At Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas: Call this one Rain Like Hell. On a stormy April night, the grandest effect of all was provided courtesy of God — actual creator, you are reminded, of the moon and its dark side.
As the dry-ice machines clouded our sight, and the lasers streaked by on a brilliant path to the roof of the now-demolished Texas Stadium, and the three remaining members of Pink Floyd mulled about amongst the ranks of eight back-up musicians and singers, these great peals of lightning crossed the Irving, Texas, sky. Thunder shook the water-filled seats.
These guys — our Lord Savior, David Gilmour, et al — really knew how to put on a show.
After a tip of the hat to the band’s departed co-founder Syd Barrett with their muscular rendition of “Astronomy Domine,” the first half of the show was given over to what became Pink Floyd’s final pair of Roger Waters-less offerings, beginning with the 1987 hit “Learning to Fly.” Gilmour seemed to be asserting that it was, indeed, his band now. Still, there were reminders of what came before, as the band offered a sweeping rendition of “One of These Days,” complete with inflatable pigs and whirring lights, just before the break. During the second half, as with its late-1980s tour, Pink Floyd collapsed into the oldies-act rocking chair — piling up familiar favorites like “Money,” “Us and Them,” “Wish You Were Here,” “Another Brick in the Wall” and “Comfortably Numb” — when sprinkling them throughout the show might have given the evening a smoother propulsion.
That said, one of the most refreshing developments was the complete rehabilitation of Richard Wright, who had been featured as a vocalist on Pink Floyd’s then-current Division Bell project — the first time since their career-making Dark Side of the Moon in the early 1970s. He was the centerpiece of a thunderous rendition of “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” which expanded into the first five sections of its original incarnation. Elsewhere, new song selections in the 1994 tour, like the soaring “Breathe” (with that airy interweaving of Gilmour’s and Wright’s voices) and Wright’s own “Great Gig in the Sky” made for nice additions to the well-worn (though well-received, of course) greatest hits. They were positioned on either side of the shimmering Division Bell finale “High Hopes,” with its pealing bells and melancholy arching chorus — making good on the notion that a more democratic blending of the band’s different eras might have made for a better show.
Throughout, it would seem that Waters’ dry-eyed Wall-era nightmare was playing out: Kids pumped their firsts, and most shook their asses, to tunes of paranoia and frustration like “Another Brick” and “Run Like Hell.” In fact, the crowd was suspiciously young. Most the drenched ticketholders, it would seem, were scarcely nascent when Waters and Gilmour were arguing over the mix down for these old tracks.
No matter. Enigmatic, arty films played behind the band, even as rain fell in sheets. (A guy one row up, looking intently at the oblong hole in the roof of the old Texas Stadium, said: “This is crazy. I’m from Seattle. We finish the domes we start.”) The fancy quad sound bounced cash-register sounds here and yon during “Money.” It was, Roger Waters or no (heck, Syd Barrett, or no) what a Pink Floyd concert was supposed to feel like.
But was it still Pink Floyd?
At the end, Gilmour stood for a moment, a hall of fame speck in the middle of the stage. The sold-out crowd of wet hands waved. The pure sound of voices hugged him. And this dude was smiling. That’s the difference, shown in high relief, between the way Pink Floyd was in 1994 and the way it had been 15 years before, when its concerts used to end with a torrent of marching hammers, yelling and screaming, and crumbling Styrofoam walls: Instead of Waters making teeth-grinding social commentary, you have Dave being … well, being sociable. It put a face on a band that had, for most of my adult life, been anything but.
I’ve got to say, as Gilmour took the microphone and thanked us for coming, I was glad I did.
Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas, April 28, 1994:
Learning to Fly
What Do You Want From Me
On the Turning Away
Coming Back to Life
Take It Back
One of These Days
Shine On Your Crazy Diamond Parts 1-5
The Great Gig in the Sky
Wish You Were Here
Us and Them
Money (extended version)
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2
Run Like Hell