“They demanded a great deal from their audience”: 10 Pink Floyd concerts that show how they cemented their reputation for live brilliance

 Pink Floyd take a bow at Live 8.
Pink Floyd take a bow at Live 8.
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Accompanying Prog’s analysis of how Pink Floyd changed dramatically between their first two shows at Earls Court in 1973 and their five-night return in 1981, here’s our rundown of 10 key live performances from their early days to their final reunion.

1. 14 Hour Technicolor Dream – Alexandra Palace, London, April 1967 

Where the first tranche of Floyd fans felt they’d sold out, moving from the confines of All Saints Hall in Powis Gardens and the UFO in Tottenham Court Road to be part of the multi-artist happening in Muswell Hill.

Captured on film by Peter Whitehead as part of Tonite, Let’s All Make Love In London, Floyd appeared at the end of the show, as the Sunday sun rose across the capital, and with it, their role as underground house band of choice was secure.

2. Games For May – Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, May 1967

Probably the group’s most famous early concert, Games For May was immortalised in song by Syd Barrett on the Floyd’s first Top 10 single, See Emily Play. Described as a “space age relaxation for the climax of spring – electronic composition, colour and image projection, girls, and the Pink Floyd,” frankly, what was there not to like?

Playing more or less what was to become The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, and premiering Emily, someone dressed as an admiral gave out daffodils to the audience while a bubble machine stained the seats, allegedly resulting in a lifelong ban at the venue for the group.

3. More Furious Madness From The Massed Gadgets Of Auximenes – Royal Festival Hall, London, April 1969

Realising that trying to replace the tragic whimsy of Syd Barrett was a road to nowhere, Floyd favoured the high concept with a generous dollop of their brand of space rock. The show the group premiered at this RFH event was The Man And The Journey, following Everyman as he goes through the day, incorporating released and unreleased material. Thumbs up for ambition, thumbs down for abundance of melody.

4. Roman Amphitheatre, Pompeii, Italy, October 1971

Arguably Pink Floyd’s most famous live performance was captured without a single paying member of the public amid the lava-saturated relics of Pompeii. Filmed by Adrian Maben

for his oft-released and well-loved movie Pink Floyd: Live At Pompeii, the tracking shot behind the band’s amplifiers, bearing the legend ‘Pink Floyd. London.’ is one of the greatest moments in pop, ever.

5. Winter Tour ’74 – Trentham Gardens, Stoke on Trent, November 1974

After the desultory performances at the Empire Pool the nights before, Pink Floyd found their mojo and played a show strong enough that the bootleg of the three non-Dark Side songs of that tour allegedly sold 150,000 copies, in one shop outselling Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti. What the recordings do underline is that by playing an hour of unheard material, Floyd demanded a great deal from their audience.

6. In The Flesh – Stade du Parc Olympique, Montreal, Canada, July 1977

Included solely for its notoriety, the most infamous Pink Floyd show of all time saw Waters beckoning a rowdy fan toward him, then spitting at him. It resulted in Roger Waters hating himself and his audience, setting his creative course for a considerable time going forward. How had it come to this?

7. The Wall – Earls Court, London, August 1980

The excitement of The Wall shows is difficult to put into writing. The shock of this band, associated with hippies and the profound, playing confrontational, difficult, theatrical rock was palpable. Once the taste was acquired, to see it in this enormous venue with its inflatable mothers, schoolteachers and wives, crashing planes, pop-up rooms, explosions and a lot of cardboard is still somewhat mind-bending.

8. A Concert For Europe – Venice, Italy, July 1989

A free concert that was intended to be played off the island of Giudecca in the Venetian Lagoon; instead, because of logistics, it actually ended up being staged on large rafts in the middle of the San Marco Basin, directly opposite the Doge’s Palace and smack-dab in the middle of Venice.

A great deal of local, national and eco politics surrounded the show, but it also acted as a metaphor for the very opulence of the 80s – not to mention the apogee of slick, David Gilmour-led commercial Floyd. The show was eventually watched globally by 100 million people.

9. Pulse – Earls Court, London, October 1994

By the time of The Division Bell, and what was to become the live album Pulse, Gilmour, Rick Wright and Nick Mason had learned how to be Pink Floyd, without  Waters or, indeed,  Barrett. No one now had to ask “Which one was Pink?” as Pink was the unity, the spectacle, the togetherness of the band, playing The Dark Side Of The Moon in full for the first time since 1975, but importantly, having, in The Division Bell, an album that could stand upright in its shadow.

10. Live 8 – Hyde Park, London, July 2005

They never thought it would happen, Gilmour and the boy from Great Bookham, out on that crepuscular common, that night many haven’t forgotten. Pink Floyd’s temporary reunion, engineered by Bob Geldof for Live 8, overshadowed the rest of the global concert. Although the awkwardness onstage can be analysed to the nth degree afterwards, in its moment, it felt like the best thing ever.