Roger Waters US + Them Concert
I’m in my mid to late 60s and like many Baby Boomers, I suspect I’ll still be in an armchair, zimmer frame beside me, malt whisky in hand, drifting away to the sounds of Cream, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd in twenty years time. The concerts will no doubt have finished, but the legends will dance forever on DVDs, perhaps even laser light shows.
For those of us who lived, loved, laughed, smoked and somehow made it alive through the 60s and 70s, these are poignant times – we’ve lost the towering giants, Leonard Cohen and David Bowie, illness such as arthritis is beginning to make performing difficult for other giants – Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond’s had to stop. Individual band members such as John Lodge from the Moody Blues and Rick Wright from Pink Floyd have passed away, voices are starting to go and magnificent artists such as Elton John are calling ‘Closing Time’ on touring. The Stones? None of us know – I think it’s voodoo, but hell, they’re still wonderful.
The message being, if you love this music, buy a concert ticket! Go now my brothers and sisters, it’s later than you think! All of which is a very long introduction to writing about Roger Waters US + THEM concert and of course, Roger Waters himself.
“Which one’s Pink?” None of them and all of them, nor was there a Floyd, but dear God, was there ever a Pink Floyd! 1965 – Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright, with David Gilmour joining in 1967. When Syd’s dreadful mental health problems forced his departure in early 1968, bass guitarist Roger Waters became the main lyricist and is often referred to as Pink Floyd’s conceptual leader – think THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, WISH YOU WERE HERE, ANIMALS, THE WALL.
Unfortunately tensions between band members became such, that Roger Waters left in 1985. Since then, David Gilmour has continued to tour as Pink Floyd and Waters as Roger Waters, both groups playing the same back catalogue. There’s a lot more to the history, including a one off reunion in 2005, however this tale is of Waters.
Waters has long been touted as grumpy, difficult and a pain, he’s also a renowned activist and in the past has been so vehemently anti Israel, one could be forgiven for labelling him as anti Semite, all of which had kept him off my must-see list, as much as I loved his music, all of which amounted to nothing, when I found I would be home in Perth when he was touring his US + THEM concert – would the chance to see him ever come about again? I bought tickets, though my wife was even more hesitant than me re the Jewish animosity (we’re not Jewish, indeed my wife is German) – we don’t not support Palestine, rather we see both sides, but enough of the politics.
Though we were seated at the rear of the floor, the view was excellent and as it turned out, the multi media meant we were in the thick of things. But first, my only complaint and I plan to take it further. I have no idea why you would pay hundreds of dollars for a concert ticket and then constantly get up to buy beer, then go the loo, then buy more beer. It drove us mad, your view was constantly blocked by fuckwits who can’t go an hour without a bloody beer! I have struck this once before, at a Leonard Cohen concert in Dublin – perhaps it’s the Irish ancestry coming to the fore – we’re basically alcoholics. The problem is very easily solved. Everyone is allowed to buy a drink (beer, water, wine etc) before the show and bring it in, plus there is an interval to do the same. Perth Arena, CLOSE THE BLOODY BARS WHILST THE SHOWS ARE ON! Simple! It is disrespectful to the artist. Certainly people will still need to go the loo, that’s fine, but a constant stream of people going to and fro is off the planet. If you can walk out of Roger Waters playing WISH YOU WERE HERE to buy a beer, you’re not a fan, you’re just a fuckwit boozer with no appreciation for musicianship, melody or lyrics, the songs mean nothing to you, other than a drunk memory from the past. Rant over.
There’s no point in trawling through every song, we all know them, stand outs just kept happening one after the other. However ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL was something else. It came on early in the first set, I’d wondered what he’d do to freshen it up – we’ve all seen the cartoon imagery a thousand times. My mouth and I suspect those of most other people at the concert, except those out buying beer, is still open in stunned disbelief. As the band got under way, people came out on stage dressed in Guantanamo Bay orange hooded suits, facing the crowd, dancing in front of the band, suddenly their hood were removed, to reveal kids of all ages, singing, “All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall!” As if that wasn’t gob smacking enough, towards the end of the anthem, the kids climbed out of their prison suits to reveal they were all wearing t-shirts reading RESIST!. In light of what’s going on in the US with kids taking the lead against guns and violence, it was one of the most powerful visual images I have ever seen. At the end of the song, Roger Waters explained that although they’d been using kids as they toured around the show around the World, they’d never done it quite like this, he added they’d only met the kids (Variety Youth Choir) at 5.30pm that night and he couldn’t believe how good they were and it was. He laid his arm over his heart and the big screens showed he had tears in his eyes. He had me, my wife and our friends, lock, stock and barrel.
