Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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PINK FLOYD IN CONCERT: DELICATE SOUND OF THUNDER

**

Directed by Wayne Isham.
Starring Pink Floyd.
(CBS Music Video, 1989, color, $29.95.)

By Robert Christgau and Carola Dibbell

We had hopes for Pink Floyd's concert video even though we're not fans of their recent music. This was the model art-school band, and through psychedelic overload, studio obsession, and interpersonal abuse they'd retained their flair for the visual. Their graphic intelligence (especially in the great Hipgnosis covers of the '70s) is unequalled in rock, and they've always had a sense of spectacle--concocting mammoth animations and vast props where workaday rockers posture inanely in the eye of the arena. Perhaps, we thought, they'd defeat the contradictions of the concert-video form as well. But instead they succumb to them.

Since the mid-'80s, the rest of the band has been at odds with onetime front man Roger Waters, and the 1987 tour the video documents was designed to show that Floyd didn't need "Another Brick in the Wall." But like the album it promoted, which contributes five consecutive songs to a disastrously dreary opening, all it proved was that guitarist David Gilmour couldn't write Waters's grocery list.

Singing has been less an issue--Floyd's stately, impersonal music doesn't call for much emotion or timbre or melodic acuity. But in concert, it's always lived or died with the visuals, and the enormous, slow-moving effects that complement the songs' ersatz grandeur live are impossible to reproduce on a television screen. Musicians and audience here are better-shot than is customary, and while the filmic distractions provided--South African clips under "Us and Them," lost-in-an-endless-corridor imagery--are tinged with Floyd's usual pretensions, they certainly look good. It's just that video scale trivializes them--or else makes clear that there wasn't much behind them to begin with. We don't know which, and we don't care. Pink Floyd's audience is now a kind of permanent megacult. Delicate Sound of Thunder is for their eyes only.

Video Review, Aug. 1989