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
- 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
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)
- 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……