Earls Court 1973 (Sigma 11)
Earls Court Arena, London, England – May 18th & 19th, 1973
Disc 1, May 18th: Obscured By Clouds, When You’re In, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Echoes
Disc 2: 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
Disc 3, May 19th: Obscured By Clouds, When You’re In, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Echoes
Disc 4: 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
The year that Dark Side Of The Moon was finally released was also the year that Pink Floyd went from a highly regarded progressive rock band into international superstars. They toured the US twice and Europe in the autumn, but played in England only three charity gigs: these two at Earls Court and the November 4th, Robert Wyatt at the Rainbow Theater in London. The May 18th show was the first to be scheduled and advertised and the second was added after the first sold out quickly. Played for the charity Shelter-National Campaign for the Homeless, these are the first two performances of Dark Side in its final polished arrangement (most notably “On The Run” and “The Great Gig In The Sky”).
The reviews of the shows were positive with Chris Charlesworth calling them “faultless” and Circus magazine in the US calling the first night “one of the most spectacular rock performances ever conceived.” Each concert was a sell out with an estimated 18,000 for each night. The concern leading up to the shows was whether or not Pink Floyd could overcome the obstacles many acts faced when playing this venue. David Bowie brought his Ziggy Stardust show to the arena the previous week (May 13) and the results were a disaster. People on the floor couldn’t see and people in the galleries couldn’t hear. Floyd’s advanced sound system more than compensated for that but the recordings still have the mid-seventies Earls Court boom to them.
Such was the high profile of these gigs that Pink Floyd received a tremendous amount of attention from the British press. Chris Welch interviewed David Gilmour for this article “Floyd Joy” in Melody Maker, New Musical Express ran another Gilmour interview in the Tony Tyler written “A Walk On The Dark Side,” and Soundsran a Roger Waters interview by Steven Peacock. But the biggest of all was the massive nine part article in Zig Zag magazine that remains one of the most in depth pieces ever written by the band. Both Waters and Nick Mason were interviewed about a week after the show and discuss the history of the band, Syd Barrett, their tours and movie involvements. Waters refer to the Earls Court shows as a circus, saying, “When we were setting up, I thought that it did look a bit like a circus with all these wires going into the audience. And the plane we used at Earls Court was very like those circus space rockets that people whip round and round in. It was silver and red and about six feet long, like a bloody great aluminum paper dart, flashing lights and smoke. Amazing.”
The first tape source for the May 18th show first appeared on vinyl on The Great Gig In The Sky (RSR/International RSR 236 A/D) and re-released under the same title but UFO Records-The Wizard’s Quest and copied on Earls Court. A second source surfaced that is better sounding but incomplete, missing the very end of “Any Colour You Like,” “Brain Damage,” and “Eclipse.” And edit of the two sources, with the first tape source used for the missing songs, was released on Earl’s Court Day 1(Ayanami-175) on CDR, and received heavy trading on the fan produced The White Bootleg. Sigma likewise is a two source mix and this is the first silver release of this show. The second tape is used for most of the show and the sound quality is very clear and dynamic but slightly distant. The first tape is thinner and more distorted but still fair to good and is edited in at 5:59 in “Any Colour You Like” and runs through “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse.” The second tape source is used again for the encore “One Of These Days.” There is a small cut at 11:17 in “Echoes” but is otherwise musically complete.
The set begins with the two opening songs from their soundtrack to La Vallée. The opening drone and accordian sound on the keyboards of the musette arrangement produces a French pastoral feeling before Mason kicks that aside with the drums and Gilmour comes in with the heavy metal guitar. “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” is not as intense as it was played in the US, but at about 9:47 Wright plays a very haunting, creepy melody before returning to the main theme. “This is another extremely oldie” Waters says before “Careful With That Axe, Eugene.” The first half ends with a twenty-five minute version of “Echoes.” The audience cheer loudly at the first ping as the band deliver another classic live version of the epic piece.
The second half is devoted to the Dark Sidealbum. Gilmour has a lot of fun during “Money,” but he narrowly averts disaster in “Us & Them.” While singing the second verse “haven’t you heard, it’s a battle of words” Wright comes in with the third verse, “out of the way, it’s a busy day, I got things on my mind” by mistake. Wright then shuts up and lets Gilmour finish, and they get back on sync in the third verse after the saxophone interlude. The concluding jam on “Any Colour You Like” is interesting and the encore “One Of These Days” makes the rafters in the arena shudder.
Discs three and four document the Saturday, May 19th show. Compared to the previous evening, this one has received much more attention in the past. The non-Dark Side songs were released on Remergence (DIYE 17) and on If You Were A Bluebird (Oil Well – RSC CD 106) while the entire performance has seen release on Earls Court, May 19, 1973 (Lizard Archives 010-011) and Earls Court 1973 (Orange Records OR12A/B). But the most visible incarnation of this concert is on the fan produced CDR Supine In The Sunshine (HRV VDR 011). The tape used is loud and clear but lacks the dynamics of the main source used for the May 18th show. There is a bit of tape crinkle about fifteen minutes into “Echoes” but there are no major cuts presenting the complete concert.
The second Earls Court show is much looser than the first. The band are more relaxed and seem to have a more fun time of it. “When You’re In” has some very hostile guitar riffs coming from Gilmour’s guitar, but “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” reverts back to being a psychedelic exploration of space rather than the mini-horror show it was the previous evening. “Echoes” closes the first set again and is another masterpiece. The band hit a tremendous groove about half way through that puts a stranglehold on the audience and they never let go. In the second half, the audience applause the crashing plane at the end of “On The Run.” Gilmour again finds some hostility and attacks the guitar during the solo in “Money” and Wright remembers his cue during the eight minute rendition of “Us & Them.” “Any Colour You Like” reaches epic proportions and serves as a tumultuous contrast to “Brain Damage.” These are two classic concerts that are essential to the Pink Floyd collection. It is strange the poor treatment and neglect they’ve receive in the past by silver labels, but Sigma more than make up for it with this gorgeous production. It is packaged in a fatboy jewel case with several photos of the event and is limited to two hundred copies.
While I prefer the 68-71 period of Floyd I figured I could use a new 73 title and am blown away by this set. Sound quality is great and performance wise is nothing short of staggering. The first set of “oldies” is great, the whispered vocals in CWTAE are fantastic. A stellar release by Sigma
Very interesting. I’m still waiting for mine, but it should arrive any day now – probably early this week.
One thing that I’ve never liked about the Lizard Archives 2-pro-CD-R version of the 2nd show is that approx. 0:25 – 2:20 into the track “Time”, R. Wright’s keyboards don’t sound as prominent in the mix as it should. Did you possibly notice if it’s any better on this new Sigma version? Thanks.