Updated: Jul 2
2nd July 2021
Yes, I was at Live 8. Lucky aren't I? What do you mean you don't know what Live 8 is??!?!? Actually, that's not the first time I've heard that. I'd best set the scene......
Everyone knows LIVE AID, don't they? Yes, that's a rhetorical question. Live Aid in 1985 was the day when good old Bob Geldolf terrified a load of famous people - and the rest of the world as well - into helping him create possibly the greatest concert that has ever been seen.
Not forgetting it was also the day that Queen dropped what is probably the best Live 20 minutes any band had ever dropped.....
But Live 8? That was the day, 20 years later, that Bob Geldof did it all again. 2nd July 2005 to be precise. The idea behind the event was not to raise money but to raise awareness. The G8 summit was taking place in July 2005 and, amongst other things, the political elite were gathering to discuss African Aid. And so the aim was to put public pressure on those world leaders to do the right thing...
I guess so few people recall Live 8 day because, in hindsight, it is another in a long list of charity-based concerts that the public has been asked to give their support to ever since Live Aid day in 1985. Nothing wrong with that of course! Who doesn't love raising funds and awareness for charity whilst simultaneously watching your favourite bands? But, for me, Live 8 day has a resonance that puts it head and shoulders above all of the others.
1) I was there! This in itself was a stroke of luck as you weren't actually able to buy tickets. The tickets were issued by way of a national texting lottery whereby you sent off a text and you might get some tickets.....if you were lucky! I WASN'T. No, my phone didn't beep. I didn't get tickets. That, I thought was that. Ok, we all know it wasn't 'that'.
My then 'in-laws' phone DID beep. And in a stunning display of largesse, and knowing how much I wanted to attend the show, they donated the tickets to me. A wonderful gesture? Yes, it was.
This brings me to the second reason that Live 8 day is so special.....
2) PINK FLOYD WAS REFORMING!!!! And not just any old incarnation of Pink Floyd, they were reforming the 'classic' line-up: with ROGER WATERS!
I won't bore you with the details of the history of Pink Floyd. If you're a fan then you probably know it already. If you're not a fan then you probably don't care. But, to summarise, it essentially boils down to a particularly nasty feud between Roger Waters and the other members of Pink Floyd. I'll leave it there otherwise I'll go on for paragraphs!
Pink Floyd had already been 'on ice' for more than eleven years. Guitarist David Gilmour having repeatedly stated that it was all over for the band. So the fact that Pink Floyd was reforming at all was monumental enough....but to reform with Waters?! Wow.
I have already detailed my complete love....ok, obsession...with Pink Floyd in a previous blog so, upon hearing the news that Floyd was reforming for this event? Well, I WAS going.
By hook, crook, or hole in the fence....I. WAS. GOING.
In the end, I needed none of those things as my fabulous in-laws stepped up and donated their tickets. Oh, and Dad was going too!
We'd traveled to London on the day before and stayed with an Uncle who lives there - cheers Mike! Then we headed off to Hyde Park.....
At this point, I want to make it clear that I'm not going to give you a minute-by-minute account of what went on. You can watch the DVD if you really want to know who performed what and with who etc...
As you can expect there were the usual 'BIG' names - U2, Elton, Sting, Madonna, Macca - as well as a smattering of 'current' acts. Most, some, (all?) of whom have since faded into the history books. Actually, that's not fair, some are still going strong. I'm particularly pleased that I got to see Coldplay as, in 2005, they weren't yet "COLDPLAY". But they were very much on the rise. They would become stadium rock giants a few years later - and a (not) guilty pleasure of mine. So I'm pleased that I saw them.
I'll get to Pink Floyd's set in a minute.
The other thing that I remember most about the day was the number of famous people that we saw. No, not just the bands: although the amount of musical talent that we saw is staggering for just one day. But the famous 'other' people we saw as well. Hollywood heartthrob Brad Pitt, David Beckham, Dawn French, Lenny Henry, Kofi Annan, Peter Kay....the list goes on. What a day it was.
And then Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd. Oh, the beautiful band that I love. The reason that I have the life that I have....ok, I don't want to turn this into a love song. Well, maybe I do a little bit!
There's so many things that I can remember about their set. I'll try and detail a few little highlights.
Actually, my Pink Floyd related Live 8 memories start at the entrance gate where there was a large graffito installed on the wall around the site. It was a lyric quote from "On The Turning Away". Here it is.
Before the Floyd took the stage we'd had The Who and, before them, Robbie Williams. I've no problem with Robbie at all, the man has managed to 'ego' his way to the top quite successfully. Yes, he's a bit of a prat, but he is very good at what he does and the crowd went utterly berserk. The few pictures I have of Robbie are taken through a sea of flailing arms and people sat on their friends' shoulders. But a strange thing happened immediately after Robbie's set. A massive amount of people left! The show was running a good couple of hours late at that point and people were, understandably, worried about their journies home so it's perfectly reasonable to accept that the Robbie-fans exited along with their hero. What it meant for those left behind was that there was room in Hyde Park for us to all trudge a good hundred yards or so further forward! Which was fine by me.
