So, Ron Geesin staged a two-night stand performance of Atom Heart Mother with an appearance by Gilmour on night 2.
The first night of the two special "Atom Heart Mother" evenings being held in Chelsea's Cadogan Hall, in the heart of London, was always going to be a hard act to follow. With a superb mix of music, wordplay, and improvisation crafted by Ron Geesin, the event clearly thrilled many.
The second night boasted a guest appearance by David Gilmour, augmenting the existing musicians, which resulted in a sell-out show and an audience swelled with many more obvious Floydies than were seen the previous night. [Click thumbnail to left; picture by Joe Geesin] The audience were to witness a truly magical performance which will not be easily forgotten by the attendees...
The format of the show was unchanged from the first night, reviewed in full here. Naturally, Ron's improvised pieces in the first half were quite different, as were his comments and even some of the aphorisms he selected for the audience's pleasure. Performance-wise, the various elements of the first half seemed a touch better than the first night, with the benefit of that performance and an afternoon run-through clear to see.
The interval brought the expected rearrangement to the stage, moving the piano over to the side in front of the choir. Once this was done, a second guitar position could be seen, with David's amps and Cobb Strobotuner centre stage, and the Italian guitarist Federico Maremmi's equipment moved slightly to stage right. In front of David's kit were a pair of guitars, including what turned out to be a prototype of the forthcoming Fender "Black Strat" signature model, and David's lap steel guitar.
The second half started with the second reading of "Atom 'Art Mother - The Story" on the large projection screen. This revealed, through a series of pictures of the original score and various stages of the recording process, how the "Pink Floyd - 'Epic'" (later to be renamed Atom Heart Mother) was developed through a humorous monologue by Ron.
And then, the moment arrived that so many were waiting for. First on stage was David, who readied himself with the Black Strat, and then the rest of the massed ranks of musicians took their position. The noise of the retreating screen seemed to bother David slightly, who made it clear that he was not keen to start the piece until the quiet squeaking had abated. The first night had the piece begin whilst the screen was retracting and this proved a minor distraction at the very start.
It was hard to imagine that the last time David had performed the piece in public had been some 36 years ago. He effortlessly took control of proceedings with the master-class in subtle guitar work, working with the Mun Floyd's guitarist, sharing the lead guitar work, and at times, the conductor knew when to lay down his baton and let David control the flow.
The performance of the piece came across with an almost bluesy, restrained feel, as opposed to the previous night's straighter rendition. The addition of the slide guitar changed the dynamic of the piece, Gilmour swapping almost effortlessly between the two through the piece. At one point, an extended improvised section was heading into the territory found within the "spacey" middle of Echoes, with the bass player massaging his strings with a slide to great effect. The overall sound balance seemed better, with the drums less prominent, and Ron's delicate piano notes much clearer. Everyone's performance had stepped up a gear, with the Mun Floyd, the brass section, the choir, and Caroline Dale all playing their hearts out.
A sublime end to a wonderful weekend. With a venue such as the Cadogan, the atmosphere was much different to normal and with the limited capacity of the place, it proved a great opportunity for old friends to catch up with each other. You could feel the anticipation in the venue's bar beforehand, with some fairly wild rumours flying around which just added to the fun!
At the end of the evening, though, each person there knew that they'd witnessed something very special, something that they would never have expected, and that they would never experience again...
And guess what, a recording of the AHM Suite from night 2 has been posted. It's 128kbps mp3, but I'm sure a higher quality one will surface. It may have, I just haven't looked for it yet.