on January 10, 2004
Footage of classic period Pink Floyd is so rare and few, that Live in Pompeii is a real treat. It was filmed in 1971, at the peak of their musical genius and creativity (not to devalue the musical and conceptual brilliance of the masterworks Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall, but musically they reached their peak in the period between Meddle and Dark Side Of The Moon), and shows the classic line-up - Roger Waters (bass), David Gilmour (guitar), Richard Wright (keyboards) and Nick Mason (drums) - young, energetic, creative and unpretentious. At this point in time, pre-Dark Side Of The Moon, they weren't yet settled in a niche; they haven't yet made it into the consensus, and they kept experimenting and trying new things, messing about with synthesizers and recording techniques. In this DVD we see them both in the studio and in performance, as they keep exchanging instruments and experimenting, and that's what makes it much more interesting and alive than the Dark Side and The Wall concerts, let alone anything made after the split from Waters in 1983, in which point they were just bleating out their old hits again and again in the same way. Only just managing to break free from the influence of their originator, Syd Barrett, the Pink Floyd are still, in Live In Pompeii, in a transition and struggling to find their voice, yet at the same time not certain of the relevance of their music. Nick comments in one of the many interviews thrown in between the songs - `We might have become a relic of the past... to many we represent that childhood of '67, the underground scene...' - and at this point, there's little in their music that signals of their great break into the mainstream in 1973. In between the performances, we get to see little bits of the Floyd in the studio, in the first stages of creating their masterpiece, Dark Side Of The Moon. It's a fascinating historic relic and an engrossing look at history in the making.
The musical parts of the video concentrate on Pink Floyd's most experimental instrumental numbers - in fact, only two vocal numbers were included, excluding old stage favorites like Fat Old Sun, Remember A Day and Astronomy Domine and recent numbers like Fearless and San Tropez - which allows it to give us a real look at how they were experimenting with their sound at the time, and to see them live, undubbed, is priceless. Take the epic instrumental A Saucerful Of Secrets from 1968; as Mason keeps the savage and steady beat, Gilmour is sitting on the ground with his Fender in his lap, gently running a slide up and down it, barely touching the strings. Wright pounds chaotic and nearly random notes on his piano, while Mr. Waters, his bass laid aside, plays percussionist and strikes the cymbals fierce and hard. He then walks off to the gong, and starts beating the hell out of it. Wright moves over to his organ and Waters picks up his bass, and they pick up the rhythm. Not synths involved. On Roger's own Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, he doesn't play bass at all; he just barely struggles with the lead vocals, and occasionally beats the gong.
The instrumental classics Careful With That Axe Eugene and One Of These Days we get to see the full ability of the Floyds' instrumental prowess, as they settle into hard and driving grooves with persistent drums and deep, powerful basslines. Careful With That Axe Eugene is shot by night, with images of bursting volcanoes juxtaposed with an ecstatic Roger Waters shrieking out the song's only vocals. The effects and editing may be dated, but the atmosphere is still mesmerizing. Synthesizers, whatever Floyd's criticizers may have been saying at the time, are used subtly and tastefully. In one of the interviews David and Roger discuss the suggestion that the synthesizers may have taken over their music, claiming rightfully that they're in total control of their music, and that electronic devices can ever only be means and equipment and never a replacement for the artist's creativity. Furthermore, they say, it's immensely important for a musician who wants to be in control of his music, to know all about the equipment, recording and editing. The film really does show Floyd to be a group of very conscious creators, who need to know and understand the final outcome of their efforts - it especially shows in the studio segments. This is and important trait that contributed a lot to Floyd's greatness.
A surprising and wonderful touch is the short number Mademoiselle Nobbs, a classic 12-bar blues. As Roger strums an acoustic guitar and David plays a soulful harmonica, Richard helps by holding the microphone for the lead vocalist - a lovely dog, who sings her bit in the finest blues tradition, in a soulful and heartfelt duet with Dave's harmonica. It sounds to me like the talented mutt is the same one who contributed her voice to the number Seamus from the 1971 Meddle album, and if you thought the dog's voice on that track was overdubbed, seeing Mademoiselle Nobbs live will change your mind. The concert is bracketed by the epic classic Echoes, which was split in half - a technique adapted on record only in 1975 on Wish You Were Here. Echoes remain, whether on record or live, one of Floyd's most wonderful and impressive numbers, and show their instrumental skill and creativity to the fullest. Strangely enough, this is the only song in the films that allows Dave and Rick to have their voices heard, while on their albums at the time they sang on most of the tracks.
