Your Favorite Disguise (Sigma 23)
Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, Long Island, NY – February 26th & 28th, 1980
Disc 1, February 26th: MC Intro, In The Flesh, The Thin Ice, Another Brick In The Wall Part 1, Happiest Days Of Our Lives, Another Brick In The Wall Part 2, Mother, Goodbye Blue Sky, Empty Spaces, What Shall We Do Now, Young Lust, One Of My Turns, Don’t Leave Me Now, Another Brick In The Wall Part 3, Goodbye Cruel World
Disc 2: Hey You, Is There Anybody Out There?, Nobody Home, Vera, Bring The Boys Back Home, Comfortably Numb, The Show Must Go On, MC Intro, In The Flesh, Run Like Hell, Waiting For The Worms, Stop, The Trial, Outside The Wall
Disc 3, February 28th: MC Intro, In The Flesh, The Thin Ice, Another Brick In The Wall Part 1, Happiest Days Of Our Lives, Another Brick In The Wall Part 2, Mother, Goodbye Blue Sky, Empty Spaces, What Shall We Do Now, Young Lust, One Of My Turns, Don’t Leave Me Now, Another Brick In The Wall Part 3, Goodbye Cruel World
Disc 4: Hey You, Is There Anybody Out There?, Nobody Home, Vera, Bring The Boys Back Home, Comfortably Numb, The Show Must Go On, MC Intro, In The Flesh, Run Like Hell, Waiting For The Worms, Stop, The Trial, Outside The Wall
Recently, we here at CMR had been discussing performances of The Wall in light of the fabulous new release from Godfather Records Watching The World Upon The Wall which was the silver debut of the June 16th, 1981 recording from Earl’s Court in London and the topic of how we’d yet to see a definitive silver edition of the excellent February 28th, 1980 Nassau Coliseum concert came up. Ironically, within a week of this discussion Sigma announced Your Favorite Disguise, a 4 disc set that not only included the aforementioned February 28th performance, but also the complete show from February 26th!
It’s no secret that we’ve always thought very highly of the Sigma label, and they have a pretty impressive track record as far as quality releases are concerned, but would they provide us with the definitive edition of much-beloved Nassau Coliseum show? In my opinion, they have indeed – if you’d rather not labour through what is surely to be a lengthy review here and want the short answer, just pick it up; you won’t be disappointed. However, we also have the 26th to consider as well, so without further ado…
Following the release of The Wall album, due to the expense and complexity of the stage production as well as the result of the detachment they felt performing in massive arenas during the previous Animals tour, Pink Floyd elected to forgo the typical stadium tour and instead took up week-long residencies in Los Angeles, New York, London, and Dortmund. The 5 night stint at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island followed the very successful L.A. concerts that were staged earlier in the month, and were again completely sold-out events, thus the documents from this tour are particularly valuable for those of us who simply weren’t able to procure seats, and in the best cases, amazing souvenirs for those fortunate enough to attend.
As with many of Floyd’s major works, the press was divided; for example, John Rockwell of The New York Times reported that The Wall at the Nassau Coliseum was “the most lavish stage show in the history of rock-n-roll” and that the sound was spectacular, how the concert went off “without a hitch,” whereas the naysayers had all the usual critiques, complaining that the musicians were “relentlessly tedious,” and that “the songs were slow and sludgy” (from The Toronto Globe And Mail). This was, I might add, one of the more forgiving opinions expressed about The Wall live.
Nevertheless, as aforementioned, Sigma have presented us with the 3rd and 5th concerts from the Nassau residency on Your Favorite Disguise, so I’m going to discuss my impressions of each separately, as there is no sense in comparing completely independent performances in this context.
Sigma 23 marks the silver debut of the February 26th performance, with only a handful of fan-produced flac files and/or CDR’s available prior to this release including: Nassau Coliseum 26th Feb 1980 (WWRM009), One Of My Turns (MoLM), The Wall Alive, and Together We Stand (FA003) all culled from one or the other of the two known recordings.
I’m speculating at bit here, but based upon the fluctuation in sound throughout Discs 1 and 2 of Your Favorite Disguise, it appears that Sigma have utilized both sources, the better of the two being primary and the other used for patching up rough spots or cuts. The fact is, it’s a bit hard to be sure being that the entire presentation is seamless, with no cuts or drop-outs whatsoever, and Sigma is known for their superb mastering skills; what is noticeable and ultimately lead me to this hypothesis is how from time to time the overall sound will shift from full and encompassing to slightly distanced with a different audience perspective.
Either way, while the performance itself is great, the recording varies from only good to very good at best; again, there are no cuts, the only hiss I noticed was during Gary Yudman’s second “MC Intro” however there is a significant amount of imbalance between the vocals and instruments, plus the shifts in aural perspective from slightly distant to “surround sound” is a bit distracting. Don’t get me wrong – if you navigate the show, you’ll find a plethora of passages that sound great like “The Thin Ice” and “Vera” but there are instances where suddenly the backing vocals dominate such as during “The Show Must Go On” and “Waiting For The Worms” or passages where the guitar is inaudible.
There are occasional occurrences of tape degradation, most notably during “Nobody Home,” “The Trial,” and sadly “Comfortably Numb,” but the single worst aspect of this recording is the sheer amount of audience noise and commentary throughout, from the shouts for “Dark Side Of The Moon” before “Young Lust” to annoying clapping during “Another Brick In The Wall Part 2” – this is really what reduces my enjoyment of the show; there are times when the chatter literally overpowers the music being performed on stage. Fortunately, the during the most bombastic parts, Floyd triumphs and there are enough quality passages to salvage this show from the bin. But seriously, you’ll find yourself wanting to tell some of these people to shut up at various points throughout the gig!
