Blindness (Sigma 5)
Falkoner Centret, Copenhagen, Denmark – November 12th, 1970
Disc 1: Astronomy Domine, Fat Old Sun, Cymbaline, Atom Heart Mother
Disc 2: Green Is The Colour, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, A Saucerful Of Secrets, The Embryo
Two tape sources exist for Pink Floyd’s November 12th, 1970 show at the Falkoner Centret in Copenhagen in common circulation. The first tape is very clear and powerful. It starts with Roger Waters’ opening greeting and runs through to the first part of “A Saucerful Of Secrets.” A second audience recording is expertly edited in for the rest of that track and for the final song of the evening “The Embryo.” The second tape source is good to very good but very distant from the stage.
It clearly isn’t as good as the first, but is more than adequate to give a complete aural picture of the entire concert. Highland released the excellent but incomplete tape in 1999 on Copenhagen Sequence (HL 291/292). There is some discussion about what tape Highland use to complete the release; some claim it is the November 20th 1971 Cincinnati tape, but in reality it is the tape from the concert previous to Copenhagen on November 11th, 1970 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Several years ago Copenhagen 1970 Complete (Ayanami-226) was released editing together both sources to present the whole show. Blindness follows the paradigm of the Ayanami by using the excellent sounding tape and introducing the lesser quality tape in a seamless edit two minutes into “A Saucerful Of Secrets.” The excellent quality recording sounds beautiful. It isn’t too shrill and captures amazing detail of the events on stage including the subtle sounds of chirping birds during “Green Is The Colour.”
There are some minor volume dropouts throughout the set, and there are some speed problems during the first couple minutes “Atom Heart Mother” due to the tape running close to the end of the side. After a tape flip 6:35 into the song that problem clears up.
The band’s performance is a pristine example of latter day psychedelia. Not in the drugged-out, mind expanding ethic, but in the art of never musically stating the obvious and producing music filled with suggestive ideas without nailing anything down. The lyric “when I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse / out of the corner of my eye / I turned to look but it was gone” is a perfect verbal summation of Floyd’s musical modus operandi during this time.
The tape begins with two seconds of crowd noise and unidentified music at the very beginning, probably from what the taper used the tape for before recording Pink Floyd. There is silence as the band tune and Waters greets the audience with a low key “good evening” before launching into “Astronomy Domine.”
This Syd Barrett space song sometimes sounds very dorky in performance, but by this time, and the delivery in Copenhagen, has an overtone of the sinister and dread. The audience is dead quiet throughout the performance and one can only imagine what they were thinking.
“Fat Old Sun,” due to Gilmour’s golden tenor, sounds gorgeous but he has terrible trouble hitting the high notes in the following song “Cymbaline.” His voice cracks while singing “it’s hiiiiigggggggghhhhhhh time / Cymbaline.” The taped interlude is also difficult to hear in this recording. Before “Atom Heart Mother” Waters says, “We’ve got a new album out, one side of which is called ‘Atom Heart Mother’ and which has a choir on it and some brass people. Brass instruments. And there’s a version of it that we do without the brass and choir. We’re gonna end first half of this concert with that.”
What follows is a dramatic, eighteen-minute version of their epic. The second half of the set begins with the “Green Is The Colour” segue with “Careful With That Axe, Eugene.” The former serves as a relaxing, pastoral introduction to the blood curdling chaos of the latter and this small set piece is the last vestige of the “Man And A Journey” suite attempted the previous year but abandoned. Gilmour especially goes crazy after the scream in “Eugene” spitting out nasty heavy metal riffs over the meandering keyboards. Before the final number Waters says, “The powers that be tell me that our first set too long so we’ve got, this is going to have to be our last number, I’m afraid, and it’s called ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’.”
This is a great performance even after the tape switch with the more poor quality audio only enhancing the effectiveness of the dolorous church choir in the “Celestial Voices” section towards the end of the piece. At the song’s conclusion the audience can only respond with polite applause. The band have time for one encore and play an eight minute version of “The Embryo,” one of their greatest live pieces.
There isn’t much in the way of improvisation, but Wright plays a lyrical keyboard motif beneath the “seabird” screeching in the songs middle. Since this only their fifth release in as many months, Sigma takes their time with their releases, carefully mastering and sculpting each release to as close as perfection as possible.
Blindness is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with glossy inserts with relevant photos from the era with the cover design being particularly attractive. It is limited to three hundred copies and even though it is only the second silver release of this tape, stands as definitive.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)