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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Roger Waters

Live in Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, February, 2007

Review by Bruce Stringer

For the first time in 35 years, Roger Waters landedon Australian shores to ecstatic live audiences – and complete performances of the classic Dark Side Of The Moon album. Dave Kilminster played the David Gilmour role with finesse and technical perfection whilst legendary British blues guitarist, Snowy White, added the flavour of a seasoned Floyd session man, highlighting the esoteric energy of the first set. Waters’ son, Harry, sat in the shadows next to Jon Carin on organ and Ian Ritchie, Graham Broad, Andy Fairweather-Low and Mr Waters to make the music. The trio of soul legend PP Arnold, Carol Kenyon and Trinidadian-born Katie Kissoon made for a team unmatched vocal performers.
After a sustained introduction of a World War 2-era wireless radio (playing through decades of selected musical heritage), Mr Waters and crew launched into the fist-in-air anthem, “In the Flesh” from the conceptual genius LP, The Wall. The band – in fine form – were clearly having fun this night, occasionally improvising in the mood of the moment. Where once the strict tenure of humble stage musician would only have allowed minor musical inflections, it seems that Roger Waters has arrived at a newer understanding of his own work and allowed his band the freedom to push the limits and actually enjoy themselves. The hammer salutes filled the auditorium as a smiling Mr Waters obviously knew he was in friendly territory. The screaming guitars called out across the heads as the soothing female vocals seduced. The song closesdon a loud burst of E-minor rockery and the crowd let loose. The political ballad, “Mother,” quietly played out from under the diabolical noise of the receding introduction and offered the fans a quiet moment of reflection., only offset by the mirth of Waters pondering on whether they will try and break his balls! (The shouts of ‘yes’ echoed about the hall). The luscious acoustic sound floated above as the forbidding synth bass notes hung in the basement, looming low and ominous.

“Set The Controls…,” from the pioneering psychedelia of A Saucerful Of Secrets, was next, clearly demonstrating the development that Waters’ mastership has allowed: the Arabic-themed melody was extrapolated on by Ian Ritchie’s saxophone but not before a blistering harmonized Gold Top solo by the always-impressive Snowy White. One could imagine that the excitement lost by years of performing the superficial or mundane aspects of songs could only be remedied by the bursting through of the improvisational genius that Mr Floyd had unleashed on an unwitting Australian audience. The back-up vocal arrangement was intense as was the mood during the elongated instrumental passage and was clearly a brilliant selection from Waters’ back catalogue. The floor burst with applause as the appreciation levels went through the roof.

The familiar synth strains of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” vibrated through the floor while the seductive on-screen visuals pulled the viewer in. Dave Kilminster and Snowy shared the guitar subtleties culminating in the dual / harmony solo. Waters' soft-spoken words carried across the ocean of faces with the clarity of a single note on the surface tension of serenity. The chorus of female voices (Carol Kenyon, PP Arnold and Katie Kissoon) burst through and propelled the song into a dynamic crescendo of falling sonic waves. “Shine On...” was grand, maybe better than when I saw Floyd perform in the late 80’s. Maybe if Waters had been there it might have been a different story - maybe not.

The “Have A Cigar” vocals, upon its 1975 release, were by political folk thinker, Roy Harper, which might have confused fans at the time. So which one was Pink? Here, the cool guitar riffery of “Have A Cigar” drew a cascade of applause as the band immersed themselves into a further couplet from Wish You Were Here. Mssrs Kilminster and White soared through the guitar work and took the song into a funky vein. Hiding in the background the shadows of Jon Carin and Water’s own son, Harry, could be seen on supporting Hammond and synthesizer. Graham Broad wasn’t holding back on the drums and Waters was pacing the stage with due confidence. The radio static clicked in and the familiar segue of voices appeared from the wireless before “Wish You Were Here” began. The title track to the 1975 album started with a near-exact replication of the radio static and 12-string guitar intro (here played by Snowy). Kilminster’s clarity of voice carried over our heads as a normally sober Waters incited the crowd to join in and – of course – they complied… “So you think you can tell…” There is even the odd onstage smile as the chemistry between members is explored.
       