On to The Floyd's set...
BREATHE: was probably the biggest surprise of the performance. In hindsight, Floyd's set that day was always going to be a pretty easy guess-job. Obviously, we were going to get Money and Numb. Wish You Were Here was also a fairly solid shout as well. But that's not 20 minutes is it? So what else would we get? Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 was getting pretty even money in the audience. It's by far their most well known song - having got to Number 1 in the UK back in 1980. But is it an appropriate song for the event? A concert for African Aid, a continent where children are desperate for the chance to be educated. Singing the lyric "We don't don't need no education..." Erm, no. As it turned out, this is the way that David Gilmour saw it as well. He, in pre-rehearsal meetings, apparently vetoed Roger's proposal to play it...along with a few other song suggestions that would have been a bit suspect.
When the show started I remember excitedly taking a frantic amount of (blurry) photos and not being able to make out David Gilmour? Where was he? I couldn't see him. He was, it turned out, playing the lap steel so was a little bit hidden being both seated and next to the drums. Incidentally, it was the first time he had EVER played the lap steel intro to Breathe live. Cool.
When he stood up to sing I immediately noticed the Black Strat and - proud guitar geek that I am - knew that he had last used 'that' guitar at The Wall shows with Roger. I couldn't help but wonder if that was a deliberate guitar choice to 'book-end' the performances? It wasn't of course. I don't think Gilmour would think of such a thing. It turns out, in rehearsals, he wasn't getting his mojo from the Red Strat that he had been using during rehearsals and his guitar tech Phil Taylor suggested he try the Black Strat as it was the guitar that the original pieces had been recorded on.
MONEY: Yes, of course, the fair bet. Apparently Geldof suggested to the band that this would be quite an apt addition to their setlist. But, come on, I don't think there is any chance that they weren't going to play it.
I have to admit that, controversial it may be, Money has never been my favourite Floyd tune. Far from it. I don't dislike it, but it's not an essential Floyd tune for me.
The one thing that I do remember clearly is the moment when Dick Parry's sax break started the large yellow spotlights positioned above the video screens came into use for the first time. I have a clear memory of them coming on.
WISH YOU WERE HERE: was great. The audience singing along was absolutely brilliant. I'd already seen David Gilmour twice live by this point but this was the first time I'd experienced Wish You Were Here with a 'vocal' audience. It was really cool. Roger's little speech at the start was lovely - although his singing of the second verse was unnecessary in my opinion. There was a great moment when the two video screens showed an image of Gilmour on one side and Waters on the other. The two Floyd figureheads at opposing sides - how apt?! Sadly, time restrictions meant that Wish You Were Here was trimmed ever so slightly in the middle. Could they have left the instrumental section intact if they'd done without the 'radio intro'?
COMFORTABLY NUMB: the real money shot of the show. And what a performance it was. There aren't many 'duets' in Floyd's songbook and there can't be a more iconic one than this one?! Musically it's probably the only moment in the post-1985 Floyd live show where Roger's presence is missed. The Water-less Floyd of the 80's/90's tried their best to fill the void of Roger, and their three-part harmony version has its merits....but it's not Roger is it? Similarly Roger has included Numb as part of his solo shows but, without Gilmour? Come on. No!
Come 2005 there had only been 31 instances where Gilmour AND Waters sang lead vocals on Comfortably Numb live: all at The Wall shows in 1980/1. It was terrific to be witness number 32 being born. (In case you're wondering, there have only been another TWO performances of Numb with Roger AND David since then. The first was at the Hoping Foundation Charity performance in 2010 and the second at one of Roger's The Wall concerts at The O2 Arena in 2011. Unfortunately thanks to a combination of Gilmours nerves, misplaced lyrics and an out-of-tune guitar this last one has to go down in history as probably the worst performance of Numb there has been. In my opinion of course.)
Anyway, back to Live 8. The performance of Numb was incredible. A really brilliant moment and an incredible solo dropped by Gilmour. The video screens turning into The Wall and the words "Make Poverty History" being scrawled on them during the solo was a really powerful moment.
I've done a cover version of the Live 8 Numb solo here.
And that about wraps it up for Live 8. It was absolutely incredible....have I said that already?
THE FLOYD EVER SINCE THEN....
There was, of course, no more Floyd since then. There have been mini-reunions and 'working withs'. But no 'official' Pink Floyd reunion.
In the immediate aftermath of Live 8, in 2006, both Gilmour and Waters went on the road. Gilmour with a new album - On An Island - took Richard Wright with him where they performed a selection of 'deep cuts' from the Floyd catalogue. Take a moment to watch "Echoes" from the Live in Gdansk DVD. Waters decided to go on the road with a rendition of Dark Side of The Moon - and took Nick Mason with him as well. Mason also made a guest appearance as one of Gilmours Royal Albert Hall shows. There was also the news that both camps had been simultaneously rehearsing at Bray Studios - so surely it was only a matter of time? Nope.
