Fairfield Halls, Croydon, Surrey, UK – January 18, 1970
Disc 1 (60:42) Careful With That Axe Eugene, The Embryo, Main Theme From More, Biding My Time, A Saucerful Of Secrets
Disc 2 (67:00) Astronomy Domine, Heartbeat Pigmeat, The Violet Sequence, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, The Amazing Pudding
Sigma finally gives us their version of the third of what Pink Floyd’s fans “The Weird Shows”, the incredible performance at Fairfield Halls in Croydon. This version comes soon after a wonderful remaster appeared on the Yeeshkul site, another work done by Jimfisheye who used 2nd gen tapes and a Neonknight transfer as a foundation then proceeded the daunting task of fixing many of the issues with the recording in an attempt to make it more palatable. It was in the comments section of this torrent that I first read Croydon, Paris, and Birmingham January/ February 1970 shows referred to as weird, it instantly hit a chord and is a fitting description. In reviewing the set-lists in Glenn Povey’s excellent The Complete Pink Floyd book, the weird shows lasted for about a month in early 1970, by the time the band toured Europe in March a stable group of songs were set and used for more or less the rest of the year.
What makes these shows weird?, well nothing it is simply a cool name for the diverse music they were playing. A mix of the existing standards like A Saucerful Of Secrets, Astronomy Domine, and Set The Controls for The Heart Of The Sun with music from the More soundtrack to new compositions like Heartbeat Pigmeat and The Violent Sequence, two pieces being from the Zabriskie Point movie soundtrack. This was an incredible creative time musically for the Floyd, Ummagumma, More, Zabriskie Point, and Atom Heart Mother would all be released in a sixteen month span and given how the band would develop their music onstage, it is not out of the ordinary to hear something completely unknown during one of their performances.
Let’s get to it, there has only been one silver release of this concert, Leaders Of The Underground (Eat A Peach EAT 119/20) back in 2016. When I compare the Peach to this new Sigma title the difference is instantly noticeable, the Sigma is a superb upgrade. The original tape falls into the very good range and more than likely the master is long gone so this, for now, is the best we can expect. This new transfer and subsequent work is the best I have heard of this tape, it is clear and well defined, the fixing of the many dropouts, mic bumps, etc is excellent. I did compare this to the torrent I grabbed from the Y and it does sound like Sigma boosted the volume ever so slightly. The other notable difference to the Sigma versus the Peach is the placement of Astronomy Domine, on the Peach title it is just before The Amazing Pudding, Sigma has it first song second disc, making it the second set opener. When you have a recording where there are pauses between every song and most certainly the sequence has been moved to accommodate tape length, it happens. One has to remember long before file sharing, one had to trade to hear this music.
For my full review of this concert, follow the link to the Peach title, needless to say I love the early 70s stuff, at times these weird concerts are brilliant, other times meandering but it is real. The band were still finding their direction as a live and studio act and in my opinion these recordings are every bit as important as The Man and The Journey concerts from 1969 to the early 1972 recordings featuring the embryonic Dark Side Of The Moon. The group was very in tune with what worked and what did not and it is fascinating to hear this and my hopes that one day more gems will be uncovered.
In his review of this concert for Disc magazine, Roy Shipston had this to say, something I think sums this concert up perfectly:
“- Pink Floyd leaders of the underground –
PINK FLOYD could be tomorrow’s orchestra. They are one of our most experimental groups and they are the most successful. At Croydon’s Fairfield Hall on Sunday they proved their music has developed grace and beauty as well as the power it always had.
Bathed in pink spotlights, Floyd began with “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” with its long, ominous crescendo. Their crystal clear sound is cleverly controlled. They lifted the audience with near-hypnotic effects, built things up, and left everyone exasperated. They performed “Embryo” for the first time in public, and made more of the film theme “More” than any other band. They reverted to rock-blues with Rick Wright on trombone, for a down-to-earth jam. They played new compositions yet-to-be-titled, and an impromptu excursion through time. Pink Floyd are the first four-man orchestra. Each musician is a different section, and their individual creations blend to form one, whole experience.”
The packaging is what we have come to expect from Sigma, this time black and white posed and live shots of the group, the lack of color makes it look like a historical presentation. A couple cool pictures of Dave Gilmour with a beard too! The CD’s have pictures of the cover art and you get a numbered sticker as well. A really nice release by Sigma, always glad to see a concert like this get some love as it’s well deserved, now let’s hope they put out a version of the Birmingham Town Hall show February 1970 from the second gen tapes as that is another essential upgrade to what has been out before.