The cold war between Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and Roger Waters has lasted almost twice as long as when the two were the creative nucleus of the band.
During the 1970s, Pink Floyd's most commercially successful era, Waters came up with groundbreaking concept albums such as Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, and Gilmour adorned them with transcendent melodies, powerful singing and his distinctively restrained but weighty guitar playing.
The already-stressed relationship between Gilmour and Waters finally broke apart during the monumental process of making The Wall, the last true Pink Floyd album, released in 1979.
Everything released after The Wall has been either mediocre solo material (The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, About Face, Amused to Death, etc...) or equally-disappointing projects released under the name of Pink Floyd (The Final Cut, A Momentary Lapse of Reason, The Division Bell). This proved what most fans already knew, that the yin and yang of Waters' lyrics and Gilmour's guitar was much more powerful together than apart.
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Which is why "David Gilmour: Remember That Night - Live from the Royal Albert Hall" is such a refreshing concert DVD. Not because Waters takes part (although he gives Gilmour a slightly-forced hug in some bonus footage), but because Gilmour finally seems comfortable with the past and present. Filmed during a three-night stand at London's famed concert hall in 2006, Gilmour performs his warm, tranquil new album On an Island in its entirety, as well as some Pink Floyd hits and obscurities.
Gilmour's guitar playing is flawless, and his voice sounds as good as ever. Supporting him is a stellar cast of musicians including Pink Floyd's Richard Wright, Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera (who co-produced On an Island), Steve DiStanislao, Dick Parry, Guy Pratt and Jon Carin, with special guest appearances by David Crosby, Graham Nash, David Bowie and Robert Wyatt.
During the On an Island songs, Gilmour plays a variety of electric and acoustic instruments, which give the songs an intimate, folky texture. Afterwards, fans are treated to Pink Floyd staples as well as faithful renditions of seldom-performed songs from Floyd's earlier years, such as "Fat Old Sun," "Wot's...Uh the Deal," the brilliant epic "Echoes," and even Syd Barrett's “Arnold Layne,” accompanied by David Bowie on vocals.
By the time Gilmour gets to the obligatory encore of "Comfortably Numb," that Pink Floyd war horse seems overblown and at odds with the intimate, celebratory spirit of the rest if the concert.
Despite multi-million dollar offers for a Pink Floyd reunion tour, Gilmour seems more comfortable than ever to just play his music solo and age gracefully. Unlike, say Mick Jagger, Gilmour is gray, balding, plump and not the least bit self-conscious about it. There are no flying beds, inflatable pigs, giant video screens and female back-up singers.
And Royal Albert Hall is, fortunately, much smaller than Wembley Arena. What comes across so wonderfully in these performances is that the musicians and audience are both having a great time, free of the distractions of fame, marathon world tours and dueling egos.
Waters and Gilmour did reunite at the Live 8 concert in 2005, and they haven't ruled out further "one-off" gigs, perhaps for charity. But it will never be the '70s again. They are in their sixties now, and their best days are behind them. Gilmour seems acutely aware of this, and it's somehow quite liberating for him. He seems perfectly happy to ride off into the sunset without ever working with Waters again. Ebb and flow... let it go.
DAVID GILMOUR: REMEMBER THAT NIGHT - LIVE FROM THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL (2-Disc Set)
MUSICIANS: David Gilmour, Richard Wright, David Crosby, Graham Nash, David Bowie, Robert Wyatt, Phil Manzanera, Jon Carin, Guy Pratt, Steve DiStanislao and Dick Parry
DIRECTOR: David Mallet
DISTRIBUTOR: Sony BMG Music Entertainment