Incredibly rewarding for Floyd fans, even those who are not as enthusiastic about the early material, is the extra footage added in 1973, which shows Floyd working on their upcoming masterpiece Dark Side Of The Moon. We get a chance to see David laying down the final layer of Brain Damage, dubbing the lead guitar part over the nearly complete song; we also get a glimpse of Waters messing about with the synthesizers while working on the classic electronic piece of musical paranoia On The Run, as well as Richard recording the vocals for Us And Them.
One final question - what's the matter with Rick's beard, and why is it fading in and out of existence throughout the movie? Because other than that, the illusion of a live concert is maintained most of the time, albeit one where the crowd is either centuries dead or carved in stone. The conception of the video, as well as the music, shows Floyd as what they were - one of the most original and creative (some might say pretentious, maybe) bands of their time, just one step before entering the pantheon of timeless music forever.
on July 27, 2006
I just have one question. What planet do these guys come from? This is one of my most listened to DVDs - all the more so after buying Roger Waters In the Flesh and PF's Pulse, both of which I find sanitised overly-lush productions, and unfortunately highly over-rated and disappointing. I love the minimalist sound of early Pink Floyd - and this film captures them at their psychedelic best.
Unlike Pulse, there's no fancy light shows or distracting films to underscore how boring the performance is. A lot of reviews express disappointment at The Director's Cut - I've owned this feature 18 months and never watched the main film. I just watch the original movie - it's more than captivating enough.
It was a work of genius to film this in Pompeii, it emphasises the spacy nature of the music, the other-worldliness of their productions. It's hypnotic.
What I like about it best is the lack of extra musicians and backing singers - its just Pink. I listen only to live music, primarily to see musicians play. In South Africa, the major - or minor bands for that matter - never seem to make it this far, so seeing them live on DVD is the next best.
I wish a whole lot more Sixties music would be brought out on DVD - and I'm not even a flower child of the Sixties, though I sometimes wish I was!
on February 7, 2004
I saw a pristine print of this movie with a full house at the George Eastman House here in Rochester several years ago. With its glorious opening zoom shot, great music (mostly from Meddle), insightful (albeit brief and scattered) interviews with the band members, and fleeting glimpses of them at work crafting Dark Side of the Moon, it instantly became a must-have. But all that was available was a VHS copy, and I knew that this format couldn't do justice to the material.
I was elated when it was finally released on DVD, but also a bit hesitant when I saw that it was a "director's cut" - the original cut that I'd seen was just fine, thank you. However, seeing that one of the extras was the "original concert film," I figured that I couldn't lose, and went ahead and ordered it.
The bad news: Neither copy is the same one that I saw at the Eastman - the "original" cut does not include any of the interview or recording session material ... just the music. And the "director's" cut adds a lot of unnecessary outer space F/X and Pompeii art frills that sometimes distract from more than they enhance the core material. (The continuity of the aforementioned opening zoom shot is destroyed, for instance.)
The good news: At the very least, everything I saw previously IS on the DVD, even if I can't watch the movie in exactly the same way that I did originally. And hey ... this IS Pink Floyd! I've watched the film in its entirety five times since acquiring it and my fascination shows no signs of abating. This is no self-congratulatory vanity 70's "rockumentary" (e.g., Led Zeppelin's "The Song Remains the Same") -- it's a true time capsule that yields innumerable insights (some unintentional) into a landmark rock group on the cusp of superstardom. It captures the members at what would seem in hindsight to have been the apex of their camaraderie and collaborative music realization, and this makes it a must-see for any true Floyd fan.
on September 4, 2006
Now THIS brings back fond memories... of midnight showings, wall-to-wall hippies, "exotic" tobaccos, and... well, I can't remember much else! LOL! But seriously, as soon as this was released, in a "Directors Cut" no less, I raced out and bought it... and you can't imagine how crushed I was by what the director, Adrian Maben, had managed to do to his original film.
I've made it a rule of sorts not to write negative revues, I'd much rather tell you why I liked something than why I thought something sucked; my first exception to that rule was for the totally execrable "AvP," and this, I'm afraid, is my second. Thankfully the "Original" film IS included in the "Special Features," and it's for this that I gave the 5 Stars.
The production, such as it is, is incredibly simple by todays standards, we're talking 1971 after all, so, there're no lasers, no circular screen, no Varilights, no "Floyd droids," no mirror-ball, no wall, no pigs, no uber-show. What you do have are the four remaining members of the band, recently Sid-less, playing direct to camera in the Roman Amphitheater in Pompeii. Stretching themselves artistically in new directions, experimenting with new sounds and musical structures; in a number of the tracks presented here, you can hear the genesis of what they were to become, especially in the superb "Echoes."
