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Pink Floyd – Vienna 1973 (Sigma 205)

 Vienna 1973 (Sigma 205)

Wiener Stadthalle, Vienna, Austria – October 13, 1973

Disc 1 (70:34) Obscured By Clouds, When Your In, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Echoes

Disc 2 (73:46) Speak To Me, Breathe, Time, Breathe (reprise), The Great Gig In The Sky, Money, Us And Them, Any Colour You Like, Brain Damage, Eclipse, One Of These Days

1973 was a rather light year for Pink Floyd in regards to live performances compared to previous years, curious when one considered the importance of the time for the band as it was the year they released their masterpiece, Dark Side Of The Moon. The band would play a handful of shows in Paris with the Roland Petit Ballet, two short American tours, a couple dates at London’s Earl’s Court, two European dates, and the benefit shows for the Soft Machine’s Robert Wyatt at the Rainbow Theatre in London to round out the year. The explanation for the light work load is simple, 1972. With the writing of the Dark Side suite, the band toured extensively to hone the work to perfection.

The European dates played in October of 1973 would be the last shows to feature a full two set performance as the Rainbow charity gigs were one set comprised of the Dark Side Of The Moon material plus encore. The two dates were October 12 in Munich, Germany (found in The Massed Gadgets of Hercules 1970-1974 Godfather Box 09 for those inquisitive listeners) and October 13 in Vienna, the latter being the subject of this new release by Sigma. There have been two releases of the Vienna show previously, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (Heartbreakers HB 805 1/2) and The Lunatics On The Run (Highland HL591/592) were released around the same time. The Heartbreakers title had poorer sound while the Highland set was by far the best version of this material to date. There is a singular recording for the concert and Sigma has used a new transfer of 2nd gen cassette tapes as their foundation, the main issue being is they are less complete than the tapes used on the Highland title. To fill in a few gaps and present the most complete version of this recording, the label has used the Highland source. The recording from Vienna is largely very good to excellent, nice range of frequencies, clear and detailed, there is a bit of low end and very upper end distortion at times with a touch of tape hiss present also. The recording is quite powerful sounding and the audience is energetic yet well behaved making for a very easy listen. When compared to the Highland set, this new Sigma is clearer and brighter with much better frequencies and a very nice and noticeable upgrade.

The set follows the same song sequence as the Earls Court and second American tour. Obscure By Clouds and When Your In are excellent opening songs, the Highland source is used for the first 33 seconds of the disc, the material is crowd cheering and the faint opening strains of Richard Wrights organ. I love the live versions of When Your In, rather ambient playing by Wright followed by punctuating drum lead in by Mason and the full band kicks in, Water’s bass is powerful and one can almost head bang to it.

This is the epitaph for Set The Controls For The Heart of the Sun, in its seven years of existence, the song would become a highlight of the bands live set. Although it would be resurrected by Roger Waters during several of his solo tours, never again would it be played in all of its mind bending Space Rock glory and the performance featured here is an excellent 12 and half minute version, not a bad end to the journey. The audience is almost impatient between songs and relate this by clapping and foot stomping in time during the between song turnings, a person close to the taper replicates the sound of a baby crying that elicits some laughter as well.

Careful With That Axe, Eugene is also at the end of its performance life, it too would be resurrected for one final time on May 9, 1977 in Oakland, California. By this point the song has been expanded upon to the hilt, the band having long perfected the art of subtle yet building tension. As I listen to this wonderful, and long version, I imagine the soothing touch of a loving mother as she tries to calm Eugene, all the while the growing voices in his head keep getting louder and louder until they can no longer be contained. The scream is like an orgasmic explosion of violence as the voices ultimately win. This recording is quite vivid, you can hear the smoke bomb explosion during Roger’s violent scream as well. There is a patch of just over two minutes between Eugene and Echoes, all audience cheering and the sort. It also should be notes that the patching is seamless and well handled in typical Sigma quality. The version of Echoes is typical for this period, there is a tape cut at 4:14 followed by about 25 seconds of tape fluctuations, the sound is also a bit more distorted just prior to the cut. I find this version, coupled with the excellent sound, to be very dramatic, it seems like Dave is punctuating his guitar just prior to the funky section, really getting the most from the chords. His soaring leads during this section are really tasty as well, love the interplay between the rhythm section as well. Overall, a really confident version of the piece.

While the 1973 Dark Side Of The Moon versions for me sound rather repetitive, almost as if the band are trying for perfection that robs the piece of improvisations found in the 1972 versions, this version from Vienna is more of an exception as it is really good, relaxed yet confident playing. The audience has been waiting for this and is respectful for the performance. The former Travel Sequence is long gone and this version of On The Run has all sorts in interesting synth playing from Richard, some of the sounds he conjures up coupled with the excellent and clear sound makes for an incredible trippy listening experience, the rumbling at the end signaling the end of the piece gets a nice ovation from the audience. If there is one issue with this portion of the tape is that you will hear very small areas where the tape sounds off speed, you can pick it out during Time.

Great Gig is another great performance, the recording is vivid enough where you can really hear the interaction between Carlena Williams and Venetta Fields perfectly as they alternate their soaring vocals. Richard Wright is playing some killer organ fills underneath and for a minute or so you would swear you were hearing a Southern Soul group. The cut at 3:06 in The Great Gig In The Sky is much smoother than the Highland title yet the sound quality becomes more muffled until about 6:07 into Money where it regains some, but not all, of its clarity. Some mild conversion is heard during Dick Parry’s opening sax solo if one listens closely. Interesting to hear the backing vocalists add small flourishes in the echo vocals, “Me” “Me..me..me”, the song has a great Jazz feel for the quiet sections and the loud section overloads the recording device with its power. Any Colour You Like is real bluesy, Gilmour plays licks culled from the Blues based encores from 1971, his playing during this concert has been inspired.

Brain Damage and Eclipse bring the Dark Side Of The Moon to a rousing closing, the recording picks up the laughter between the two songs nicely, in fact the majority of the soundbites throughout the entire suite are cleanly heard, and enjoyed. The conclusion brings a typical massive ovation from the audience. Our hero (aka taper) records the wait for the encore, he moves his mic down and at times the crowd cheering sounds like he is being trampled by a herd of buffalo! The sole encore is One Of These Days, the beginning is hard to hear over the mic placement and cheering of the crowd so the wind sounds are not audible. The band ends the concert with a ripping version of the songs that does not seem to quell the audience’s desire for more music, overall this is a very well played concert.

The packaging is typical for Sigma, nice looking inserts with black and white pictures from the era housed in a slim line jewel, the CD’s have pictures of Roger, same photo as the front cover and we get a cool sticker too, all pleasing to the eye. While the sound quality is largely excellent, for those casual fans looking for a good Dark Side show from 1973 stick with Chicago, Boston, or Toronto, for those who can handle a bit of distortion, sound fluctuations and the like that make up a less “perfect” recording, do not shy away from Vienna. A nice upgrade to a long out of print title and the mastering has been very well done, for those who enjoy this era of the Floyd’s history, this is definitely worth seeking out.

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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One comment

  1. Careful Axeman Eugene

    Thank you very much for this very interesting review…as well as all your other interesting reviews & everything else you do & say here (comments, etc.). I got “Vienna 1973” myself less than a couple weeks ago, and I certainly didn’t regret it…even if others may disagree & just call it yet another piece of crap by Sigma.

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