Roger Waters is one of the most prolific artists of our time. Founding the legendary Pink Floyd more than fifty years ago, he’s a remarkably gifted songwriter, a skilful musician, a master of production, and he’s also a very angry man. More on that a bit later…
You don’t go to a Roger Waters concert with any expectations other than to be wowed by fantastic music paired with a spectacular audio visual experience to die for. Fortunately, the Pink Floyd founder’s ‘Us And Them’ Tour lays it on to excess in what may possibly be one of his final forays as a touring artist.
Musically, you can’t fault Waters and his well-oiled band consisting of some wicked guitar playing by Dave Kilminster & Jonathan Wilson (who also shared lead vocals), and of course back-up singers (and total stars) Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig on loan from the Band Lucius. All players served the songs well, and with Waters to call the shots, they’d have to.
Perhaps a little more subdued in terms if song choices than his previous tour in 2007, Waters is making some clear statements in this tour. Opening with Breathe, followed by One Of These Days then Time, there’s no real obvious thread in the first set apart from it being a celebration of the music of Waters and Floyd. They’ve taken some liberties with minor aspects of songs, for example using only Wolfe and Laessig to deliver the solo parts in Great Gig In The Sky, which has historically been shared between 3 singers. Nonetheless, it works well and the same intensity is projected. The sound mixing is unsurprisingly loud, but is crystal clear and shows the subtle nuances and layers of Waters’ music.
The first set seems to be conditioning the audience for the onslaught that is to come after a short break.
Bring on Act 2-This is where Waters brings out the big guns. Not literally, as there is a clear anti-war sentiment threaded throughout the concert.
Video screens in the centre of the auditorium drop to display the old Battersea Power Station that featured on the Animals album, complete with billowing smokestacks and the trademark flying pig. The screens feature heavily in the second set to convey what is on Roger Waters’ mind. Remember when I said he was an angry man? Well, this is why.
Whilst playing Pigs (3 different ones) and Charade, the screens display a backdrop of U.S President Donald Trump in various incarnations, none of which are intended to be flattering.
It also shows some of his quotes without contextual explanation, and at the end of the song the final caption is ‘Trump Is A Pig.’ The trademark flying pig circles above our heads as this unfolds, and is also a metaphorical ‘middle finger’ to the U.S leader.
He also takes a swipe at Mark Zuckerberg and Google for their Orwellian tactics at controlling information, something he sees as sinister and is one of the drivers for his anger. For someone trying to deliver a message of compassion and more love in the world this is a little contradictory. But I digress…..
The show is audio-sensory bliss as you’d expect, and Waters certainly knows how to amaze an audience. The nod to Dark Side Of The Moon comes in the form of a genius rendition of the prism which encompassed half of the auditorium, with lasers forming both it and the rainbow colours. A ‘dark moon’ orbits the overhead space, adding to the spectacle. It was one of those ‘wow’ moments that will be etched in minds for years to come.
Finally, Waters addressed the audience, genuinely grateful for the years of support and love he felt. The song Mother, he said as he began playing it, summed up the overall feeling of the moment. It was poignant, and for a second I felt that Waters may have been saying goodbye to his adoring fans, perhaps hanging up his guitar to take rest after a stellar career. Hopefully not, but by geez the man deserves to if he so desires after 50 years of performing.
The final song was none other than Comfortably Numb, with the haunting guitar solos sending shivers up one’s spine for their sheer intensity and emotion.
As the song was coming to a close, Waters came down to the audience to shake hands and connect with the people whose lives he has indelibly marked through his music and incredible talent. It truly was bout ‘Us And Them’- Us that were there to experience the magic, and Them that missed out!