One Flew Over The Board (Sigma 25)
Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio, USA – June 25th, 1977
Disc 1: Introduction, Sheep, Pigs On The Wing 1, Dogs, Pigs On The Wing 2, Pigs
Disc 2: Shine On You Crazy Diamond Part 1-5, Welcome To The Machine, Have A Cigar, Wish You Were Here, Shine On You Crazy Diamond Part 6-9, Money, Us And Them
Pink Floyd’s performance at Cleveland’s “World Series Of Rock” was the sixth show on the second North American leg of their 1977 “In The Flesh” tour, and forty seventh overall. The fact that his experiences during this tour had a profound effect upon Roger Waters’ psyche is well known amongst Floyd aficionados and documented extensively in Floyd-related literature; this second leg in particular instilled strong feelings of detachment from his audience, the majority of which he felt were only there to party rather than listen to the music or contemplate the serious lyrical concepts. For these reasons, the remaining eight concerts would grow increasingly intense with Waters less and less tolerant of drunken crowd antics, ultimately snapping full-stop at the infamous Montreal show on July 6th. The flipside however, is that the band, having performed so many shows over the previous six months, were playing better than ever; unlike the tentative performances that characterized the first German dates in January (which were basically faithful re-creations of the albums in a live setting), the concerts towards the tail-end of the tour saw the band loosening up and really going for it quite frequently – this show being a prime example of this.
Several flac files and fan-produced CDRs exist for this performance including Animals In Cleveland, Analog Master 1977-06-25, Have You Heard The News?, and MoLM’s Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio but the only silver pressing prior to One Flew Over The Board was Shout To The Top’s 4 Live In Ohio (STTP 110/111) released back in 2000. As with many of the Shout To The Top productions, the release was plagued with issues: tape hiss, level fluctuations, numerous cuts, and was a bit on the thin side in terms of bass frequencies; Sigma have utilized the same source but have invested a fair amount of time and attention in re-mastering their version, with the usual taste and subtlety we’ve come to expect.
Upon direct comparison, it was clear that STTP went over the top in terms of normalization as the overall level of 4 Live In Ohio is several dB louder than One Flew Over The Board resulting in quite a bit of hiss, a mild amount of distortion, and several rather shrill moments. Thankfully, Sigma opted to refrain from pushing the overall level too hard, insured all songs run at their correct speed, and dialed in the bass frequencies a bit more – which not only rounds out the bottom end of this recording, but also dramatically reduced the level of tape hiss.
Although the cuts found on the STTP release between various songs and announcements are still present, only the first few bars of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts 1-5” and “Us And Them” are missing musically. As with many of their releases, Sigma wisely have chosen to separate the two sets the band performed onto separate discs, with the Animals material taking up the entirety of Disc 1, while Wish You Were Here and the encores complete the second disc (unlike 4 Live In Ohio and some of the fan-produced CDRs who included “Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts 1-5” on the first disc, disrupting the continuity of the second set).
An audience of 83,223 people are bound to permeate any audience recording with side conversations, shouts of amazement, and American shows in the summer of 1977 were particularly rowdy, but this recording is probably most notable for the numerous cries of “SIT DOWN!” throughout the show. Fortunately, the music on this release comes out on top for the majority of the show.
Disc 1 begins with the rather lengthy “Introduction” where the MC articulates that they “might get a few minutes of rain to cool us off” but that “it won’t affect the show in any way” (though a brief downpour did delay the show 30 minutes, apparently it was a very hot day otherwise, so I’m sure this was welcome). He goes on to point out the locations of the free clinics in the stadium in case “anyone’s not feeling well for any reason,” before a futile attempt at coaxing “total silence” from the crowd.
The band had invested in $3000 worth of pyrotechnics for the concert, and the crowd roars in delight at the fireworks going off during the beginning of “Sheep.” According to the publication “The Plain Dealer,” when the music began, it rained sheep; “white paper sheep with black noses and tails decended in little white parachutes” which would explain the various reactions in the crowd as well.
“Sheep” certainly benefits from the fuller sound on this release in that it helps the driving rhythm of the bassline propel the listener through the song and into the heart of this lively audience. It’s evident immediately that vocally Roger is having an “on night,” sounding confident and at ease throughout.
Unlike some of the concerts the following week, despite the crowd not being as attentive as he’d prefer during either part of “Pigs On The Wing,” and even with the occasional firework set off, Roger manages to keep his cool during this performance (though I’m sure he was already becoming agitated by the carefree behaviour of these massive audiences)!
Both “Sheep” and “Dogs” are more or less faithful to the album versions, and performed well this evening. The guitar harmonies of Snowy White and David Gilmour during “Dogs” entwine perfectly, demonstrative of the synergy they’ve developed throughout the tour. As per usual, Roger summons the necessary vitriol to deliver the final verse of “Dogs” with great conviction resulting a powerful albeit bleak epitaph. One of the aforementioned cuts in the recording occurs after the completion of “Dogs.”
One of the highlights of this show is Snowy White’s guitar solo during “Pigs On The Wing 2;” earlier in the tour, he essentially replicated the solo from the 8-track version of the Animals album note-for-note, but having earned the band’s trust and loosened up a bit throughout the course of the tour, he delivers an exciting improvised solo from the gut here that is tight, fun, and brimming with tasteful articulations.
