Posted August 18, 2023 in Reviews & News by matheostheo11
Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place, Toronto
August 18th – September 4th, 2023
As a Pink Floyd fan born in the 90s, you tend to feel left behind by the greatness that came just before you. The beginning era of the band was magic and psychedelic. It was filled with so many sights and sounds that tantalize our senses, make us challenge the way we view the world, and guide us to discover new love within our own creativity. From the refracting prism to the man-on-fire, to the giant inflatable pig, the imagery of the band is as strong as childhood memories. As you listen, you are cradled and supported by sound. You can’t wait for what’s next as silky smooth voice lures you forward.
Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett was clearly the bands driving force in the early days. Their talisman, wrote the majority of their 1967 studio album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. The album was a hit, and we thought Barrett would skyrocket like the popularity of the band. But then it’s over as quickly as it began. In 1968, Barrett abruptly exited out of Pink Floyd. Struggling with mental health and substance abuse, he was a true artist that felt the pressures of the music business and stardom. The band soldiered on and produced hit after hit with their new dynamic songwriting duo Roger Waters and David Gilmour.
But unfortunately, in 1987, Roger Waters officially split from Pink Floyd.
As a die-hard Floyd fan who is too young to even experience this tragedy, it is a devastating part of the band’s history. Roger Waters and David Gilmour were truly oil and ‘waters’. Gilmour was the more technical and creative guitarist, able to create soundscapes and auditory imagery. Waters was a talented musician in his own right, but he was always the lyricist, the wordsmith. But like many unsuccessful relationships in power like Shaq and Kobe, their differences forged fire. They created living things that will affect generations for times to come. In fact, Gilmour and the rest of the band went on to prove they could be successful without their first true love.
Scattered throughout the exhibit, were stories, anecdotes and tidbits that even the devote Floyd fan might miss. The early days of the band saw them bounce and jump around bars and shows in Cambridge, England. They were first called Tea Set, but Syd Barrett created the name on the spur of the moment when he discovered that another band, also called the Tea Set, were to perform at one of their gigs. The name comes from two musicians whose Piedmont blues records Barrett had in his collection, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.
They were so intertwined in the British rock scene, they were recording their first studio album while a little-known band named the Beatles, recorded Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band in the room next-door. It was incredible to see the physical, original recording contract they signed, and a visual map of all the gigs they played in the early days and so much more.
Some cool little artefacts included original international debut posters from rare performances. With old band posters and stickers plastered to my desk as I work, it was very hard not to picture this poster in my own house. What would something like this even be worth? Pink Floyd debuted Dark Side of the Moon and the album wouldn’t be released until the fall of 1972, so the audience was in for a surprise. This was the first night at this venue and was recorded and broadcast by Tokai FM in Japan.
As Pink Floyd grew larger, they demanded bigger and bigger crowds. They realized that they were simply dots on stage to some of the people in the back of a 60,000-person football stadium. So, what did they do? They created a bunch of inflatables of course. Cue the stories of the flying inflatable pigs…the nuclear 2 and 1/2 family…the fridge filled with worms. It was all there at the exhibit. If you carefully looked around, they were woven throughout the experience.
As someone who works for a music store and is surrounded by expensive music gear on a daily basis, I’m always like a kid in a candy store when it comes to instruments. But let me tell you, these heavy hitters of rock history literally sent shivers down my spine, and I was still separated by an inch of glass. While there were a number of replicas, most of the instruments were the actual instruments used by the band across various stages of their career. Alongside the instruments were little taped pieces of instruction, sometimes a message, a note, a whisper. You could feel the ethereal energy coursing through the airducts of the Better Living Center. There was just so much Rock ‘n’ Roll and Pop history sitting in front of me just asking to be played.
Even though it would have worked perfectly, it was perhaps very telling that the exhibit did not end with this quote. And it did not end on the mostly instrumental album in memory of Rick Wright, Endless River. The exhibit finished with probably the most awkward part of Floyd’s history. On 2 July 2005, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright performed together as Pink Floyd for the first time in more than 24 years, at the Live 8/Make Poverty History concert in London’s Hyde Park.
Seeing Roger and David on stage together, smiling wincingly. Being forced together for a grand hug, Gilmour says it best, it was like sleeping with your ex. But for fans of the band and charity members, we all watched with jubilant intensity. We somehow knew we were getting a rare treat, that would likely never be offered up again.