Sunday, May 01, 2011

THAT WEDDING, AND AN INFLATABLE PIG

Saturday.

Yesterday was a great day. In the morning the Royal Wedding, and in the afternoon and evening we went into Birmingham for a meal and a concert. Compare and contrast, as the Exam papers say.

What is there to say about The Wedding? As a partly paid up member of the “They don’t know they’re born” group, it’s all too easy to disparage such things these days. But, seen on my HD TV in Shropshire (my Invitation has still not arrived, by the way) it was an absolute, unmitigated triumph. I haven’t read the reports in the newspapers yet, but I’m sure they’ll all say that here’s something that we, in this country, do better than anyone else on the planet.

Apart from paying my taxes, a small amount of which presumably went into paying for it all, I had nothing whatsoever to do with it. That however doesn’t stop me from feeling proud that such an event can be staged by my fellow countrymen. Starting with my first view of the nave of Westminster Abbey, with that utterly inspired choice of six maple trees lining the aisle, and the breathtaking wide angle TV shot looking vertically down which panned slowly round on the couple and stopped, accurate to a second, as they reached the business end of the church, I just sat amazed through it all.

Throughout the brilliance of it all, I couldn’t stop a few rogue thoughts going through my head as the service progressed. Is it just me, or is Elton John starting to look like the Queen? Or is it the Queen starting to look like Elton John?

And the hats - scary or what? Especially those belonging to Andrew’s brood. Poor Beatrice’s creation looked like a Sky Dish supported by a couple of angry Cobras, while the other sister’s made me think that a large Bird of Prey with a fluorescent blue beak had climbed up her back and was just about to bite her head off. The only rational explanation I can come up with is that they were wearing them for a bet.

And, given the remorselessly detailed resolution of today’s TV coverage, you’d think that if you were going to the future King’s wedding, to be seen by one of the squillion TV cameras there, you’d make some effort to learn the words of Jerusalem, or at least read them off the songsheet as it was being played. Blake’s immortal, patriotic words do NOT include the line “La, La, La, La, La”.

The only thing “they” got wrong was not inviting Blair and Brown. In my view that was inappropriate and small minded, although I suppose at least we were spared the worry of what Cherie would have turned up in.

Anyway, it was a fantastic piece of pageantry, quite faultless in its execution. The Middletons played their part excellently, with their son reading the lesson to perfection. The music was spot on – good old Parry – and the Sermon was inch perfect in my view - let’s hope the happy couple were listening. And from a slightly baser perspective, Prince Philip wasn’t the only man taking a real fancy to Catherine’s gorgeous sister.

Marvellous, marvellous, marvellous.

So, onto the evening. An early Italian meal, and onto the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham.

I’m never totally sure about “Tribute bands”, but we were off to see “Brit Floyd”, one of the best of this sort of band there is. When you think about it, at many pop concerts, you sit so far away from the stage you have no real idea about who it is on the stage, and for some sorts of music, and Pink Floyd definitely comes into this category, you go (or went) to a concert of theirs to hear the music rather than see the people playing it.

Mick Jagger or Freddy Mercury, they were not. But, they wrote some amazing music, music which sits right at the top of my personal List for a Desert Island. You can get a bit stuffy about plagiarism, or copying or whatever, but the simple reality is that if you want to hear music by such people played live, then this is the only way you can do it. And Pink Floyd is not something you can get the full flavour of at home, even on a decent hi-fi set up. You want the atmosphere, the light show, the whole, over the top sensory overload experience. They were the absolute leaders in the integration of visuals into a music concert, and even back in the late 60s, they were experimenting with visual overlays to all their performances when no-one else was even on the board.

Nowadays, it’s something most pop bands do as a matter of course, but even when they last toured, in 1994, the light show they put on in Earls Court was out of this world. Now, the Tribute bands put on a decent copy of it all, but do it so that they can erect it all, do the concert, and be in the next town within 24 hours. Such is Technology.

It all sounds a bit soul-less, but the alternative is simple. Roger Waters has been out on his own for nearly 30 years, and Rick Wright and Syd Barrett are dead. So, if you want to hear the music they wrote, played live, then this is the only choice.

These guys, and there were 10 of them, 2 guitarists and a Bass player, all who sang, 2 keyboard players, 2 drummers and 3 girl backing singers, sounded pretty well like the real thing. Yes, you could tell it wasn’t David Gilmour singing, but the quality of the musicianship was such that, close your eyes, and the original group was playing in front of you. If you opened your eyes, you saw vintage, iconic Floyd images. The cycling population in Us and Them, the flowing flags from The Division Bell, and the timeless and child-like Black and White film on the beach from the late 60s. We even had a 30 foot long inflatable pig appear above us.

DARK SIDE OF THE MOON

BRIT FLOYD IN ACTION

THE GREAT GIG IN THE SKY

THE INFLATABLE PIG
 
video
VIDEO OF THE CLOSING MOMENTS OF THE SHOW

Well it would wouldn’t it. It was a Pink Floyd show.

They worked their way through all the Floyd’s best music, including an excellent 25 minute long version of “Echoes”, something I’d never heard played live before. They did a set of two and a half hours and with a light show that was pretty mind blowing, they gave the audience a really good evening.

There’s undoubtedly something unique about being in the same venue as the originals band members, but the time has come when that’s no longer possible, and this must now be the best alternative. Anyway, I really enjoyed it, and as a “Rave from the Grave”, it was excellent.

I’m off to see Roger Waters performing “The Wall” in a couple of weeks in London, so we’ll see what a difference is made when the guy who wrote it all 30 years ago plays it. Am I looking forward to it?

What do you think?

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