September 21, 2006

Roger Waters and the Dark Side of the Moon tour

I'm a huge Pink Floyd fan, so it was with great anticipation and excitement that I went to see Roger Waters in concert last night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. It was my first opportunity to see a former member of Pink Floyd perform live. Suffice it to say this concert was a big deal for me.

Tickets for this show were larcenously expensive at $110 a pop. My seat was virtually dead centre stage, but back about 60 rows from where the far goal-line would be. I've had worse. The live production offered extravagant visuals, so no mater where you sat there was plenty of eye candy -- including explosions, fireworks, three video screens, a flying pig (of course), a floating astronaut, and plenty of fog effects. The lighting was for the most part low and understated, a reflection of the Dark Side of the Moon theme.

The visuals were so good, actually, that it was at times distracting. I often found myself lost in the images, which included spacescapes, psychedelic imagery, and even comic-book style story boards; it was easy to forget that you were at a music concert.

The show was divided into 3 major sections. During the first part Waters played a number of Floyd songs that are mostly associated with him, while adding some material from his solo efforts. The opening set list went like this:

- In The Flesh
- Mother
- Set The Controls For the Heart Of The Sun
- Shine On You Crazy Diamond
- Have A Cigar, Wish You Were Here
- Southampton Dock
- The Fletcher Memorial Home
- Perfect Sense parts 1 and 2
- Leaving Beirut
- Sheep

These first 10 songs were performed so well and were arguably superior in quality and punch than the Dark Side of the Moon (DSOFTM) section and the encore. Waters’s band consisted of 11 performers including himself and they played wonderfully (i.e. they did a great job emulating the absent Pink Floyd members, including the virtuoso guitar playing of David Gilmour). Considering that the concert was in a hockey arena, I can't complain too much about the sound, although there were at times some suspicious mixing decisions for the vocals. Personal highlights for me included "Set the Controls," "Sheep" and "Have a Cigar."

Waters was, as usual, very political. He is known for his left-wing views and his pacificism, and in this time of geopolitical stress, Waters let it be known that he is not a happy camper. The trademark floating pig flew above us and was covered with messages, including one that read, "Don't be lead to the slaughter." Waters took several shots at George W. Bush, including a snide remark about his 'Texas education' and his comment about war actually being peace. He also had some nasty things to say about the religious right. Waters also took some jabs at Tony blair and mentioned how he feels the English have become stooges of the United States.

Waters has introducd a new song during this tour, titled "Leaving Beirut." It's his recollection of being 17 years old and stuck in the Middle East trying to hitch-hike home. He was taken in by an Arab family and was overwhelmed by their generosity and concern. He used this story as a way to expose current misconceptions and issues as they pertain to the current Mid-East crisis.

It's my understanding that much of Waters's anti-bush and anti-war commentary is not going over too well in some parts of the US. He was booed recently in New Jersey. Last night's audience appeared appreciative of Waters's message, but that's unsurprising here in Canada where anti-Americanism has become our national pastime.

After the opening 1.5 hour set the band took a 15 minute break in preparation for performing DSOTM in its entirety. This was the part I was eagerly waiting for -- and Waters didn't disappoint. All 11 band members took part in an outstanding recreation of the entire album. I had goosebumps running down my back during the whole thing. The videos in particular were brilliant, all set inside a circle representing the moon.

The band returned for an encore which consisted of the following tracks:
- The Happiest Days Of Our Lives
- Another Brick In The Wall (Pt 2)
- Vera
- Bring the Boys back Home
- Comfortably Numb

"Bring the Boys..." was particularly poignant given the political messages, as was Dollars and Sense from the opening set.

The only downside of the concert for me was the dearth of Floyd material pre-1973 (a period which I love, but is somewhat obscure). It would have been neat to hear some Syd Barrett era songs, or even something like Grandchester Meadows or Echos. Ah, well – I’ll have to continue suffering from the tyranny of the masses and their fixation on post-DSOTM Floyd.