Visually you get a mixture of static shots of the band playing, with the occasional tracking shot front and back of them. There's some footage of them walking on what appear to be the slopes of Vesuvius, looking at bubbling mud pools and clouds of steam. There're some over-dubs and front projection work done in a studio in France, but the most visually interesting numbers are "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun," "Careful with that Axe Eugene," and "One of these days," which are all performed at night... VERY atmospheric! "One of these days" is actually quite bizarre as practically ALL of the footage is of Nick Mason playing up a storm, the rest of the footage of the band, with the exception of a couple of blink-and-you'll-miss-'em cut-aways, was lost!
So, what IS the problem with the "Directors Cut?" Simple. The performance of the band has been butchered; interview footage, some of it unintentionally hilarious such as an obviously stoned David Gilmour telling the director that they're NOT a "drug orientated" band, "You can trust us," he says, has been edited into the breaks between the tracks. There's also footage of Gilmour, Waters, and Wright, in the Abbey Road studios trying out alternate versions of numbers from "Dark Side." All of this additional footage is well worth having, but, IMHO, it should have been edited into a separate documentary, or used to illustrate the obligatory interview with Maben, not shoe-horned in between the tracks themselves!
And then, as if to add insult to injury, Maben completely loses the plot and cuts in a bunch of grungy old stock NASA footage, y'know, Saturn 5 rockets taking off, a horribly pixilated 20 year old CGI'd planetary fly-by that looks as if it was produced on an Atari console, solar flares etc etc etc. This is embarrassing, I mean, the title sequence of "Star Trek Voyager" has better looking "space" footage than this old tat!!! Hell, if you want "trippy" visuals with your Floyd you'd be better off ripping the audio from the disc, converting it to mp3 and then playing it through iTunes with the Visualizer turned on!!! And if you're going to do that, edit the two halves of "Echoes" together via a 30-second cross-fade... I'm actually starting to like this version better than the studio one! Maben's justification for this travesty in his interview is completely bonkers, something about aliens in another galaxy picking up a faint broadcast of the Floyd's performance, then jumping in a ship and tracking the signal back to it's source!!! Oh, and did I mention the fake "Letterbox" format? (sigh)
My advice to any self respecting Floyd fan is to buy this and watch the "Original" film FIRST; just soak up the performances and marvel at how young and scruffy they all once were! LOL! Then, grit your teeth and watch the "Directors Cut" for the additional interviews and Abbey Road footage. So, in summing up... Pink Floyd: 5 Stars, Adrian Maben: 0 Stars!!!
on October 23, 2003
This new DVD release is different than the previous VHS version so hold on to your original video tape! (that version may never be re-released again).
"Live in Pompeii" has been for years (and will remain) my #1 desert island video, music or otherwise. The slow panning cameras behind the amp stacks, the bubbling mudpits and boiling lava scenes and the rough, unpolished band performances in the ruins of Pompeii's ampitheatre are powerful and at times scary.
The music, like the setting, is spacious and slow moving but haunting and bold below (and above) the surface.
DVD Director's cut: This is a real mess and would be even more confusing to those not familiar with the original film. My main gripe here is not the newly added "space" visuals and other non-related footage. The real bugger here (for me) is the so called "widescreen" format, bullocks! What they did instead was take the original film and squash and crop it to add black bars. It's simulated widescreen, so what we see is actualy less of the viewable print! It doesn't look/feel right at all and I found it unsettling to watch. Mind bogglingly atrocious.
But... we do get extra audio and visual footage of the band in Abbey Road which is prized by a (Water's era) Floyd fan like myself. And with the added visuals it does give us another, alternate version. So for that it's better than not including it at all. Still, what were they (Adrian?) thinking?
DVD original concert : This is the jewel of it all. I'd never seen just the straight 60 minute performance film before. It's cohesive, effective. Pompeii was a dead on great choice choice for the band to re-create their heavy yet airy soundtrack.
There is only an occasional overdub or visual blip. (Overdubbed bass on Madmoiselle Knobs). BTW- Seamus was Steve Marriott's dog and was being cared for by one of the Floyd while Steve was away on tour. I'm not sure if the dog in Pompeii is Seamus or not.
As for the lack of Rick Wright interview on the origianl Abbey Road footage, that never bothered me. He never was a very vocal or opinionated member, despite his priceless contribution to the band/music. What we do get is his utterly sublime, hovering and vulnerable high vocal along side Gilmour on Echoes. That always gives me goosebumps and itself is worth the price of admission. And to cut Echoes down the middle to bookend the film was a fitting and perfect framework.
DVD extras: Just more, good stuff to include. They even have the covers to several famous bootleg albums of the 70's! and a map of Pompeii! good fun.
The DVD itself is a fantastic value chock full of goodies.
The sharpness of the audio and video is a vast step up from the
Now I'm just waiting for the "Live in Pompeii" film to hit the midnight theatre show again! Without the crust please.
