Pink Floyd

Echoes in the Garden

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Of the myriad reasons to dislike everything Pink Floyd have done since 1977, their inability to match inspiration with improvisation comes very high up the list, a point which an evening spent with this album proves. A three-CD package recorded at Madison Square Garden in June 1975, it is the sound of a cultural behemoth with an appetite to match. Dark Side of the Moon had already earned the GNP of a medium-sized European nation; the still-unreleased Wish You Were Here was about to do likewise...and what does the band do? Blow all their money on the light show, then kick off the set with four new songs: two from the new album, and two from the one after that. That's 55 minutes of utterly unfamiliar music, almost half of which wouldn't be officially available for another two years. Elsewhere on the eastern seaboard in 1975, the first New York proto-punk bands were playing entire concerts that lasted less time than that. Floyd were simply warming up. Never again would they plan a set with such novelty; never again would they play a set with such flair. No matter that the band's 1974/1975 live set has been one of the staples of the bootleg circuit almost from the moment Floyd closed the first show, still it remains essential. And this collection, less overworked than some shows on the tour, is even more vital than that, and not just for its sensibly packaged completeness, serving up one set per disc, plus the encore on the third. Nor for its sound quality, which really is exemplary; not even because it so utterly wipes the floor with any official Floyd live recording. It is vital because it reminds us that once upon a time, Pink Floyd were a real rock & roll band, with real rock & roll aspirations, and a capacity to surprise people without having to resort to flying pigs and decommissioned fighter planes. The fact that they still did resort to them, of course, simply added to the fun.

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