Let The Night Surround You (Godfather Records GR142/143)
Teatro Degli Arcimboldi, Milano, Italy – March 25th, 2006
Disc 1: Castellorizon, On An Island, The Blue, Red Sky At Night, This Heaven, Then I Close My Eyes, Take A Breath, Smile, A Pocketful Of Stones, Where We Start, Shine On You Crazy Diamond
Disc 2: Wearing The Inside Out, Dominoes, Fat Old Sun, Breathe/Time/Breathe (Reprise), High Hopes, Echoes, Wish You Were Here, Comfortably Numb
David Gilmour’s tour in support of the On An Island album has yielded several absolutely jaw-dropping recordings, and Let The Night Surround You is one of the very best in terms of sonic quality, impassioned performance, and graphic presentation.
The March 25th concert was the second night at the Teatro Degli Arcimboldi in Milan, Italy and the ninth performance on the tour overall, captured here in stunning, warm, three-dimensional detail.
Gilmour assembled a stellar cast of musicians for this tour including former Quiet Sun/Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, latter-day Floyd alumni Jon Carin and Guy Pratt (on keyboards and bass respectively), drummer Steve Distanislao, longtime Floyd collaborator Dick Parry (sax) and perhaps most importantly, Floyd co-founder Richard Wright who passed away earlier this year; this would be his final touring experience, and thus it makes recordings such as this all the more valuable and poignant.
On the Remember That Night official DVD, Wright comments that it was the most enjoyable tour that he’s ever been a part of (which is heartwarming considering the strife he endured towards the end of the Waters-era of Floyd), – a notion that is reinforced by the obvious chemistry shared by the bandmembers, who perform brilliantly together.
Disc one opens with rapturous applause and enthusiastic shouts from the clearly enamoured audience before the lush orchestration of “Castellorizon” hypnotizes the audience into a quiet state of awe. While the occasional side conversation is audible, ultimately the crowd is VERY receptive and respectful during the performances. Between the songs the applause continues to escalate to even greater heights and sometimes an overcome fan shouts towards the stage enciting playful commentary from Gilmour himself, as charismatic as ever.
The first set contains the entirety of the On An Island album, performed almost note-for-note with delicacy and precision, yet still rife with emotion. Only the song “Take A Breath” appears in a different position compared to the studio release, providing an excellent foil amidst the predominantly introspective and mellow material.
Occasionally, Gilmour sounds a bit raspy or struggles for a note vocally, but generally is pitch-perfect, however it is the absolutely amazing guitar tones he generates that steal the show; having resurrected the old, black Strat from the days of yore, he coaxes utterly spine-tingling melodies effortlesly, resulting in both the audience in Milan and here hanging on every note.
It’s virtually impossible to cite highlights from the first set being that every song is delivered with a calm professionalism that only the musical elite could achieve, and further, it is my view that On An Island should be approached in the same way as Dark Side Of The Moon or The Wall – as a complete entity, rather than in individual parts. That being said, nearly any one of the songs could stand on their own, from the most intimate (“Smile”), to the cool and funky (“This Heaven”), to the elaborate (the title track).
Though not musically related, during the band introductions prior to “Take A Breath,” following some humourous banter between Gilmour and the audience, the response to Richard Wright is absolutely cacophonous, which again, in light of his passing is particularly moving.
Following “Where We Start,” there was a 20 minute intermission – usually a good opportunity to separate the sets on recordings such as these, however Godfather elected to include “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” at the end of Disc 1. While this unfortunately results in a brief lapse in continuity, this also made it possible to release Let The Night Surround You as a two disc set, which is certainly thoughtful in terms of financial impact upon the collector (many of the better Pro-CDR releases from this tour ultimately ended up being 3 Disc sets when the 2 sets and encores were separated).
“Shine On You Crazy Diamond” begins with Gilmour alone, generating drones via the new delay units Pete Cornish had modified around the time of Robert Wyatt’s “Meltdown” concerts in 2001. These mods enabled Gilmour to create incredible sustained notes allowing him to accompany himself whilst soloing essentially. In fact, the aforementioned “Meltdown” concert is a good reference point as far as the arrangement as well, in that the first version is performed by Gilmour alone, yielding a stark, yearning passage that is one of the highlights of this tour and far more successful than the cold, sterile attempts during latter-day Floyd performances of the song. The rest of the band joins in ultimately and takes us through the remainder of this abbreviated arrangement, evoking a reassuring sense of familiarity. “Shine On” is the perfect segue into the 2nd set, which consists entirely of Floyd classics (apart from Syd Barrett’s “Dominoes”).
