Chicago 1973 (Sigma 132)
International Amphitheater, Chicago, IL, USA – March 7, 1973
Disc 1 (58:54) Echoes, Obscured By Clouds, When Your In, Childhood’s End, Careful With That Axe Eugene
Disc 2 (57:22) Speak To Me, Breathe, On The Run, Time, Breathe (Reprise), The Great Gig In The Sky, Money, Us And Them, Any Colour You Like, Brain Damage, Eclipse, One Of These Days
While 1972 would be largely taken up with live dates to hone their new musical piece, Eclipse aka The Dark Side Of The Moon, the following year would be one of relatively few live dates for the Floyd. The band would play a handful of dates in January 1973 in support of a ballet staged by Roland Petit with the set consisting of just four songs of all existing material, the band also finished up the recording for Dark Side. By February their record label, EMI, launched a press reception for the new record while the band was preparing for their first proper live dates that would begin in early March 1973. The tour dates would encompass the month of March all being in the United States and find the band hitting mostly Midwest and east areas, curiously the band would employ a similar set list to the previous year but in more of a reverse order, the concerts would also feature the band augmented by three back up singers as well as a saxophonist to help fill in the lush sound found on the record. After the American dates, the band would play a couple shows in London before another round of US dates in the summer and would finish with a few scant European dates.
The band’s stop in Chicago, Illinois would be early on, in the first American leg of the tour. The recording has circulated for some time and was the subject of a previous silver release, Illusions Of Childhood’s End (Highland HL 219/220) but curiously the bootleggers have not shown this recording much love as it gets overlooked by the better sounding recordings from New York City, Boston, and Toronto. Recently a 1st Generation source began circulating and there was reason to celebrate as the lower generation and improved tape transfer would make for a much more satisfying listening experience, in fact one could now put this recording along side the other three as being one of the best from the early 73 tour. Compared to the older Highland release the sound is much more crisp and sounds like a layer of tarnish was removed and a bright gleaming piece was underneath. The recording itself is slightly distant but very clear and detailed yet does suffer from some top end distortion and the sound does get a bit muddy at times but is an excellent document of the band during a peak of live performance. The hiss is greatly reduced and is only really noticeable during quieter parts, there is also a bit of audience noise from time to time, something that plagues many of the American dates. There are cuts after When Your In and Childhood’s End, yet I could not find the cut found at 4:21 in Childhood’s End found on the Highland release, it should be somewhere around the 3 minute mark on this release but its not there, curiously.
The first half of the concert is very interesting, I can remember reading my Hotwacks Supplement 5 and the article in the front of the book, “Pink Floyd Collecting Highs and Lows and yet another fresh dose of Floyd musings” written by the impeccable Keith from Toronto who wrote many Floyd article for the book series. He wrote of the excitement of hearing the elongated version of The Embryo as well as live versions of material from Obscured By Clouds. I would read and wish I could also hear these songs, my only source of acquiring bootlegs was going to a hip record store as well as conventions. It would be a short time later I would get my first taste of this material thanks to the Not A Cloud In The Sky boot on Silver Rarities that featured the Hollywood Florida gig from the summer 73 dates. From my first airings of these songs I loved them, so different and alien to me as I had not really listened to their movie soundtrack records. Beside the Obscure By Clouds / When Your In combo we get a wonderful version of Childhood’s End, this song ranks alongside The Nile Song as the bands most “metallic” songs and this version doers not fail to deliver.
Gerard would refer to this performance as being aggressive sounding, I can only agree and much of this assessment is due to David’s guitar, it has a raw sound to it that gives the music a harder edge, case in point the beginning of Breathe when he breaks into the first chords prior to the vocals it sounds….killer! On The Run sounds different, Richard Wright’s Keyboards and Synthesizers sound rather sparse and the footsteps are incredible yet it seems as he is still working on mimicking the music found on the DSOTM record, the audience can be heard gasping throughout the piece. The transition from Great Gig into Money sounds like the timing was not right and with the cash register coming in during the mellow, and moaning, ending. Wright’s playing during Money sounds almost funky, and Gilmour plays an incredibly inspired solo and the song has a “there’s a jam going on feeling”. There is a minor bit of tape warble at about 5:03 of Any Colour You Like but only lasts a few seconds and there is still a cut at 2:16 and 2:49 of Brain Damage and one last cut after Gilmour says goodnight at the conclusion of Eclipse prior to a clap along version of the only encore, One Of The Days. Despite a few miscues during Dark Side, this concert features a wonderful and fresh performance by the band who’s playing is confident and turning very professional.
The packaging is typical of Sigma, live shots of the band with a colorful prism superimposed over them to go along with the DSOTM theme, early editions have the collectable numbered sticker and the cd’s have pictures on them, something that is becoming the norm for Sigma and other labels. Nice to see a show that desperately needed a makeover getting a bit of love, a true upgrade in sound makes this title very easy to recommend.