The entire concert lasted 2.5 hours -- not bad at all and an epic by today’s standards. And even at that length, I didn't want it to end. Awesome, I truly had a blast last night -- a night I'll remember for some time to come.

Now, I've got Tool to go to on Saturday :-) Life is good.

Oh, and Dylan in November……


Phenomenal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Phenomenal said...

I read your article in IEET called 'James Lovelock's Gaian despair'. I have looked through you blog and see you are highly intelligent, however, you have misunderstood lovelock's words. He wasn't suggesting that we engage in luddhism. His message is that we won't be able to develop these technologies in time to save our civilization. 20 years seems like a long time. 20 years ago, there was not internet, laptops, and other wonders of human technology. However, in the last double century, we were uninterrupted by our earth. She let us go on as we please, quietly suffering as our technology advanced. In the next 20 years, we'd have to be daft to continue trying to continue using the same methods of energy consumption that got us into our present situation. That's his point. What use is having great technology is there is no one here to use it? Civilization is a delicate thing. If trade were to be interrupted just a little due to minor global diasasters (katrina is a good example), it would be impossible to continue living our lives, where we enjoy the luxury of developing new technology. I think his message was to use nuclear technology in order to minimize our carbon emissions into the air. He never said to stop technology innovation. The earth is alive, in much the same way a plant lives. They both don't walk or talk and yet they both change with the seasons. The sun gives them life. Our respect for earth's life must mirror our respect for our own lives and life in general. We shouldn't be using technology to try and model it to our needs, to synthesize, to make it into some artificial thing with no respect for all of the other ecosystems that live here. We should be learning how to live with it. Problem is, that's much, much harder to do.

Anonymous said...

I see your Roger Waters concert review. My friend saw him in Manassas, VA last night. He drove up 14 hours from Ft. Lauderdale, FL to see this band. He enjoyed the concert very much since he has been a fan for 30 years. This dates me also.
I don't understand your Bush comments though. Not to argue with your view because we are ALL entitled to our own thoughts but .. People I meet and people I have known for any length of time who know current events have so hated the Bush Years. I myself was not worried when Bill Clinton was president. Now the Bush gov't has made us all afraid to live in our own country. So so many people I meet thru my job wanted to leave the US and move to Canada. But they all say the same thing. They don't have the money to and they would miss their family. I meet many Canadians also who come to escape the cold here. We talk and laugh and we tell them we want to go back to Canada with them. Its scary to live in the US and watch our gov't scare us on the news every day. Sorry to vent...

George said...

Thank you for this last comment re: how the Waters tour is being received in the US. It's funny, I always wonder what the negative reactions will be and not the positive ones. Given the current hatred of the Bush administration by so many Americans, I think it's safe to say that Waters will likely have supporters than detractors.

hollibobolli said...

Hmmmm - I came here because I was searing for some info on the sets. We went a couple of nights ago.

I personally think it's much more disturbing that you refer to being against America as your pasttime, and Roger Waters rails out against a country, rather than a specific administration.

When you start judging people as a whole, rather than the policies - you become worse than those you're condemning.

George said...

I never said that anti-Americanism is *my* past-time, I was commenting on the general sentiment here these days. As for Waters, he wasn't attacking America or the American people, he was targeting the Bush Administration.

Anonymous said...

I watched them in Cleveland last week and what a show it was.

I can die happy now that I have seen my best ever live concert.

He is a fucking genius.

Anonymous said...

I was at the Toronto show and I heard several people commenting that he was being an asshole comparing Bush toMao and others. There was also a fair bit of booing during leaving beirut.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the set list and great review. I saw the Seattle show a few hours ago, the last on his tour, and it was mindblowing. I wish I'd known there was to be an intermission, since I missed "Sheep" for a much-needed restroom break.

The Seattle audience gave loud and supportive responses to the political lyrics and imagery. After DSOTM, Waters warmly thanked the audience for such a great reception. Perhaps it was the same speech he gives every audience, or perhaps reflective of the mixed reactions he received for unashamedly expressing his political views during the tour's shows.