Please ignore the Director's Cut !
We are fortunate that the original concert film is included on the DVD. Go directly there - it is in "features".
The Director's Cut pretty much destroys all the virtues of the original terrific film.
One of the best aspects of the original film is that you see each vocal, solo, etc. completely without the distraction of other scenes, and thus it gave you the feel of being there. This was aided by the exclusive use of tracks for the cameras, so any motion was a slow pan, much as if you yourself were walking across the front of the stage.
This is all ruined - in the Director's Cut - by using footage from outer space and the studio.
Plus, some of the footage is simply not in the Director's Cut, like the opening footage of the stage being setup, and the very slow zoom into the stage.
And, to top it off, the "widescreen" aspect of the Director's Cut is simply cropping (so it is not "OAR") - for example, in the great guitar solo in Echoes, the Director's Cut cuts off the left hand on the guitar in many scenes.
So, in short, Pink Floyd fans should buy this for the superb versions of Echoes and Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, and go straight to the original version in the "Extras".
on June 5, 2004
Want to know if this DVD is for you?
Well, it depends on what kind of person you are, even if you're a Pink Floyd fan. There are many kinds according to the type of music and/or mood they prefer.
1)There are the solitary, silent people who prefer to stare at something and find beauty even in the patterns of the floor tiles. These people prefer to look beyond what can be seen or heard and find "the spirit" of something, no matter how caothic it may seem. These are the fans of 1968-1972 Pink Floyd's looong, strange pieces. I know somebody like this, a painter, friend of mine, and he was immediately hypnotized by "Echoes", in spite that he wasn't a huge fan of Pink Floyd. These people will really enjoy the original concert film. I did. If you dream about being alone in the desert and watch the sunrise listening to "Echoes", this is just for you.
2)Others prefer the glamour and the coloured lights of traditional concerts; they like interviews with artists, special 3D-effects, and Star Wars. They enjoy jazz and prefer more "structured" music. These profile correspond to Pink Floyd fans from "Dark side" through "Wish You were here". These could love the Director's Cut; however, some of them might be dissapointed.
3)And there are those who don't really appreciate jazz, classical music, or staring at anything. Those of you who listen to pop music all day or who think "The Wall" is the best Pink Floyd music ever, this DVD is not for you.
There are many kinds of art... There is simple-structured art, like pop music or naif-style paintings, whose beauty can inmmediately seen, but when trying to find the soul of it... well, there isn't any. And there is the other kind of art, that present in desolate De Chirico paintings, in El Bosco's obscure visions, and in the desert. This can't be appreciated in a first sight; instead, it needs to be studied and re-visited many times, in order to love it. This is the type of art present in "Live at Pompeii". I saw Shrek and liked it a lot the first time, second time it wasn't that fun and the third time it didn't capture my attention anymore. But Live at Pompeii is a DVD I will wear out.
If you really love the songlist, buy it. If you like Pink Floyd but don't like these particular songs, keep searching.
on October 11, 2003
A classic concert film set on the backdrop of an ampitheatre in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, until recently it was only available on VHS. Now, the film has recieved the DVD update and I'm quite pleased with it.
An assortment of earlier Pink Floyd songs are played by the band, including "Careful With That Axe Eugene", "One Of These Days" and "Echoes". While I am disappointed that the audio is only stereo, it sounds better than it ever did on VHS.
The film itself is rather interesting, mixing footage of planets and other space exploration with shots of the band and the destroyed city of Pompeii. The footage of Pompeii is best used during the beginning of "Echoes, Part 2".
Overall, it is a decent upgrade of the original film, featuring just enough new stuff to warrant a re-release. A great insight into Pink Floyd just before they hit their peak, and for a good price too!
on August 21, 2005
I am glad I now own this DVD. It gives me the best of both worlds: the Director's Cut together with the Original film. Both of them have features I enjoy. The new animation added in the director's cut enhances the experience, especially in songs like 'Set the Controls' where it takes you on that solar trip we Floyd fans have imagined for as long as we can remember. In the original (and complete) footage of Echoes Part 1, when the camera zooms in ever so slowly into the band playing Pompeii's ancient and empty coliseum, you are witnessing a young Floyd on the cusp of true greatness. If you are a Floyd fan, you will not--repeat--not be dissapointed.
FAR superior picture quality over past issues
VERY good sound remix, including surround sound.
Includes original version of film
Director's cut shows LESS of the band playing and MORE statuary, street scenes, NASA footage, subway footage (including noise over the music!), CGI, other Floyd footage etc. What a mistake!
Lackluster 'bonus' material (lyrics and press clippings that are too small to read, a few album covers, other material with NO description/explanation)
So why five stars? The sound and picture are so improved, just watch the original version and ignore the rest.