So, after Queen and Led Zeppelin, it's time for another one of my favourite bands. Again, I selected a few recordings that I like and wrote them down chronologically, but this time it was harder to find good quality recordings, so a few of these might not be easily listenable by someone who has not that much experience with bootlegs.
I decided to focus on a 10 years period, from 1967 to 1977, basically because it was the most interesting phase regarding live performances. They gradually stopped improvising around 1975, but they still did here and there in 1977. After that, with The Wall and the post-Waters tours, it was a different beast: big and spectacular shows, but every night sounds roughly the same. On top of that, we have official releases for all of those tours, so there aren't many reasons to go and look for bootlegs unless you love those tours and you want more.
For years, if not decades, some very famous bootleg recordings would inevitably come up whenever you need to talk about Pink Floyd live: things like the BBC Sessions '67-'71, Wembley '74, Amsterdam '69… But since the release of the big boxset “The Early Years 1965 – 1972” many of those recordings have been officially released (Wembley '74 was part of the 2011 versions of Dark Side and Wish You Were Here, split in two parts, and the encore is in The Early Years), so I won't talk about those here, and I will look for alternatives. However, there have been discussions about the sound quality of those official releases (especially the BBC ones), and there seem to be some bootleg releases that sound better; so it might still be worth checking them out. Also, some studio outtakes on The Early Years have been remixed (notably Vegetable Man and Scream Thy Last Scream), so if you want to hear the original mix, bootlegs are still the way to go.
We start off with the only recording with Syd Barrett that I've chosen. The Stockholm show on The Early Years is without a doubt the best representation of this lineup live (along with the BBC Sessions), but if you want to hear more despite the barely listenable sound quality, you might want to consider this. The setlist is more or less the same as Stockholm, and on both of these shows the voices are barely audible. So I guess it wasn't a technical problem, they actually sounded like this whether it was a choice or a result of an inadeguate amplification. For completists and Syd Barrett fans. Also, interesting to hear Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun with Syd Barrett.
Paradiso Amsterdam 23/05/1968
Again, not the best sound quality here, but one of the best documents of early Pink Floyd with David Gilmour apart form the BBC Sessions. Most bootlegs releases from this date contain two shows from the same day, both around 50 minutes long each. We can hear new songs taking place in the setlists, like Let There Be More Light, A Saucerful Of Secrets, Keep Smiling People (an early Careful With That Axe Eugene), along with “oldies” like Interstellar Overdrive and Flaming.
Royal Albert Hall London 26/06/1969
Due to the official release of Amsterdam 1969 in The Early Years, we now have the best sounding versions of The Man And The Journey available, so I figured I'll look for another recording of that era. This one is sadly incomplete (it starts off with Afternoon/Biding My Time) and it doesn't sound as good as Amsterdam, but it's still very interesting to hear. Probably the biggest point of interest is The End Of The Beginning, where Richard Wright goes to the Royal Albert Hall pipe organ and the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra with the Ealing Central Amateur choir join in later on, creating an incredible climax, and the first signs of what was to come an year later (Atom Heart Mother).
9th National Jazz Pop Ballads & Blues Festival Race Tracks Plumpton 08/08/1969
Another interesting document from 1969, with a setlist that is right between The Man & The Journey and the usual one that ended up on Ummagumma. So you get things like The Narrow Way pt. III and The Pink Jungle, but also Set The Controls, Interstellar Overdrive and so on... The sound is not very good, but still listenable.
Festival Actuel Amougies Belgium 25/10/1969
The sound is possibly even worse here, but if you can bear that and the usual setlist more or less, you get the unique presence of Frank Zappa on Interstellar Overdrive! Of course now we have a video of it on The Early Years, but the whole concert is not there, so...
Fillmore West San Francisco 29/04/1970
This is probably when things start getting very interesting. The sound is great, the best without a doubt up to this point, the setlist is long and very good (along with the usual songs from 1969, we get the band version of Atom Heart Mother and Embryo). It's probably one of the best bootlegs overall, along with some very good alternatives we are about to see.
Civic Auditorium Santa Monica 01/05/1970
Only two days later and with the same setlist, so why am I suggesting this? Well, because the sound is possibly even better, and the shows from 1970 are never enough! This one is not complete, so there are a few patches from other shows to offer a full concert experience. Highly recommended!
Civic Auditorium Santa Monica 23/10/1970
Again in Santa Monica buth a few months later. This again offers the same setlist, but on Atom Heart Mother we have orchestra and choir! Another great quality recording too! It's interesting to see that Fat Old Sun, if compared to the 1970 BBC recording, has already gained a longer arrangement that will remain through 1971.
Casino Montreux 21-22/11/1970
These two consecutive concerts are certainly some of the best sounding Pink Floyd Bootlegs ever. The setlist is very similar (there are two improvised blues tracks at the end of the first one and Interstellar Overdrive at the end of the second one), and the band version of Atom Heart Mother on The Early Years was taken from the 21. Great couple of shows, highly recommended.