Waters, Gilmour, Mason & Wright also performed at the tribute concert to Syd Barrett in 2007 - but not all at the same time. Waters performed in the first half - one of his own songs as well! For Gawds (sic) sake Roger! But, like Elvis before him, he then left the building. Gilmour, Mason & Wright then went on to perform 'Arnold Layne' but - tellingly - weren't billed as "PINK FLOYD". They were billed as "David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright".
During this period a spate of documentaries emerged including the BBC "Which Ones Pink" and the "Story of Wish You Were Here." All the Floydies were interviewed - including Roger: something he had previously declined to do. In "Which Ones Pink" he remarked that the fallout of 1985 was him behaving "pompously" and that trying to stop the band from working once he'd left "wasn't up to me." Did he really believe that? Or was it all for the camera?
Sadly we lost Rick Wright to cancer in 2008. For most, including me, that meant the end of Pink Floyd. Glowing tributes were given by the remaining members.
It wasn't over for reunions though as we got another pairing of Gilmour/Waters at a charity show for the Hoping Foundation followed by another performance of Numb in 2011 at his The Wall shows. Gilmour (and Mason) then joined Waters for Outside The Wall - marking the only time The Final Cut line-up appeared onstage. Roger made a (sincere?) speech about how 'happy' he was that they were all together and he was a 'changed man' with regard to his feelings about his past. A few weeks later backstage rehearsal footage from the day was released showing the three Floydmen sitting together and having a meal and drinks together. All smiles. Hmmm.
Looking back with hindsight I do wonder if, in the years immediately following Live 8, Roger started to feel a little bit more re-included in Planet Floyd life? Who knows? He certainly did seem to regard his time in Floyd - especially the time post-1985 - differently. Look at this remarkable footage, taken in 2018, of him willingly signing a poster for PULSE. Could you ever have imagined him doing that in, say, 1995?
But sadly things were about to turn sour...again.
In 2014 Gilmour & Mason announced the surprising forthcoming release of a 'new' Pink Floyd album. Strictly speaking, it wasn't an *ahem* 'new' album. It was made out of the leftover musical improvisations that were recorded whilst the band was preparing for The Division Bell record. Should it have been billed as a new album? No, it probably shouldn't have. It really should have been released as part of a deluxe The Division Bell box set. Having said that, "It's What We Do" is vintage Floyd and worth buying the album for on its own.
But Roger was specifically not included in the album. And he made it very clear that he hadn't been. Around this time he issued a particularly snippy statement clarifying that he left Pink Floyd in 1985 and had nothing to do with the new album. In the light of the current public thawing of their relationship he could have said that and still 'wished them all the best with the album...' Actually, he needn't have said anything. But no. His official statement was typically Waters-esque: quite confrontational. Things were going a bit iffy....
Then came the revelation that Roger wasn't being represented on either the official Pink Floyd website or on any of their social media pages. How did we discover this? Another statement from Roger, this time in the form of a VERY rant-y video on his website.
And then we got another very angry Roger video in which he made very public criticisms of Gilmour & co about the forthcoming re-release of the Animals album.
It doesn't look good.
Obviously, I don't have the first foggiest idea of what has gone on behind the scenes from a business sense in the band. Gilmour has maintained his silence on the matter. Roger has always been a decisive figure with regard to his political views but the advent of the internet and social media has certainly meant that Roger's statements have hit nerves amongst larger numbers of people beyond the fans of Floyd. Has this something to do with Gilmour attempting to keep Waters at an arms-length distance? Dunno! But something has certainly prodded the hornet's nest that Roger keeps very close to his chest. He is very good at giving out insults and giving his perspective on slights that he has experienced, but he's not great with giving details about the reasons he has been slighted.
The reason I'm less inclined to take Roger's side on these matters is, with alarming regularity, he makes his angry outbursts very personal and nasty. If he kept his woes to business and band issues then I'd be more likely to give him the time of day. But he is quite often very scathing about Gilmour's wife and family members. And, I have to say, that's not on as far as I'm concerned.
If Roger slagged off my family as much as he slags off David's then I would ostracize him as well.
All of this is MY OPINION of course.
The thing that is ultimately very sad about this regression to public bickering is the thought that time is inevitably going to march on for the remaining members of Pink Floyd. They didn't get on very well at the best of times but enough time and water had flowed under the proverbial bridge since 1985 that they could start to feel differently about one another and times gone by. To paraphrase John Lennon, when asked if The Beatles would ever get back together: "wounds are all healed and memories are now fond." Floyd had (finally!) gotten to the point where, if they still couldn't work together full time, they could make the occasional guest appearance, help raise large amounts of awareness and money for charity, and bring joy to their legions of fans.
But now they're all at the stages of their lives where, in all likelihood, they will take the current feud to their graves. And that is a real tragedy.
One thing Live 8 highlighted was - whatever the pinch of salt fragments of contributions that made "PINK FLOYD" what it was, the "I wrote this.." "You DIDN'T write that..." "I had the idea for that..." arguments that often permeate Floyd discussions - the thing that made everyone love Pink Floyd was a simple fact that it was those four individuals brilliantly doing what they do. There is only one Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason & Richard Wright. "Together we stand. Divided we fall."
Thanks for reading.