Pink Floyd: Live At Pompeii

by Thursday, January 20th, 2011 11:18am Part of the Music Films series

There was a time before YouTube, believe it or not, and if you wanted to see clips of your favorite band playing live, you either had to try and bootleg them from the next show you went to, which was not generally encouraged by most bands, or you could buy a concert video.

Always theatrical, Pink Floyd was at a creative peak when they filmed themselves playing at the famous ancient Roman amphitheatre in the Pompeii ruins in Italy.

Pink Floyd has always been a very theatrical band. From their first incarnation with the late Syd Barrett, their live performances were an experience of sensory overload; light, color, and sound. It was only fitting that they aim to capture that very experience on film.

Pink Floyd: Live At Pompeii was made in 1972, during an interesting point in the bands career. They had a good following in Europe, but had yet to break through with any commercial success, especially in the United States. They were reaching a creative peak, which was about to throw the doors wide open for them. The band got the idea to take some of the material they were currently doing live, and have a film crew recording them performing it in the famous ancient Roman amphitheatre of the Pompeii ruins in Italy.

The film is mostly live concert footage, but it also contains little documentary-esque pieces. Interviews with the band are highlighted throughout the film, as well as clips of the band working in the studio on their upcoming and would-be breakthrough album, Dark Side Of The Moon.

The songs performed live in the Pompei ruins represent the Floyd in their earlier, more experimental form. Songs like ‘One Of These Days’ and ‘Careful With That Axe, Eugene’ start off very ambient as almost minimalist instrumental pieces, while gradually reaching triumphant peaks that were a signature trait of the more formative Pink Floyd years. Also, more orchestrated pieces such as ‘Saucerful Of Secrets’ and ‘Echoes,’ which is split up in two parts to open and close the film, are featured.

It’s also obvious when watching this film that the band was influenced by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which had come out a few years earlier. There are recurring themes of space, go figure, and the computer animation might look a little cheesy by today’s standards, but were very ground-breaking at the time. And I mean, it’s Pink Floyd, would you expect anything less than brilliance?


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