It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment that Pink Floyd peaked as a live act, but most fans would point to the group’s 1975 Wish You Were Here tour and their 1977 In the Flesh tour. These were wildly ambitious, boundary-pushing stadium shows where they flew airplanes directly over the audience, propelled inflatable pigs through the air and played their albums straight through. The Wish You Were Here tour actually finished before the album came out, so they played Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety every night. (Believe it or not, they never actually played “Wish You Were Here” on the Wish You Were Here tour.) Two years later, they played Animals and Wish You Were Here in their entirety at every show. Most everyone that didn’t get spat on by Roger Waters had an amazing time, and even that guy probably has fond memories of the evening.
Tragically, the band made no effort to film or even record a single stop on either of these tours. “The problem was we just hit a period where everyone was paranoid about bootleggers and we didn’t tape shows,” Floyd drummer Nick Mason recently told Rolling Stone. “There’s certainly nothing really good (from the Animals tour), just sort of monitor mixes and so on. We really should have done the whole thing, filmed and recorded it properly.”
That means the only audio and visual record of these incredible shows comes from bootlegs, and the type of devices that your average fan could sneak into a stadium in the mid-Seventies weren’t exactly conducive to creating a quality product, especially since most people were hundreds of feet from the stage and surrounded by drunken, screaming fans. The video here comes from various stops on the 1977 tour and it’s paired with audio of “Dogs” from an Oakland, California, gig on May 9th, 1977. It may look like it was shot by Abraham Zapruder, but this is as good as it gets.
The day may come when Pink Floyd gather up all the bootlegs from the In the Flesh tour and release them on an Animals box set, but they’ll most likely decide that it all simply looks too horrid. There’s incredible video of Pink Floyd at the UFO Club in 1966. Their 1971 gig in Pompeii is one of the great concert movies of all time, and the Wall tour of 1980–81 was at least professionally filmed on low-quality videotape that, for all its flaws, looks like 4K next to the “Dogs” video you can see here. But when it comes to Pink Floyd at their best, all we have are fading memories, some cool photographs and a pile of crappy bootlegs.