The new Pulse DVD is the much-anticipated follow-up to the VHS release of Pink Floyd's best-selling concert video documenting their monumental Division Bell tour of 1994. Rumors began spreading back in 2004, possibly earlier, of the DVD's imminent release, but the date was pushed back numerous times, with production problems or scheduling conflicts usually to blame. Now that it has finally arrived, was it worth the wait? Of course it was.
The two-disk DVD package comes in a basic two-fold digipack and features some trippy new artwork by Storm Thorgerson. A four-page booklet is inside includes mainly concert photos and menu maps for each disk. David Gilmour also made sure to throw in a postcard ad for his new On An Island album. Much of the video has been re-edited, sometimes for the worse, using alternate camera angles, which may leave you scratching your head if you recently viewed the VHS version.
Pulse was recorded on October 20th, 1994, during Pink Floyd's two-week stand at London's Earls Court, while touring in support of the recently released, Roger Waters-less, Division Bell album. For those of you lucky enough to have seen the tour, or who at least saw the original VHS version of Pulse, you know that the Division Bell tour was one of the most amazing visual spectacles to ever call itself a rock concert. I can't say that it has been, or ever will be, topped. The stage is so damn enormous, and the wall of lights, lasers, videos, and special effects are so spectacular that you might find yourself forgetting that there is actually a band playing up there.
Although this tour was in support of the Division Bell album, the real star here was The Dark Side Of The Moon – performed in its entirety. The performance was absolutely stunning, and I look forward to comparing Roger Waters' version, when I see him next month. Before the Dark Side album was trotted out, the Floyds opened the show with a mesmerizing "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". Right off the bat you will notice that some of the camera angles have changed dramatically from the original release, especially the opening sequence which now focused much more on Gilmour than the screen film.
From there, they trot out the best of the post-Waters material, with four songs from the Division Bell and two from A Momentary Lapse Of Reason. I probably appreciate the Division Bell material more than most long time Floyd fans, but these performances mostly just created a high sense of anticipation for what was soon to follow. The end of the first set gives you a sneak peek of exactly that, starting with a loose, highly improvised version of "Another Brick In the Wall", followed by their ferocious instrumental classic "One Of These Days", from 1971's Meddle album. Watching two giant inflatable pigs squealing in delight as Gilmour tears through this brilliant slide guitar masterpiece made it the obvious highlight of the first set. Too bad the editor couldn't add the footage of the pigs actually jumping down to the ground.
After the first intermission, the stage darkens to reveal a huge heartbeat pulse flickering across the giant circular screen. This, of course, triggers the beginning of The Dark Side Of The Moon's opening track "Speak To Me". After a haunting performance of "Breath" things really heat up, literally, as "On The Run" ends with a burning airplane flying across the entire length of the arena until it crashes and explodes into a giant fireball at the front corner of the stadium. Oh, it only gets better.
The famous orgasmic female vocals on "The Great Gig in the Sky" were performed stunningly by Sam Brown, but when she handed off the ending part to the other two backup singers they failed to sustain the same electricity. "Money" featured a cool soulful/blues breakdown in the middle, before ending with another phenomenal Gilmour guitar solo. The set came to an end with a dazzling light display that signaled the end of "Eclipse", which brilliantly concluded The Dark Side Of The Moon.
After a second intermission, the recorded intro to "Wish You Were Here" fills the arena, before a spotlight eventually shines on Gilmour as he fingers the opening chords to this timeless classic. It was as beautiful as I've ever heard it. This leads to what I was especially anxious to see on DVD, since it is one of my favorite songs of all time, "Comfortably Numb". The performance was plenty awesome, but the stage show now goes from merely astonishing to downright mind-blowing. During Gilmour's second guitar solo, the huge circular screen/lighting rig begins to rotate down, horizontally, over the stage, and by the end of the song the giant mirror ball that had been reflecting a dozen spotlights all over the stadium, slowly peels open like some monstrous alien spaceship — and that was just child's play compared to the light show during the finale of "Run Like Hell".
When I first saw the VHS version of Pulse sometime around 1998, I vowed not to watch it again until I had the DVD version in my hand. It deserved to be seen on DVD with 5.1 surround sound. Little did I know it would take another eight years to achieve my objective, but the Pulse DVD has been worth the wait. Two Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio options are provided, one at 480 kbps and one at 640 kbps. David Gilmour helped with the production of these tracks, and did a remarkable job. A Dolby Digital stereo track is also included.
The booklet includes a disclaimer that the 640 Kbps track may not work on some "older" model DVD players, and this turned out to be true in my case. My four-year-old Hitachi DVD player would not play the 640 kbps track, but my cheaper, one-year-old Zenith player had no such problem. The 480 kbps track sounded excellent enough through my surround sound system, but the almost DTS quality 640 kbps track was a noticeable improvement, especially at lower volumes. The only problem I noticed with the mix was whenever the giant bass drum was struck by percussionist Dick Wallis, I thought my poor subwoofer was going to implode. It was mixed excessively loud.
This video really cried out for a widescreen presentation, considering the immensity of the stage show, but it was presented in its original full-frame format. Unfortunately this is a better option than artificially widening it and cutting off some of the picture in the process. The picture does suffer from some noticeable graininess, but the overall restoration looks fantastic. This easily blows away the VHS version. David Mallet generally did a good job with the camera direction, mixing in plenty of wide angle shots of the entire stage show, with some nice close-ups of each performer. He did often change angles too quickly, especially when Gilmour was in the middle of one of his amazing guitar solos, which is not exactly the ideal time to switch over to the backup singers or the video screen every ten seconds.
Considering the lengthy time it took to get this DVD released, Pink Floyd had plenty of time to come up with some excellent special features, and they did. These are the highlights:
- Bootlegging the Bootleggers: Camcorder footage of "What Do You Want From Me", "On The Turning Away", "Poles Apart", and "Marooned". The video is edited between multiple camera angles, and the audio sounds surprisingly decent.
- Screen Films: All of the screen films and animations are provided up close via the large, circular projection panel used on stage, which is referred to as "Mr. Screen". They also include several older, alternate versions of some screen films, which are all set to music from the concert.
- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction: Former Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan gives a reflective induction speech and then joins Gilmour and Wright onstage for a stripped-down version of "Wish You Were Here". Roger Waters and Syd Barrett were unfortunately absent from this 1996 ceremony.
- Also included was a 15-minute behind-the-scenes documentary called Say Goodbye To Life As We Know It, the music videos for "Learning To Fly" and "Take It Back", and more.
01. Shine on You Crazy Diamond
02. Learning to Fly
03. High Hopes
04. Take It Back
05. Coming Back to Life
07. Keep Talking
08. Another Brick in the Wall, Part Two
09. One of These Days
10. Speak to Me
12. On the Run
14. The Great Gig in the Sky
16. Us and Them
17. Any Colour You Like
18. Brain Damage
20. Wish You Were Here
21. Comfortably Numb
22. Run Like Hell