After interval, Waters deeply anti war message asserted itself as the theme of every anthem. It was powerful and I have never witnessed any singer prepared to take a political stand as openly and forcefully he has. Brave, powerful and so decent, you just wanted to shake his hand and yell out, “YES!”
Battersea Power Station and the Pig! (from ANIMALS), are both synonymous with anything Pink Floyd, and they featured in this show, like you wouldn’t believe! The audience became aware a long web of machinery was lowering above them, stretching back from the front of the stage, to the rear of the auditorium. Once lowered, screens began to rise and from three or four boxes, chimneys extended, puffing out smoke. Suddenly projectors threw the image of the power station walls onto the screens, you were literally there, sitting beside the brick walls of the power station, utterly surreal. Somehow, it didn’t interfere with the band, it all just became one, then the PIG did fly! But this time, there were no wires and, as Pig was inside, no danger of flying away to shut down Perth airspace!, the pig was radio controlled, flying effortlessly around the room.
Waters got vicious. Nope, not about Israel, President Trump. Whilst other despots featured now and then, as the band segued into PIGS, Trump’s image was everywhere. Trump Tweets flashed up on the screen, they were on Pig. Waters ended the segment yelling “Trump is a fucking idiot!” The auditorium rose as one, hands thrust into the air, they agreed. RESIST! sprayed across the screens.
Sudden darkness, then lasers formed THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON triangle, at the same time, they also began to form the prism effect, bringing yet another massive cheer from the crowd – we didn’t need a guitar, we all knew what was coming, but we didn’t know Waters had a radio controlled Moon. Just as Pig had flown over us, the Moon floated over us, at times hovering over the stage, in front of the laser triangle / pyramid. You didn’t need a joint, or even a wine, this was out of the world, sublime is the correct word and the band! The sound WAS Floyd, just brilliant musicianship and vocals, all you could do was stand and cheer as each anthem finished.
Half an hour overtime, Waters finished a beautiful song PART OF ME DIED (not one of his) lamenting lost love, tender, tears, then there was only one song he could possibly do. The sensation was that of bordering on the edge of sexual climax, you knew it was coming.
“Hello? Hello? Hello? Is there anybody in there?”
Two hands on the massive back screen slowly came together, as COMFORTABLY NUMB pealed, soared and soaked across the auditorium into every soul. The beer drinker procession slowed to just three or four people. The hands disintegrated, the human cost of war splashed across the screen, COMFORTABLY NUMB took on a resonance that hopefully will stick with us all. Ticker tape began to fall from the ceiling, as we reached out to take them, we realised they read RESIST! Waters put down his bass guitar and unfurled an Aboriginal flag. Tears in his eyes and his hand once more tapping his heart, he told us the Australian and New Zealand audiences had been the best, “.. just something else!”
I believe him. I have had the fortune to witness one of the greatest events – rock concert just doesn’t do it justice, I’ve ever witnessed. I loved it, I loved the music, I loved the message and I love the bloke. My wife Ann was just shaking her head, “OMG! Wow, incredible!” I looked at my boofy mate, I don’t think he’ll mind my saying I saw his tears – they were rolling down my cheeks as well. His wife, a well respected Opera singer in her own right, said, “I am awe struck – the band, the presentation, him, the sound, just brilliant!”
You bloody bet!
Courtesy of The West Australian, here’s the Set List:
Speak to Me
One of These Days
The great Gig In The Sky
Welcome to the Machine
The Last refugee
Wish You Were Here
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall (Parts 2 and 3)
Pigs (Three Different ones)
Us and Them
Smell the Roses
Wait for Her
Part of Me Died