Floyd's finest hour [Pink Floyd-Soft Machine: Rainbow Theatre, London] - Melody Maker - November 10,
PINK FLOYD-SOFT MACHINE: RAINBOW THEATRE, LONDON
PINK FLOYD and Soft Machine stunned fans with two sensational shows at London's Rainbow Theatre on Sunday night. It was a splendid evening of rock-co-operation, in which both groups gave their services in aid of disabled drummer Robert Wyatt.
Compere John Peel was pleased to announce that some £10,000 was raised. He said that Robert intended to carry on with a singing and recording career. The ex-Softs drummer was not present but was acknowledged by cheers from the audience.
As two complex shows were performed on the same night, there were lengthy delays between sets which resulted in a certain amount of banter between the road crews and crowd. When the Softs finally came on for the second house, they were still dogged by sound problems. From my position near the right hand bank of speakers, only John Marshall's superb drumming could be heard with any clarity, although the combined keyboard riffs of Karl Jenkins and Mike Ratledge, wove an insidious pattern of great power and menace.
The Softs employed a cataract of sound in which improvised solos seemed of less significance perhaps than the overall blitzkreig, but John's drums employed a fascinating range of tones, and his attack was at times frightening.
There were no problems affecting the Floyd however, and they presented one of the best concerts seen this year; certainly one of the most imaginative and cleverly executed.
Dark Side Of The Moon, their last album was the main basis of operations, and the Floyd faultlessly combined quadrophonic sound, prerecorded tapes, lights, smoke and theatrical effects into a kind of rock Son et Lumiere.
There were many shocks and surprises along the way, and not having seen the Floyd for some time, I was frequently pinned back in my seat or ejected into the aisles, heart beating wildly.
Heartbeats in fact commenced proceedings, pulsating through the auditorium and stilling the more excitable elements in the crowd. Clocks ticked mysteriously and with perfect precision the Floydmen slotted their live instruments into the recorded sound.
The Floyd have a tremendous sense of pace. Occasionally they seem to overstate a theme or extract the last ounce from an idea, but the total effect is like coral growing on the seabed, establishing something deep, eternal and occasionally flashing with colour.
Overhead was suspended a huge white balloon to represent the moon, on which spotlights played, and not long after the performance began, searchlights began to pierce the gloom, and yellow warning lights began revolving in banks on the speaker cabinets.
Meanwhile the music continued apace, Nick Mason excelling with his terse, economical drums, hammering home the heavy stuff where required, and tastefully bringing down the volume when 'ere a new tack or shift in course was signalled.
Dave Gilmour has one of the most difficult guitar jobs in rock, having to contain his own exuberance for the benefit of the greater whole, but making every note felt on his own inventive solos. Dave was particularly effective on the funky 'Money' which should have been a single hit for t'lads.
Rick Wright's keyboards were immensely tasteful and melodic, gently spurred by Roger Waters mighty bass lines. Instrumentally the Floyd are a finely tuned mechanism that surges ahead like an armoured cruiser, oblivious to the smoke of battle.
Indeed the band were enveloped in smoke throughout the performance, glowing red lights adding to the illusion of inferno and hellfire. A choir of ladies cooed like angels of mercy and as a silver ball reflecting myriad beams of light began to revolve and belch more smoke, the audience rose to give them an ovation. They deserved a Nobel prize or at least an Oscar.