Continuing with an acoustic theme, the odd selection of “Southampton Dock” drew us to the middle of the first set. Very much a Roger Waters performance, the track (from Final Cut) sat sincerely in the gap between multi-instrumental showmanship and hit Floyd epic. An often overlooked piece in the vein of “Pigs On the Wing” (performed on the In The Flesh tour), “Southampton Dock” went down a treat.

Next was “The Fletcher Memorial Home.” This track calls back to the dysfunction of a failing Britain during the political upheaval of the reign of the Iron Woman: Margaret Thatcher. At a time when the UK was fighting a war over the sovereignty of The Falkland Islands, this track was a wake-up call to the world at the ridiculousness of Cold War power struggles, arms races and the burgeoning race wars and class struggles in the name of a dying empire. Today, the visuals to the song are now updated to include the familiar faces associated with modern terrorism and further Western decline (thanks to the irresponsibility of world leaders and their lust to remove rights from their citizens). “The Fletcher Memorial Home” is, at times, a somewhat uninteresting song but its message is not hidden and stands up where the softer musical elements meander. Having said that, a lesser band might not have been able to maintain the audiences’ interest or sustainthe brilliant dynamics of the guitar solo. I would have preferred to hear other, more noteworthy tracks played from The Final Cut (i.e. “Not Now John,” “Two Suns In The Sunset” or the complete “Gunner’s Dream”) but with a huge back catalogue of material I suspect the choices were based on a more personal, storyline-sequential nature.

Maintaining a political them, we were entertained by the graphic war games of “Perfect Sense (parts 1 and 2)” from the amazing Amused To Death album. The lyrical themes deal with a central figure (a monkey) being used as a pawn in the games of war and God (- or man’s interpretation of God), and were almost overshadowed by the hugely expensive visuals of a nuclear submarine blowing away an oil rig but the message concerning rampant US-fueled war for oil and indiscriminate destruction clearly hit home. The sound effects were nothing short of amazing and the overall sound quality was perfect. The crowd roared with appreciation and the band were growing warmer to the fans.

Mr Waters informed us of the new song he was about to play. “Leaving Beirut,” sees a bluesier side to the Floyd forefather and recalls the famous story of Waters’ penniless journey through suburban Lebanon when just a fresh-faced youth of 17. The tale was illustrated with comic book thematics and explores the human side to war and the treatment of those with little compared to those that rule: a man with nothing will give everything while a man with everything simply wants more. There is an obvious non-discussion of religion, as Waters views his situation in terms of human existence and genuine brotherhood, something of which so many talk but fail to act upon. This being Snowy’s favourite track it saw him blasting electrified blues lines through the thousands of watts of power. Graham Broad’s drumming showed him holding nothing back, smashing cymbals and pounding skins into oblivion. Andy Fairweather Low cut a different stance in the shadows with his Jeff Beck routine, firing up a storm with his plucking lead lines and multi-instrumental support.

As Pink Floyd were putting the finishing touches on the iconic Animals album, Snowy White was auditioned as a live session player and was given a tag-on solo between parts 1 and 2 of “Pigs On The Wing.” Although this recording only appeared on the 8-track version (and later, White's own Gold Top CD), it was this session that cemented his long-term involvement in Pink Floyd and Water’s bands. From Animals the next epic to grace the ears of the Australian audience was “Sheep,” with its visions of a 1984 existence and class definition. Waters carried on with his political theme and released the pig… A gigantic inflatable pig hovered above our heads as the flanged bass of Mr Fairweather Low (-Roger playing second bass) pumped along in triplet fashion. The remote controlled animal gently moved above the venue crowd declaring statements of “Impeach Bush now!” and “Free David Hicks,” which drew immense response from the punters. The frenetic energy of the restless audience was like that of farm animals on the verge of revolution. President Waters knows how to make a statement and to incite a crowd. And the music was great, too!