It should also be noted that the first couple bars of “Hey You” are clipped off, but much less lost in this case compared to the 28th. The “Wall Identifier” for the 26th is Roger Waters’ introduction to “Run Like Hell” as usual which was “Do you like our pig? We like him; he hasn’t got a lot of class but there’s a lot of him. This next song is for all the paranoids in the audience, and it’s called ‘Run Like Hell.’ Home piggy, go home, (in German accent) macht schnell!”
In the end, it was a wise decision for Sigma to couple this recording with the far superior one from the 28th, as it probably wouldn’t be strong enough to release on it’s own – at least not culled from these sources. That being said, it’s nice to finally have on silver, and I’d rather obtain it as part of a larger set like this than separately.
Moving on to Discs 3 and 4, which I am sure are of even greater interest given our recent discussions, and justifiably so…the 28th has long been considered the best recording of The Wall live bar none (mind you, I’m not necessarily of that opinion necessarily, but it’s certainly in the top 3).
This final performance at Nassau Coliseum was previously available in a plethora of vinyl editions as well as compact disc pressings, all of which were detailed superbly by GS in the review of Tarantura’s Home, Piggy, Home!, which was released in September 2007. Please refer to that review for further background information on the past releases of this show.
Needless to say, Sigma’s presentation of the February 28th performance is nothing short of amazing; this is of the quality of an official release, albeit slightly more “vital” and raw. In fact, the only performance issues in the entire set are a tiny slip during the opening “In The Flesh” where Gilmour barely slides into the correct note from one fret below, and Roger Water’s three “squeals” on the clarinet during “Outside The Wall” (perhaps he needed a new reed?).
The only technical problems I detected were a brief spike of feedback during “Happiest Days Of Our Lives,” someone unplugging their instrument before the corresponding channel was killed on the P.A. prior to the second “MC Intro,” and sadly, the first verse of “Hey You” is still missing on this set. I imagine for the sake of sonic integrity, Sigma elected to not patch in the part from another show or source, especially considering the fact that few of the available recordings sound THIS good, and for one reason or another “Hey You” is almost always clipped off at the beginning.
Sonically, everything is incredibly balanced – the instruments, vocals, pre-recorded sound bites, and the audience – there is a mild amount of chatter but it isn’t distracting at all compared to that of discs 1 and 2! The sound is very clear, full, and well-rounded. “Another Brick In The Wall Part 2” is perhaps the best example of how perfectly balanced this recording is – just the right ratio of vocals to instruments and audience. Very few recordings can boast of this level of quality!
If I were to nitpick a bit, some of the softer passages in “Mother” reveal a slight air of thinness in the snare and acoustic guitars, but this shouldn’t detract from a more relaxed listening experience whatsoever. The only other slight drawback is how the backing vocals are occasionally off-pitch, but it’s not as if Roger Waters himself claimed to be Pavarotti!
Speaking of Waters, he once again shines in his fairly diverse central role, from conveying a very convincing sense of fragility in “Don’t Leave Me Now,” to the powerful spite of “In The Flesh.” While nowhere nearly as controlled and note-perfect as Gilmour vocally, here, he goes from strength-to-strength as only he can.
Gilmour, however had the massive weight of being musical director in addition to performing his parts, thus the flow of every performance relied heavily upon his cues. Surely, this was a challenge for a free-spirited improvisational master like Gilmour, and despite displaying cool poise throughout, you can almost feel him bursting at the seams when he finally has a chance to just go off and “blow” during his “Comfortably Numb” solo spot, which is always a highlight of any show on this tour, for the audiences in attendance and those of us listening back now.
Roger Waters’ introduction to “Run Like Hell” this evening was: “Do you like our pig? What?! He’s not a very nice pig, but he’s a BIG pig! This is a song for all the paranoids in the audience; it’s called ‘Run Like Hell.’ Home piggy, home!” and is the easiest way to differentiate this show from the others on this tour.
Lastly, I’d like to take a moment to discuss the results of my comparison of this show from Your Favorite Disguiseto Taratura’s Home, Piggy, Home!, as well as Great Dane’s Brick By Brick (GCR CD 9313/ABC).
First, I A/B’d the Sigma against the Tarantura without altering the levels or settings in any capacity (and again, I always review everything with the EQ completely flat), and literally my reaction was “Holy Crap!” – the Tarantura disc nearly tore my head off with the HUGE jump in volume, so be careful if you try this yourselves.
After listening further and bouncing back between the two, I can summarize the Sigma release as follows: it is significantly cleaner, smoother, and far more natural than Home, Piggy, Home! – which is just quite frankly pushed beyond the limit, brittle on the upper end, and not realistic at all. Some folks may like the bombast and energy of the Tarantura, but there is no question Sigma’s trademark of subtle, intelligent mastering yielded a far more balanced result.
Going back to Brick By Brick, the fact is, most of these older versions are perfectly acceptable due to the fact the source was great to begin with and there is a nice, organic/analog feel on the Great Dane version, but Your Favorite Disguise is certainly cleaner and extremely well-balanced. I suppose in this case it’s a matter of personal preference as to which is “better,” but for the purpose of this review, I can say Sigma have done a damn fine job once again.
Ultimately, on February 28th, 1980 all the stars were aligned – great performance, great audience, and perhaps most importantly for us here, a spectacular capture that, courtesy of Sigma is now readily available once again, in what I do consider to be its definitive form. Thus, if you don’t have this recording at all, procure Sigma 23 immediately! If you do have some older version, first of all, you don’t have the “bonus” of the 26th on silver, and secondly, I really don’t see how anyone else could improve upon this latest version, so fair enough, perhaps you might want to hold on to Behind The Wall or Brick By Brick because of their extras and nice packaging, but you’d do right by yourself to not pass this one up!