Roger can be heard shouting “46”, 4:40 into “Pigs” (that would be “3 Of A Different Kind”) after the second verse, which is one of the identifiers for the concerts on this tour – however, he must have lost count as this was actually the 47th show! “Pigs” is the song from the first set that allows Gilmour to really stretch out, and this nearly 21 minute version features an amazing extended jam that is chock full of supreme guitarwork. It’s during these looser sections that that band sounds like they’re really having fun onstage, and we are extremely fortunate to have such jams captured forever on factory pressed silver! This is what Floyd at their best is all about for me! Sigma have tastefully faded out Disc 1 after the intermission announcement, a practice I personally endorse.
Apparently, there was a problem reeling Algie (the giant inflatable pig) back in to the stage after “Pigs,” as Disc 2 opens with the MC pleading with the audience to let go of the line attached to the massive puppet, citing that “it’s very dangerous” and continues by saying “we’re trying to bring it back in from over the audience. Please! Please let go of the line if you have your hand on the line.” I don’t know why anyone would bother holding on to the line myself; it’s not like anyone would get away with that particular souvenir anyway!
As aforementioned, the first couple bars of the keyboard intro to “Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts 1-5” is cut and we come in after Gilmour’s guitar line has already started, but ultimately only a small segment is missing. More of a pressing matter is how the sound quality diminishes slightly from this point forward (until the encores); everything remains audible, but seems to be a bit more distant and there is a mild sense of level fluctuation.
Pretty standard, but accomplished renditions of “Welcome To The Machine” and “Have A Cigar” follow, including the usual segue into Richard Wright’s usual “radio station survey” before “Wish You Were Here.” The highlight of this often humourous bit in Cleveland is when he dials up a station playing Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son,” which receives a great reaction from the crowd; one audience member can be heard yelling “TURN IT UP!” and the cool thing is after having moved past the Kansas anthem for a moment, Wright dials back to it again!
On the downside, this winds the crowd up a bit too much for the soft strains of “Wish You Were Here,” however they eventually calm down and remain captivated through it’s conclusion. Gilmour improvises a bit during the solo section with great results, making this version both unique and valuable to hear. The cut after this song is abrupt, chopping a bit of the sustain at the end, which is somewhat startling but the song was basically over anyway I suppose. I just wish a few of these cuts were smoothed out with crossfades instead – it’s not like it would require more than a couple extra minutes of work during mastering.
The second extended jam segment of the evening starts to kick off about 8 minutes into “Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts 6-9” and continues for nearly another 10 minutes, twisting and turning through funky passages, bluesy interludes, and even a few heavier rock breaks, all lead by the inspired guitar playing of Gilmour. There is no question this is another highlight from this performance, and it’s almost a shame when Wright finally reels the band back in for the melancholic conclusion, but then again it’s an absolutely gorgeous finale. The guitar harmonies starting at the 18:39 mark are bristling with personality – the distinctive vibrato and bending techniques of White and Gilmour are extremely complementary, reminiscent of Camel’s “Snow Goose.”
A battery of fireworks follows the conclusion of the second set, and the crowd cheers wildly before yet another cut, this time followed by the DJ announcement “Here’s the encore from tonight’s entertainment on BBC 1!” Shouts for “Echoes” and “Interstellar Overdrive” can be heard in the crowd, but Roger Waters instead offers the following cryptic intro “I’d like to do another song, dedicated to the crew, called You Wouldn’t Know A Cue If It Fell On Your Fucking Head!,” perhaps because the coin sounds from “Money” had started quite a bit early?
The sound quality of “Money” is thinner, but clearer that the rest of disc 2, and thus has something of a different character. Dick Parry’s sax solo comes across as a bit shrill, but this could be attributed to the fact that this song is so different sonically in general. The final lengthy jam of the night doesn’t disappoint with great licks from all the musicians involved, and is another reason to experience this show for yourself. The taper gets some commentary from his friends that is hilareous, albeit laced with explicatives – clearly, everyone has enjoyed the show!
The final cut (no pun intended) of this recording transpires at the beginning of “Us And Them” – apparently the taper didn’t expect a 2nd encore or simply forgot to take the recorder off pause; the first few bars are missing and the track comes in during the saxophone melody just prior to the first verse. Sonically, the character of this song is more along the lines of the majority of this release, being rounder and fuller compared to “Money,” and it makes for a nice, laidback ending to this concert experience.
When all is said and done, Sigma have once again significantly improved upon an older release and I can’t see any reason to revisit 4 Live In Ohio ever again, despite the fact that One Flew Over The Board isn’t entirely flawless; there’s no question Sigma 25 is infinitely more balanced, free of tape hiss, handled with care, but the audience is still quite intrusive at times, and several cuts are still present – factors that might be distracting for some listeners.
It’s probably a matter of personal preference as far as how cuts between songs should be treated; I’d rather as many as possible be removed or crossfaded, but this might not be to everyone’s liking. Of course, this is nitpicking a bit, and I’ve always considered the Cleveland show to be one of the better performances of the tour, thus I’ll summarize Sigma 25 as follows: One Flew Over The Board is definitely an upgrade sonically, packaged beautifully (complete with photos from the actual event), and is undoubtedly the best representation of the June 25th, 1977 performance on silver so far!