Admittedly, The Dark Side Of The Moon is my least favourite Floyd album (besides the post-Waters releases), so it comes as no surprise that my enjoyment levels declined during the complete performance of the best-selling release. Sonically, the performance was pure perfection, the visuals nothing less than stunning and the atmosphere electrifying. Dave Kilminster stepped forward and played the main guitar role, allowing Snowy to do what he does with impeccable style: support with absolute precision.

The set began with the introduction of “Speak To Me” and slipped across the void into “Breathe”. Kilminster’s vocals were spot on and – if one closed one’s eyes – one might be deceived that a young Dave Gilmour was onstage. Waters moved about like a man possessed, belting his Fender Precision bass with adoring punishment. The triumvirate of dark-skinned beauties breathed their soulfully smooth voices into the mix, as a human pillow of winds. As the song wound down, the strains of Hammond organ filtered through until the electronic percussion of “On The Run” burst through with the calamity of a runaway train. The visuals used a mixture of 70’s material with some updated images and special audio sound effects. The piece felt longer than the album but was circulating above our heads, reminiscent of the Floyd’s original Azimuth quadraphonic system. The effects of vertigo were knocking at my skull as the spiraling wind-down of an engine losing power gave way to the pulsing synth bass note and… suddenly an old English estate of wind-up clocks chimed with deafening volume, alerting to the moment of an unknown point in time.

And the ticking…

The incessant ticking of “Time” appeared mildly in the background before making itself known as the first notes of the guitar flooded out from the speakers. Dave Kilminster’s vocals took over and the Waters-penned classic was underway. The smooth backing vocals and exactness of the guitar solo offered the illusion that this was a young live Floyd, although – without Waters – could be considered along the lines of professional Pink Floyd cover / surrogate band. Such is the enigma that waters has overcome as the inflections, the taste, the sheer confidence of the band made the songs their own. I definitely hadn’t missed any of the real band… By the way, which one’s Pink? The final note of “Time” tailed off as the familiar Hammond organ strains softly receded and the piano started its hammered progression. A lap steel slid circles above and then there was a tom roll and the incredible vocals soared across the centre as “The Great Gig In The Sky” took over. The crowd was in awe. Of all the Dark Side… tracks this was most definitely the stand out.

The cash registers loop began and the funky 7/4 bass line from “Money” plodded its course through the rotary speaker-effected splash of guitar chords and vocal bursts of “Money” from our lovely threesome to the right of the stage. Mr Waters stomped about like never before; he showed an animated side to his performance that no Floyd fan would have been aware of 30 years earlier! The brief sax solo – straight from the record – had the crowd bopping away before the cool, searing Gilmour-esque lines elevated the song into second gear. Graham Broad on drums was getting in the mood, smacking those skins like no tomorrow. UK guitar magazine transcription maestro, Dave Kilminster punished his Telecaster, taking the original solo to greater heights feeling every note as if it became airborne. The wind down came too soon and the song returned to the ground before running the tarmac into the path of the meandering “Us And Them. “

The quiet piece with its overt British-ness has always been a source of disinterest for yours truly so I bit my lip and held out The sound quality was impressive, though - the vocals near perfection. But it does go on. The saving grace of “Us...” is the “Forward he cried” line where the music becomes more dynamic. As I said earlier, Dark Side is not one of my favourite albums by any means, no matter how many copies it sold.