Taft Auditorium Cincinnati 20/11/1971
The 1971 BBC Session is probably still the best document from this year, along with maybe a few japanese concerts. But I've picked this one because, despite not sounding that good, it has the longest Embryo ever played, clocking in at around 26 minutes, with lots of iprovisations due to the keyboards having technical problems. What's interesting here is to catch some hints at future songs like Obscured By Clouds and Childhoods End. Also, obviously Echoes found its place in the setlist by now. It's also the last time Embryo and Cymbaline were played, being the last date of the tour.
Rainbow Theatre London 20/02/1972
This is probably the best sounding version of the early Dark Side Of The Moon when it was still called Eclipse. They played the whole album for all 1972 and it all slowly came into place. What's interesting is hearing The Travel Sequence, a funky jam in place of On The Run, The Mortality Sequence, an organ piece with recorded voices instead of The Great Gig In The Sky, and general differences like a slower Time sung in harmony by Gilmour And Wright. And obviously, no added singers and sax yet.The second half of the concert doesn't sound as good sadly, but it's still worth it for Eclipse.
Hollywood Bowl 22/09/1972
Another one with the same setlist, intresting if you want to hear how Eclipse/Dark Side developed over the months of touring and it also has a far better sounding second half of the concert compared to the Rainbow one. A very good concert.
Hallenstadion Zurich 9/12/1972
This is one of the last dates of this tour, so Eclipse/Dark Side is nearly fully developed, but what is interesting here is the rare and extended performance of Childhood's End! It's really worth it even for that song alone, far superior to its studio version. A very good alternative to this one, again with Childhood's End in the set, is Brussels 5/12/1972.
Radio City Music Hall New York 17/03/1973
A great recording from the tour supporting The Dark Side Of The Moon. Here the album is played in its final version, very close to the album (apart from a little bit of improvisation in Money and Any Colour You Like), so nothing really interesting or unique here, especially because we can hear a live version of Dark Side from 1974 in far better quality, so why am I suggesting this? Well, mainly because of the first half of the concert, where they open the show with Obscured By Clouds and When You're In, both in a longer and more improvised version. The rest of the setlist is occupied by Set The Controls, Careful, Echoes and One Of These Days, so nothing new here. Worth especially for the opening couple of songs. A good alternative is Music Hall Boston 14/03/1973.
Earls Court London 19/05/1973
Same exact setlist but another great recording. Worth checking it out if you like this tour and want more, it's certainly a great alternative to the New York one.
The Palace Theatre Manchester 09/12/1974
Obviously the Wembley show released on the Experience editions of The Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here is the first choice for this tour, but if you want another one, then this is probably it. The sound is obviously not as good, being an audience recording, but I find it to be at least acceptable. The main point of interest is obviously to hear Raving And Drooling, You Gotta Be Crazy (Sheep and Dogs) and Shine On You Crazy Diamond in their early shape. The full Dark Side is also played both here and in all the 1975 concerts.
Sports Arena LA 26/04/1975
Probably one of the best bootlegs from 1975 in terms of sound quality. The setlist is slightly different from the ones from 1974: Raving And Drooling and You Gotta Be Crazy (this second one in particular) are closer to their versions that will end up on Animals a couple of years later, and Shine On You Crazy Diamond is divided in two halves like the studio version, interrupted by Have A Cigar. I still have a bit of a problem with Echoes played with backing singers and sax, but let's say it's interesting.
Boston Garden, Boston 18/06/1975
Simply a valid alternative to the LA concert if you want more. Good sound quality, just not as good as the previous one.
Alameda Coliseum Oakland 09/05/1977
The best bootleg from 1977, with a great sound quality and a spectacular setlist. Both Animals and Wish You We Here are played in their entirety (the song order on Animals is a bit different: Sheep, Pigs On The Wing 1, Dogs, Pigs On The Wing 2, Pigs) very closely to the studio versions. They do however improvise quite a bit on the ending of Pigs and on Shine On pts. 6-9, bringing those two tracks way beyond their album version. Money and Us And Them are the first encores. Quite curiously, on this date only, they close the show with Careful With That Axe Eugene, a song they haven't played since 1973 and will never play again after this concert.
Olympic Stadium Montreal 06/07/1977
Same setlist, worse sound quality, but one of the most historically important concerts. This is the famous night in which Roger Waters allegedly spat on a fan in the first row. We obviously can't hear that, but it's clear that something is going on during the jam at the end of Pigs, where Waters shouts things like “come on boy, all is forgiven”, bringing the piece at an incredible climax like none other version. We can also hear him complaining for firecrackers during Pigs On The Wing. A very interesting show, not to be missed.