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MUN FLOYD featuring Ron Geesin and David Gilmour
Chelsea Festival, Cadogen Hall 15 June 2008

The second of two performances of Atom Heart Mother, this one with special guest David Gilmour which made for a truly a magical evening.

"Atom Heart Mother" is the opening 23 minute title track of Pink Floyd's 1970 LP, the band's first big seller, which took prog rock to a new level with a brass section, choir, cello and orchestration from Ron Geesin. This show combined all that and a whole lot more.

Both nights opened with an introduction from the festival's director before Ron introduced the 10 piece Royal College Of Music brass ensemble, who performed a new piece written by Geesin. A staccato intro would have surprised all those who were here to see ATM, but it built and smoothened. I personally found it a little too challenging.

A sense of humour shone over any nerves and tension as Ron Geesin then read out some writings (aphorisms and anti aphorisms); it was only after 2 or 3 of these that the audience began to understand these statements, but they soon were laughing in both humour and understanding. The previous evening had included work read from a self published book of some 30 years ago, which promptly sold out.

The piano piece was manic, Geesin foot stomping to his own high paced ivory abuse and it was certainly appreciated. In typical Geesin fashion, this was not written until sat at the piano.

Cellist Caroline Dale then joined Ron for a new composition, for cello and banjo with eastern tuning entitled "Fight or Flight"; one for art lovers and loved accordingly. Dale is certainly one of the best players I've heard, but then I've not heard that many.

A more traditional banjo was then used to introduce the concept of thrash banjo playing in a rather unique solo performance. Some manic mutterings (for an idea of the sound, think insane German done in a heavy Glaswegian accent) accompany. Ever seen a rock fan appreciating music, enjoying the humour and confused all at once? There were many.

Closing the set was abuse of a bass marimba (like the solo banjo and piano, typical of Geesin on stage) which led into a choir piece accompanied by slowed song of blackbird. Atmospheric and a whole lot more than just pleasant. Geesin was first to applaud them, and to shoo the audience to the bar.

The second set opened (similarly to the previous evening) with Ron Geesin introducing the track "Atom Heart Mother" itself, with a potted history and a brief slide show, including his own compositions, photos of the band in the studio and more, all mixing humour and facts, giving fans an opportunity to learn what is oft overlooked (and what the band have almost disowned for the last 35 years); felt particularly proud to get a name check having spent a day and a half in Colindale newspaper library (part of the British Library) researching exactly which newspaper ran the story from which the title was taken.

Ron then introduced the choir, brass ensemble, Caroline and conductor Mark Forkgen (who I met with the band, Caroline and David at the previous Thursday's rehearsal). Top Italian tribute band Mun Floyd then took to the stage with rapturous applause, tonight only featuring second lead guitarist David Gilmour (or as Geesin puts it, "a fellow tree hugger from Sussex").

Tonight's performance of "Atom Heart Mother" is longer that even last night's performance, with one of the cello solos extended considerably, and one piece repeated with the out of step transposing, as per the original recording, and again as originally intended.

The piece itself starts (eventually, the slow and noisy retraction of the projection screen also annoying Gilmour) with brass chords intended to grate, and the band come in together. I would describe the song in too much detail, but you get here over 30 minutes of progressive rock with brass, choir and cello.

It is an interesting and unique arrangement, including 2 guitars. Gilmour, who seems to take a little while to loosen up, mixes guitar and lap slide guitar, seems to lose himself in a world of his own during a long solo that would please any Floyd fan and more. A couple of bars are missed, don't know if it was a technical trouble with the guitar just losing sound.

The Mun Floyd guitarist plays a little extra (under instruction, from Thursday's rehearsal) to allow David to sit or stand where required.

The cello parts work very well, Caroline Dale's playing vigorous, and the choir mix in extremely well.

The piece is complete with sound effects, augmented with Geesin's piano playing (some direct to strings for added effect), who also adds the shout of "Silence In The Studio".

Part of the song was played again for the encore too.

At the end there was a standing ovation and quite right too. All hugs and smiles, but compared to the previous evening's unified bow, it was a little shambolic; no-one taking the MC role to bring everyone together.

Overall a complete success, a unique and enthralling experience. Those who had travelled from around the world have deemed it more than worthwhile.

A performance like this, with or without band involvement, should not be restricted to an arts festival.

Review by Joe Geesin

Best of 2008




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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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