Pompeii Erupts as David Gilmour Performs After 45 Years

What makes Pompeii so special for the former Pink Floyd guitarist and frontman? A wistful night of remembrance and rock and roll answered that question.

It was 10 years ago from David Gilmour’s second ever Pompeii performance, to the day, when Syd Barrett passed away. The oft-reminisced yet seldom remembered former member of Pink Floyd wasn’t referenced by David as he played Shine On You Crazy Diamond for the 14th night of his 2016 ‘Rattle That Lock’ tour, but remembering the later years of Syd, he probably wouldn’t have appreciated the gesture. Or perhaps he simply wouldn’t want to dampen the audience’s spirits. We’ll never know.

david gilmour live in pompeii 2016

What we do know is that David Gilmour is back. Atop the iconic Pompeii Amphiteatre that didn’t have a live audience back when being filmed in 1971, his exquisite guitar infused with the rhythm of prog rock and the soul of blues still captivated an audience of 2000. Spectacula, the Romans used to call it. The word amphitheater wasn’t quite in use back when the first stone colosseum was built in Pompeii.

What makes Pompeii so special? The city was famously buried under 5 meters of molten ash after the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. An explosion that still makes people weary of travelling in and around the Bay of Naples. But the city is a fan favourite of sorts because of Pink Floyd’s 1971 release of their live album Live in Pompeii. The 90 minute film that accompanied it showed a mostly shirtless group of four tinkering with Stratocasters, bashing cymbals and producing noises rarely seen (or heard) before. Perhaps it wasn’t groundbreaking or revolutionary, but the rendition of songs like A Saucerful of Secrets and One of These Days solidify Pompeii as one of the many Pink Floyd pilgrimage spots, possibly alongside Grantchester and Syd’s refurbished house.

syd barrett's house auctioned for 3 million dollars. this is a white room

The night started with a soft ‘ping’, a sample of the Sonar Echo effect used in Echoes. This drilled the audience into frenzy and anticipation, but David has repeatedly said that the song died with Rick. We aren’t going to see Echoes again. Still, the hope was alive and apparent, that this being Pompeii, one might interlude back through time to repeat history once again. The sample interspersed snippets of many different songs, from Echoes to On the Run, with David eventually appearing to perform 5 AM. The full set-list is available here.

The concert was filmed and will probably appear as an official DVD, but so far no high quality bootlegs or video clips have emerged. Don’t worry, we’ll keep you posted on if and when they appear. Till then, here’s his performance on Jools Holland.

We don’t know if this is the last time David and his famous Black Strat is touring, but he’s one of the most influential guitarists of all time. His Pink Floyd days leave behind a vast legacy that few bands can live up to; the music, deep and introspective, piercing into your soul even 40 or 50 years after release. And so he plays his encore as the night draws to a close, with a crescendo of an evocative performance of Time and a bone-chilling Comfortably Numb. This is perhaps the first and wistful last time that the Anfiteatro romano de Pompeya hosts a member of Pink Floyd within its 2000 year old stone walls.Spectacula indeed.

Written by Upamanyu Acharya

I founded Fynestuff. I play games, write tech articles and look towards putting Buzzfeed out of business someday. Let's talk about crypto: upamanyu@fynestuff.com

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