Pink Floyd’s return to the Southern California concert stage was greeted with all the enthusiasm and hoopla that we reserve for the biggest of our superstar acts. It’s too bad that the members of this veteran band didn’t reward us with a little enthusiasm and fire of their own.
At the first of two extravagantly ordinary stadium shows at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, fans of all ages and walks of life arrived hours early at this scenic, venerable venue and made a day of it.
Engaging in all manner of outdoor activity — from cooking, eating and drinking to frisbee and football — tens of thousands of Pink Floyd’s most loyal supporters came together early to await the magical arrival of these psychedelic musical saviors.
But when the appointed hour of 8:30 arrived, the group’s response to all the excitement was, sadly, unexciting. Opening with that old slacker anthem “Astronomy Domine,” from the band’s 1967 album “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” Floyd, led by low-key guitarist/singer David Gilmour, proceeded to slog through an hour’s worth of some its least challenging work, mainly culled from its two post-Roger Waters albums.
From the current No. 1 Columbia album “The Division Bell” came “What Do You Want From Me,” a flat, simple tune that attempts to recall 1975’s far superior (Waters-penned) “Have a Cigar,” and “Take It Back,” a song better suited for a Mike & the Mechanics record than a Pink Floyd disc.
“On the Turning Away,” from 1987’s “A Momentary Lapse of Reason,” was one of this first set’s winners. Gilmour’s ever-trusty, signature guitar tone poured out of his Stratocaster as his backing ensemble, comprised of longtime members Rick Wright and Nick Mason as well as many of the same support cast present on the 1987-88 tour, wove an uplifting, heavenly vibe out of the song’s powerful arrangement.
The first set’s closer, the 1971 instrumental “One of These Days,” was also notable. As Gilmour worked his slide guitar magic, huge, inflatable pigs appeared above the giant stage cover while the venue exploded in a rainbow of bright lights.
Some of the most popular rock songs of the ’70s were re-created in the second set. Though lacking much of the spirit or hunger that first inspired these tracks — many lifted from bestsellers “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall”– just hearing them seemed enough to the gathered.
There was “Great Gig in the Sky,” featuring a strong performance from the group’s trio of female backup singers; “Hey You,” not played since the two-city “The Wall” tour of 1979; a fat, energetic version of “Money,” spotlighting slick bassist Guy Pratt; powerful show closer “Run Like Hell”; and a rarely heard medley known to hard-core fans as the “Breathe reprise.” Also, “Dark Side” gems “Breath in the Air” and “Time” were folded into one soaring piece, arguably the 195-minute show’s most rewarding moment.
The concert was billed as containing some of rock history’s most spectacular effects, but actually came off with fewer tricks than the last tour, and probably offered little not seen before by most in the audience.
Despite little remaining inspiration or visible enthusiasm, Pink Floyd continues to give the people what they want — a return to a simple time when a scratched vinyl copy of “Dark Side of the Moon” was enough to live on.