Cinematic Releases: David Gilmour Live At Pompeii (2017) Reviewed

There is a certain quiet, gentle nobility about a man like David Gilmour, a spirit that stands tall and dons the guitar like he is cradling the secrets of the very soul. And when the music bleeds from his fingers, all seventy-one of his years on this planet flash from him in a panoply of sounds that vary from the needling births of chords to the screaming crescendos that tail the kite of lyric poetry.

Gilmour’s history as a musician spans decades, both in and out of Pink Floyd, and his Live at Pompeii revisits many of the highlights of his expansive career. The theatrical release, which precedes a simultaneous CD/LP/Blu-Ray/DVD and boxed set release on September 29, does not feature every song from the live Pompeii gig in July, 2016 – but it pulses with Gilmour’s energy and piques desire for the full release.

It’s impossible to describe the effects of Gilmour’s skill – not so much as a performer, but as a true musician – in mere words, but there are some incredible highlights to discuss, fraught with the emotion and passion Gilmour brings to the stage together with his live band, and watching them come alive in the music is an honestly joyful experience, even in a movie theater.

It’s hard to believe Gilmour is a septuagenarian, for the moment he breaks free from his opening-song nerves, his face blooms with a youthful grin. He steps to the microphone, guitar held lovingly, and he seems to move backwards in time, a man with more life in front of him than most of his audience. The rest of the band, too, just seem to be having so much fun – it’s infectious, even from a distance. The enormity of Pompeii’s amphitheater, as a venue, is part of the vastness of Gilmour’s performance – it, like the ghosts of Richard Wright and Syd Barrett, haunt the concert film with an eerie resplendence.

Songs from Pink Floyd’s immense canon, as well as from Gilmour’s latter two solo records, pepper the setlist, each backed with stunning light cues, poignant animations, and all of the laser pizzazz and fireworks one would expect from such a huge live undertaking. But, whereas the narrative journey of ex-Floyd bandmate Roger Waters took him to personal history in his concert documentary for The Wall, David Gilmour prefers to let the music itself tell the story. This is a live experience, as much as it can be – not overtly theatrical, but nuanced in the sense that Gilmour’s life story is told from the perspective of the things he does not say. His fingers walk us through his youth, his lost friendships, the highs and lows of superstardom and the peace, joy, and sorrow it is to be a person looking back.

This is not to say that one method is better than another to tell the story of Pink Floyd, or to move from one measure to another – literally or musically. But there is so much to digest, watching this man play and sing. There is so much substance, that one feels the winds of Pompeii crooning along to each hard-held melody, each stretch of Gilmour’s patience and imagination.

Take, for instance, the sheer heartfelt humanity expressed in the guitar solo which closes “In Any Tongue,” a track from Gilmour’s latest studio album, Rattle That Lock. The black-and-white, pencil-sketch animated video that accompanies it, illustrating the trauma a young soldier feels when faced with his enemy one-on-one, isn’t necessary to convey the pathos and pain – but it is astonishingly adept at bringing the words and the music together.

“Sorrow” – a largely underappreciated song from Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason, too, is a thundering and effective surge of brilliance; it speaks to the divorce of Waters from Pink Floyd earlier in the 1980s, and even today the sting is evident. But there is peace, too, and a silent nod from Gilmour that hatchets can be buried, and beauty can rise from the ashes. Things don’t end, so much as evolve.

It goes without saying that Floyd classics carry special weight here, from the melancholia of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, to the furor of “Run Like Hell” and the classic, signature solos of “Comfortably Numb”. Gilmour pulls no punches and leaves the crowd breathless, every note a dot in the dash of his years of life.

On September 29, if you are a David Gilmour fan – if you love the master’s melodies, if you have a soft spot for his live iterations of Floyd classics and you are a fan of his solo endeavors – his Live at Pompeii will be a treasured part of your collection. Like good live music should, it will give you chills, make your heartbeat follow the tunes, and Rattle That Lock inside your bones. 

Additional screenings are available September 14th-19th. For further info, visit


Dana Culling