the one off the album. I try not too think about it too much.”
Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.