One of the special pieces performed on this occasion in Milan was one of Richard Wright’s contributions to The Division Bell album “Wearing The Inside Out,” which chronicles the isolation and alienation he felt following his departure from Floyd after The Wall tour, before ultimately finding his way back to music, due in no small part to Gilmour’s encouragement. One can’t help but be moved by all of this now that he’s gone on to the great gig in the sky, although there is a sense of comfort as well knowing that in the end he overcame so much to shine on again. “Wearing The Inside Out” was performed sporadically throughout the tour, and only included in the bonus material of the official releases – this very performance of the song is the only piece from Milan represented on Disc 5 of the recent Live In Gdansk special edition.
Syd Barrett’s “Dominoes” was frequently performed on the tour and receives an equally warm reception from the audience. Just over 3 months after this performance, Syd passed away thus giving such musical tributes a bit more weight and Gilmour certainly does the song justice.
Continuing to delve back into the Floyd archives, “Fat Old Sun” is performed in style much closer to the original arrangement; more pastoral and sentimental compared to the psychedelic improvised jam it had developed into during the Meddle tour, when it was last performed by the original band.
There is a brief loss of fidelity during “Breathe” – sounding as if a second source was utilized to cover a drop-out, but the audio soon recovers 1:11 in . The medley of “Breathe/Time/Breathe Reprise” from the Dark Side Of The Moon album comes across as “authentic” compared to performances of the complete suite during Roger Waters’ recent tours, primarily due to the vocals of Gilmour and Wright, who had sung the songs on the original LP.
One of the highlights of The Division Bell, “High Hopes” unfurls from the final strains of “Breath (Reprise)” and the transition sounds quite natural despite the 20 years separating the creation of these songs. “High Hopes” really is an obvious inclusion on this tour, given the introspective vibe of the majority of the material included in the setlist. Gilmour’s slide work on the lap steel guitar at the end of the piece is always breathtaking, and the performance in Milan is no exception.
Although all of the performances throughout the night are excellent, the one song that stands head-and-shoulders above the rest as a clear highlight is the epic “Echoes,” the first “pings” of which provoking ecstatic cheers from the audience. Apart from the shortened intro, it is a faithful re-creation of Floyd’s masterpiece, albeit performed in a slightly heavier fashion (especially with Manzanera’s 2nd guitar rounding out the bottom end and Distanislao’s heavy-handed approach to the song).
The vocals of Gilmour and Wright intertwine and harmonize as perfectly as they did during Floyd’s “golden era” – a synergy that is not lost on Gilmour at all, recently commenting on “Later with Jools Holland” that this was a song he could never perform again following Wright’s untimely passing. Thankfully, the song was a regular feature on this tour, and is presented here in all its sonic glory. This performance alone makes owning this release essential! Simply outstanding!
As if this all weren’t enough, the Milanese audience are then treated an encore consisting of two of the most beloved Floyd classics, “Wish You Were Here” and “Comfortably Numb.” The former of which turns the entire theatre into a massive choir section – in this instance making you feel as if you’re really there witnessing this for yourself, and not at all distracting as many sing-alongs can be.
The final highlight of the evening is of course “Comfortably Numb,” featuring Gilmour’s most famous guitar solo of all. Though Wright sings Waters’ parts effectively here, Gilmour’s chorus is strengthened by the entire audience once again, pulling you further into the whole experience. Appropriately, Gilmour’s final solo is extended and nothing less than godlike in it’s expression, bringing the house down as well as the entire journey to a thunderous end.
I cannot stress enough how much every fan of Floyd, Gilmour, stellar guitar playing, and quality music in general NEEDS to have Let The Night Surround You in their collection. Apart from the fact that there are only a handful of silver releases from this tour, this particular performance is simply one of the best and the Milan audience certainly deserves some credit as well. Considering the astounding sound quality and the trademark gorgeous Godfather tri-fold cardboard sleeve, this is a fantastic release all around. The bottom line is: YOU NEED THIS! Bravo!