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Pink Floyd – Wembley 1977 1st Night (Sigma 232)

Wembley 1977 1st Night (Sigma 232)

Empire Pool, Wembley, London, UK – March 15, 1977

Pink Floyd would only play nine concerts in England as part of the tour to support Animals in 1977, even more interesting is that all nine were in just two cities, the first five at Wembley Arena in London, and the other four at New Bingley Hall in Stafford, England. Even though all five of the Wembley concerts were recorded, bootleg releases have been scarce with only the first and fourth nights making the rounds in the collectors market. It should be noted that recordings from the other nights are average sounding and certainly not attractive to boot companies as so many other, high quality recordings exist from other concerts. With this new release from Sigma, the label offers up something new in the form of a 4 disc set covering the first night at Wembley featuring two different audio sources providing the definitive version of the concert.

Recorder 1

Disc 1 (50:34) Sheep, Pigs On The Wing Part 1, Dogs, Pigs On The Wing Part 2, Pigs (Three Different Ones)

Disc 2 (62:51) Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts 1-5, Welcome To The Machine, Have A Cigar, Wish You Were Here, Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts 6-9, Money

The first two discs of this set cover what is referred to as Recorder 1, an incomplete audience recording that falls in the very good to excellent range. It is clear, detailed and well balanced and recorded close to the stage with a nice range of frequencies, there are occasional muffled conversations between possibly the taper and his girlfriend. There is also some distortion in the upper frequencies giving a shrill sound at times and a much lesser distortion in the lower frequencies. It comes and goes and is likely due to the 360 degree sound system. This recording was the source for the old vinyl titles Nobs (Impossible Records IMP-2.15), Giant Barn Dance (PF 3077), and 30 KW P.A. (PF 3077). These early titles were very limited and hard to come by. Later Nobs was copied and released by Toasted as Nobs (Toasted Records 2S-907), since the master tape of this concert never circulated, fans only way to get this concert was various vinyl transfers. A couple months back appeared a new transfer of tapes from the collection of stratcat58 and on further review, was found to be a copy of the original recording, not a vinyl transfer. The tapes, like the vinyl, are not complete and share the same basic cuts with the tape source being just slightly longer. Once transferred the tapes went through slight mastering to correct speed issues before finally being made available.

What Sigma has done is to take this recording and patch it with Recorder 2 to provide the most complete and best sounding version available. The first patch is at the very beginning of disc 1 for the first 1:19 of Sheep then again to fix a 28 second gap at the end of Sheep and the very beginning of Pigs On The Wing Part 1. The next patch is at the end of Dogs at 17:32 to 18:24, no music is lost just a bit of after song soundscape and crowd noise. The last patch is at 14:54 in Pigs (Three Different Ones), again just crown noise and Roger’s announcement of “We’re taking a break”.

Over on disc two the patches can be found at the first 2:26 of Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts 1-5 then again at the end of the song at the 14:06 mark capturing the final notes of Dick Parry’s saxophone till the first 35 seconds of Welcome To The Machine, total patch being 44 seconds. The next is at the 5:19 mark of Have A Cigar for the radio tuning and song (Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel) lasting a minute. The ending of Wish You Were Here, starting at 5:10, and going to the first 50 seconds of Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts 6-9 is the longest cut of the second disc. The last patch is 10 seconds at the end of Shine On You Crazy Diamond featuring David Gilmour say “That’s it”. The patches between the sources are seamless and well done, in fact most of the time you do not even know save for the slight differences in sound between the two tapes.

Recorder 2

Disc 1 (50:24) Sheep, Pigs On The Wing Part 1, Dogs, Pigs On The Wing Part 2, Pigs (Three Different Ones)

Disc 2 (53:39) Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts 1-5, Welcome To The Machine, Have A Cigar, Wish You Were Here, Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts 6-9

The recording known as Recorder 2 was taped by the famous Pink Floyd collector Lord Snooty whose tape collection is only overshadowed by his enormous knowledge of Pink Floyd recordings. His recording of the first night at Wembley falls into the very good category. He was not as close as Recorder 1 but picks up a clear and detailed recording that is a notch below the first. While it lacks the upper frequencies, it has a heavy bottom end that does cause distortion, its main detractor. It does a better job picking up the hall ambiance and vibe of the performance and there is no real audience chatter and while it is missing the encore of Money, is otherwise complete.

The first night at Wembley is a solid performance by the band, who at this time were wary of both the press and fan base. During the early dates in Europe they were more isolated from press and were able to polish their performances that were becoming regimented due to the increasing use of background films and large inflatables, the big Rock show they had grew into. By the time they hit Wembley the London papers were not impressed with the smoke and mirrors of it all. This bleak view of the concerts certainly comes through in the recordings, the audience sound distant and rather bored with it all, perhaps they hadn’t enough time to immerse themselves in the new album that made up the first set.

Nonetheless the first set is very well played, Gilmour is ever the guitar God and his playing is a highlight of the first set. His searing leads in Dogs and Pigs (Three Different Ones) cut to the bone, the musical antithesis of Roger’s venomous lyrics. The addition of Snowy White on Guitar and Bass gives a fuller sound to the material and Richard Wright’s synthesizers provides an almost digital texture to the landscape.

The second half fares a bit better, the audience is still rather dull but a bit more animated for Wish You Were Hear. Both halves of Shine On You Crazy Diamond are excellent, the band get a chance to loosen up a bit although just slightly. Welcome To The Machine is wonderfully complex and mechanical in its movement as visions of earth crawlers lumbering across the screen complement the musical landscape. The band play a fun version of Have A Cigar, Roger hits an off key (no not Roger!) and his voice goes high for a minute adding a bit of hilarity to the proceedings. The sole encore is Money and it’s a really nice version, the most Rock and Roll of the evening brings an end to a slightly robotic performance.

The packaging is typical for Sigma, full color live shots with the same graphics and fonts as many of the Animals titles. The CD’s have pictures of Roger on them, although different for two different recordings and most copies come with numbered sticker. This is a title that goes to show us that there are still good recordings out there that could use a release versus the continual rehash of the same thing.

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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