Live at Pompeii: The Director's Cut
First Appeared at The Music Box, April 2004, Volume 11, #4
Written by John Metzger
Thereís something extraordinarily pretentious and egotistical about a band performing within the confines of an abandoned amphitheater at the site of a horrible volcanic disaster. Yet, Pink Floyd with the help of director Adrian Maben managed to make it work. Since its release in 1972, Live at Pompeii has been updated not once but twice. Initially, interviews and studio footage from the recording sessions for Dark Side of the Moon were added to turn the hour-long concert film into a 90-minute documentary, and more recently, it was updated with imagery from the BBC series The Planets as well as a computer-generated recreation of Pompeii and its destruction in order to create Live at Pompeii: The Directorís Cut. Amazingly, each iteration has brought new life to the movie, and both the original and most contemporary incarnations are included as part of the newly released DVD.
In short, Live at Pompeii found Pink Floyd, the greatest and most commercially successful art-rock outfit, at a crossroads in its career. The ensemble already had demonstrated its knack for exploring textured sonic spaces, and it had begun to change direction, focusing its energy on developing a more song-oriented approach, which, of course, resulted in its monumental breakthrough Dark Side of the Moon. Interestingly, despite a huge overlap in material, the two versions of the movie offer different perspectives of this same story. The former stands as a beautifully shot concert film while the latter, with its interviews and studio footage, feels more like a documentary ó albeit one that was made without the full knowledge of exactly the type of transformation that was occurring within its subject. In both cases, Maben perfectly encapsulated the bandís intensity and viewed it with a ballet-like style reminiscent of Stanley Kubrickís 2001: A Space Odyssey. Additionally, in lieu of a full-length commentary, the DVD features an informative 24-minute interview with Maben that covers the entirety of the project from its conception to its completion as well as its subsequent re-configurations.
When one gets right down to it, however, Live at Pompeiiís success ó no matter which variation one happens to be viewing ó has been due largely to the music. From the sprawling sound-study Echoes to the symphonic freak-out Saucerful of Secrets, from the eerie Careful with that Axe, Eugene to the thrashing One of These Days, Pink Floyd delivered art-rock that has remained spellbinding, durable, and timeless. In hindsight, it is certainly easier to see that Dark Side of the Moon didnít just come into being; it was a logical extension of the music made during the first six years of the bandís recording career ó a notion that comes into full view within the theatrical air of Live at Pompeii.
Live at Pompeii is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box