Ah, the fresh breeze of “Any Colour You Like” eventually blew through and brought the concert back to life. This interesting instrumental piece of synth-funk saw the onstage entourage again getting into it, with the crazy rotary guitar sound appearing once more for the stop-start solo and the cool Hammond organ sparring with it. Often overlooked, “Any Colour You Like” serves as a bridge between “Us And Them” and “Brain Damage” and, although somewhat disposable in its composition, it offers some insight into the nature of Floyd’s jammier side back in the earlier 70’s (- think Meddle and Obscured By Clouds!), something that fans would see less and less of as the 1970’s progressed. The loony guitar solo continued with the oft-contended ‘bum note’ before the lunatic suddenly appeared on the grass in “Brain Damage.” Structured around a D / D7 progression, the band enveloped the track in luscious synth and crystal-clear guitar notes, obviously enjoying the humour of the lyrics. The short track was enjoyed by all and segued into – in my mind – the most important piece on Dark Side..: “Eclipse.” The all-encompassing scribblings of the genius, Waters, has summarized the world and its relationship to everything simple, mundane, grand or infinite to the cosmic balance of what we would understand to be everyday existence. All of this balance is upset by a sun that’s in tune “But the sun is eclipsed by the moon…” (which leads me to think of the Chaos Theory). The innocent arpeggiation of the descending chord voices offset the grand nature of the lyrics. The band’s energy was highlighted by the visuals of the moon filling up the screen: White’s Gold Top reflected light from above, Kilminster’s Telecaster sparked the orange glow into the faces of the converted, the pick-guard on Roger’s bass ablaze with the fire of the song’s demise, the remaining band members – some hidden in the shadows – awash with the ginger tones of a living canvas creating a lasting impression of Roger Waters’ first time to Adelaide, Australia.

The crowd went nuts!

The Pink Floyd appeared on Australian shores in 1987 (following a 16 year absence) and, although the effects were visually stunning, the band seemed stunted and depressed and the reviews were varied: the spectacle was impressive but the music was sometimes lifeless. Roger Waters, a true professional and New World Prophet, has made a great leap in bringing his mega-expensive show to Australia and we have all truly appreciated his doing so. During the band’s disappearance from the stage the crowd was raging, shouting “more”, “Pink Floyd” and “hammer”(!). The noise was deafening. Nobody was leaving. The floor was vibrating with the stamping of fans. The roof felt as though it was about to collapse in on us.

Suddenly, the band members leaped back into position and the familiar helicopter sounds boomed above our heads. “You, yes you…!” Principal Waters tookcharge and in “The Happiest Days Of Our Lives” he shot down any errant schoolchild. His bass was loud, the sound was heavier the song making its point with Waters pointing his finger at the audience and stomping about like a madman. This great track from The Wall lead up to the climax we had all been waiting for - the iconic “Another Brick In The Wall (part 2).” The crowd was singing along like the children in the original video clip, mindless drones, subservient to the will of this modern day fascist leader. The vacant stares and hammer salutes like some lost footage of the Nuremberg rallies, as the stunning music of the band tore through the mega-watt speakers. We were all mesmerized!

Kilminster took first solo and played Gilmour to a T, White took over and elevated us to new heights with Hammond organ phasing underneath: his legendary status as a blues guitar god are not exaggerated! Water’s knowing look told us that this was the ace in his sleeve and we were not disappointed. This massive song stopped and the audio effects fade off

The roar of the audience filled the enclosed auditorium to a frenzy of fanfare. What could Waters and Co. come up with next?

Our man Pink knew that he can’t compete with “Another Brick “so he took us back to the war torn 40’s with “Vera” and “Bring The Boys Back Home.” A very interesting couplet and genuinely reminiscent of the days when Vera Lyn (now in her 90th year) was an international superstar entertaining the Allied Forces at a time when a strengthening Nazi Germany was attacking its neighbours. “Bring The Boys Back Home” was an obvious reference at the war in Iraq, with its military snare and was all the more topical as the support for a war on terror is waning. The lone drummer’s snare faded off into the distant mist as the classic “Comfortably Numb” began.

The audience continued the roars of appreciation as the tale of our fallen rock idol played out. The overall band sound was loud, even through the quiet bits but this didn't deter. The vocals were subtle and smooth and the surrogate band was obviously having fun. Kilminster blasted into the first solo and did the song justice. Waters talked us through the story, once more, leading us up to the massive solos from both Kilminster and White, musical bliss for all eternity. Carin and Harry Waters were now more visible as the lights flared up. Andy Fairweather Low – a Welshman of great musical ability and long-time Waters sideman – was bopping away, enjoying every moment. The whole band was wagging the dog on this one as the fans were falling about the place in their ecstasy of musical stupor and with a long lasting B-minor the lights went down, the band disappeared and the fans were alone again.

The house lights went up: Roger Waters and his crew werelong gone but the sounds and the memories echoed on...
       
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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