Review by Brian Wise.
SATURDAY MARCH 10, 2018 – ROD LAVER ARENA, MELBOURNE
Last September, when I saw Roger Waters in Brooklyn, I wrote that it was ‘a sure bet’ that he wouldn’t be on Donald Trump’s Christmas card list. Nothing has changed. For the Australian leg of his Us+Them world, Waters continued his vitriolic attack on the U.S President and – just to show even more political commitment – spoke about the Palestinian situation at an event the evening prior to his first Melbourne show. (His concert was also full of images alluding to the situation).
You must give credit to Waters for being prepared to speak his mind when so many others have been silent. And as I pointed out last year, there are some countries where this sort of expression of opinion would probably be quashed!
While the political aspect of the Waters’ show is as strikingly powerful as its visual component, it is still the music that is the main attraction. So much of the Pink Floyd catalogue, which comprises most of this show, has political allusions that the messages are impossible to avoid. But those messages are delivered through a batch of memorable songs with a band that is as astonishingly good as Waters’ previous outfits (all except the original Pink Floyd).
With Waters holding down bass for most of the songs, there is naturally enough, a guitar heavy sound. Dave Kilminster occupies one side of the stage while Jonathan Wilson is on the other, in what seems like his own little pod, replete with vast array of effects pedals. Wilson’s solos turned out to be sublime. There was no Dave Gilmour here but if you closed your eyes it was pretty close!
Other instrumentalists include Guy Seffert and Chester Kamen on guitars, John Carin on keyboards and Joey Waronker on drums. Ian Ritchie, sax. In past years, backing singers have included the great PP Arnold and this time around they were Lucius singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, who turned out to be a really noteworthy discovery.
While Waters assumes lead vocal on classics such as ‘Time’ and ‘Wish You Were Here,’ he allows the other band members, especially, Wilson to sing other songs such as ‘Breathe’ and ‘Money’. Occasionally, I got the same feeling I had when I saw Mick Jagger touring solo and singing Stones’ songs. Was I watching the best Pink Floyd cover band ever? I think it might be a bit unfair to make that assessment in this case because the music is played so brilliantly and, after all, Waters did write most of the songs. Without a reunion on the horizon this is probably the closest we’ll get to actually hearing Pink Floyd.
The visuals flashed onto the large screen at the back of the stage dealt with weighty issues – war, poverty and politics. Add the massive screen that drops from the middle of the arena to show the Wandsworth power station (from the cover of Animals) and other images – as well as the inflatable pig with the word ‘Trump’ scrawled on it – and it can all be a bit over powering at times. Sometimes it was best just to sit back and immerse yourself in the experience.
It was thrilling and emotional to hear a stunning version of ‘Wish You Were Here,’ a song that is still redolent with meaning. A welcome surprise for some fans was the fact that Waters performed most of The Dark Side of The Moon. Of course, the songs received instant recognition as the album was as big a hit here as in America and its relevance seems to have resurfaced. I know I’ve heard it a million times before but one of the first things I did after the show was to drag out my copy of The Dark Side of The Moon and relive its ambience.
However, one of the biggest responses of the evening came for a selection from The Wall, including ‘Another Brick In The Wall,’ which featured local children in costume, singing and dancing. It was intriguing to watch and hammered home the theatricality of the show.
One might have thought that the audience would have been packed with baby-boomers but, while they did comprise a large percentage of the crowd, there were plenty of younger punters in, suggesting that the Pink Floyd legacy is still strong. No-one would have gone home thinking they were short-changed. In fact, while I opted for the cheapest seats (A$101) in the house because I had recently seen the show in the USA, the view from the second last row right of stage was excellent and the sound was fabulous.
At 74 years of age, Roger Waters maintains the rage, as they say. He has suggested that this might be his last world tour. If so, he has left us with some indelible memories. It remains one of the most spectacular rock shows I have ever seen and probably am ever likely to see!
ROGER WATERS SET LIST
Speak to Me/Breathe (The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973)
One of These Days (Meddle, 1971)
Time (The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973)
Breathe (Reprise) (The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973)
The Great Gig in the Sky (The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973)
Welcome to the Machine (Wish You Were Here, 1975)
Déjà Vu (Is This The Life We Really Want?, 2017)
The Last Refugee (Is This The Life We Really Want?, 2017)
Picture That (Is This The Life We Really Want?, 2017)
Wish You Were Here (Wish You Were Here, 1975)
The Happiest Days of Our Lives (The Wall, 1979)
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 (The Wall, 1979)
Another Brick in the Wall Part 3 (The Wall, 1979)
Dogs (Animals, 1977)
Pigs (Three Different Ones) (Animals, 1977)
Money (The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973)
Us and Them (The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973)
Smell the Roses (Is This The Life We Really Want?, 2017)
Brain Damage (The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973)
Eclipse (The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973)
Mother (The Wall, 1979)
Comfortably Numb (The Wall, 1979)