Long awaited DVD issue of Floyd's Pompeii trip. It's a bit of a trip for the rest of...
Peter Marsh 2002-11-20
Back in the days when the earth's crust was still cooling, cinemas in provincial towns would often have a late night showing of films geared to more, er,'specialist' tastes than the average punter. In amongst the Russ Meyer films and obscure British horror movies, the occasional rock film would turn up. It was usually Woodstock.
So it was that my best mate and I headed off to our local fleapit one night to watch(you guessed it)Woodstock followed by Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii. Feeling slightly giddy from the combined effects of a can of cider and inhaling paint fumes from an afternoon of airfix kit building, we both lost consciousness during the drum solo in Santana's Woodstock set and missed all the rude bits.
Suddenly there was someone screaming REALLY LOUD and we woke up to stare down a 20ft high image of Roger Waters' throat,intercut with volcanos spurting and magma cooling in the sea. Then he's banging the crap out of a very large gong and Dave Gilmour's guitar sounds like a seagull and then they've got a dog on stage and it's howling and...
Maybe because or in spite of this near psychedelic experience, Floyd at Pompeii has become my favourite concert film of all time. Maybe it's because the lack of an audience means you don't feel like you're having a second hand experience. Maybe it's because you're getting to see a legendary band playing sometimes genuinely transcendent music ina strangeenvironment.
The Director's Cut has the 1972 documentary footage that appeared in later versions of the film, but due to the disappearance of all the original rushes, a re-edit wasn'tpossible. Instead, director Adrian Maben has inserted some nice computer generated imagery from the BBC's The Planets series and some pretty naff digital walkthroughs of Pompeii pre AD79. These squeaky clean digital pictures (however cosmic)jar with the grainy atmosphere of the original footage, but there is an option to watchjust the gig for us purists. And that's where the fun is (though there is a certain interest in watching the band's social interactions in the light of later events).
Musically the band seem keyed up the surreal beauty of their surroundings. This is Floyd at their spaciest; from the cosmic throb of "Set the Controls" to the ponderous majesty of "Echoes" and the malevolent boogie of "One of These Days", there's an exploratory edge to their playing that was soon to be lost in their transition to megastardom.
All in all, top stuff; thoroughly recommended, but lay off the Humbrol Enamel before watching....