Pink Floyd in Concert
Early in 1994 when I found out that a tour operator was running a three-day trip to Paris to see the recently announced Pink Floyd concert that summer, I was quick to make my reservation, not wanting to miss the opportunity of seeing such an iconic band perform live. However, what should have been one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to turned out to be one of the worst!
Before I start getting hate mail from deranged people who just happen to also like Pink Floyd, let me state from the outset that the group, and the show, were every bit as good as their reputation would have us believe, if not better.
Entering the venue the French security were snatching people’s cameras, removing the batteries and tossing them into a bin, before handing the cameras back. For some reason though, the security men didn’t take mine. Either they thought my camera didn’t have batteries, or that I would give them too much trouble, and in so doing hold up the line of people waiting to enter. Their whole action, however, was futile. Photos would be taken by the people with cameras that didn’t need batteries, so why take the batteries from the cameras that did need them? Of course, as a projectile a battery is dangerous, but this was a concert people were going to, not a riot. People wanted to take photographs.
Inside the venue, before the concert started, I remember a group of youths trying to bulldoze their way to the front by charging through the crowd. Their attempt was futile, only managing to bust through three or four rows before their charge had lost its momentum. Apart from that incident, everyone was very orderly.
With banks of speakers at each corner of this large outdoor venue the audience was soaked in a magnificent sound. Prior to the start of the concert I heard what sounded like a very low-flying helicopter circling above. The effect, coming through the sound system and probably designed to heighten tension prior to the start of the concert, or even signifying the arrival of the band, was very convincing, and I wasn’t the only person to look up to check that a Chinook wasn’t about to land just a few meters away.
The music, the group, the sound, or even the battery-confiscating security guards were not the problem, the venue was – a flat field in Chantilly, on the outskirts of Paris. My belief that outdoor concerts where set up in fields that had a gentle slope, allowing people at the back to still have a clear view of the stage, was shattered. Even though I’m of average height, and the people in front weren’t towering above me, from my position somewhere in the middle of the field, I was unable to see a thing without standing on my tiptoes, something I didn’t want to do for the entire duration of the concert.
At one point, early into the performance, the band stopped and there was an announcement asking the audience to sit down on the grass, which would allow everyone to have a clear view of the stage. From the front, row by row, people began to sit down, and the stage in full started to appear. Then suddenly people stopped, not through a selfish desire to get the best view at the expense of the people behind them, but because everyone was packed so close together that it was physical impossible to sit down. The people near the front who had managed to sit down stood up again, and the concert continued.
Pink Floyd played a mix of some of their classic tracks, along with tracks taken from their newly released album The Division Bell. The light show, the pyrotechnics, the images projected onto the stage backdrop, the giant inflatable boars appearing from two large towers at either side of the stage, with bright lights for their eyes, all enhanced the musical experience. This really was a rock show to remember.
At the very end I remember an extremely bright light slowly emerging from the roof of a van, parked not too far from where I was standing. Not surprisingly everyone turned to face the light, and many, curiously, raised one arm towards it in salute. Before long the light went out and people started to leave. The concert was over.
It was only after I had purchased my ticket that I heard the band had announced a concert date in the UK and was going to be playing at Earls Court, London – a seated venue. Apparently this concert was extraordinary, with the band, I am told, performing the entire Dark Side of the Moon album.
Hearing the music of Pink Floyd – or any music for that matter – performed outside at dusk, coming through a powerful sound system, is quite an experience. However, if you are unable to see the stage and musicians, and have been standing for several hours prior to the start of the concert, it does tend to reduce the enjoyment factor.
In the days of film, not knowing how well they would come out, I only took five photographs at the concert, shown here scanned from the original prints, cropped, edited, and enhanced.