Last night I was at the O2 arena to see Roger Waters on his first London night of his Dark Side of the Moon tour. It was, as expected, amazing.
I saw Roger once before, about 8 years ago in Montreal on his In The Flesh tour (with my good pal M_Blogler). He was good then. He might have been better last night. Close call.
On this tour, Roger is playing a set of highlights from his Pink Floyd and solo career, then a set where the band performs the entirety of the classic Dark Side of the Moon album. I was pretty excited to hear that. And interested to compare his show with the David Gilmour show I saw at the Royal Albert Hall two years ago.
I got to the O2 a bit early. I wanted to try some of the bars they have there before the show. My plans were challenged when I discovered that all the bars, restaurants, cinemas, and shops in the pedestrian concourse meant that thousands of other people also showed up early. I did manage to squeeze in one glass of wine before the fun started. Just before I ordered it, the guy in front of me – who ordered two pints – told the bartender to keep the £10 bill in change he was due. I was startled, but you should have seen the bartender. The customer, a short, bearded bloke in a white T-shirt, firmly told the bartender that he was in a very good mood and the bartender should definitely keep the tenner. Jeez buddy, I thought, I know you’re happy because it’s Roger Waters and all but that’s a bit over the top.
Promptly at 7:45pm the band strolled out with thunderous applause for Roger. They opened strong, with “In the Flesh”. Then they rolled through all the hits that people wanted to hear. They played “Mother”, of course. I was pleased to hear “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”, though the crowd seemed to raise an eyebrow. “Sheep” got a huge response, especially with the requisite giant inflatable pig (emblazoned with assertions that ‘All religions divide’ and pleas to vote for Obama) zooming about the arena. They played “The Fletcher Memorial Home”.
The only solo album songs I noticed were “Perfect Sense Pts I and II” fromAmused to Death, but oh my god: did they ever go over big. Early in the song an inflatable astronaut flew through the stadium, drifting slowly above our heads. By the end, the whole 20,000 of us were singing along at the top of our lungs. It was a powerful performance.
For me, though, nothing can top the back-to-back-to-back performance of three songs from my favourite album, Wish You Were Here: “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, “Have a Cigar” and “Wish You Were Here”. Wow.
Picture from Erik Luyten Photography under Creative Commons license
There were spotlights and coloured lights and flares and flame too, of course. There was a huge projection screen behind the band too; much of the time it simply showed psychedelic patterns, colours and lights. Sometimes the video was tied to the song content, as when they did “Southampton Dock” to scenes of poppies and soldiers.
The only song I found disappointing was newest tune “Leaving Beirut”, about an experience Roger had hitchiking in Lebanon as a teenager. It was moving, for sure, but it’s a little too earnest and obvious (especially when the screen behind them plays out the story in comic-book form, and projects all the lyrics).
Then there was a 20 minute break, after which the band returned and playedDark Side…It was great. Tight, smooth, and the dance ’round madness it was meant to portray. Unsurprisingly, Roger did much less singing here (since Dave sang most of that album), so the other members capably took up vocal duties. One of the backup singers did a note-perfect version of “The Great Gig in the Sky”. “Us and Them”, perhaps my favourite song on the record, wasstunning. There were white floodlights of such intensity during the loud chorus bits that the front half of the stadium was completely enveloped in a sea of brightness.
Even that wasn’t quite enough. Our applause continued and they came back out to play an encore of “The Happiest Days of Our Lives”, “Another Brick In the Wall Pt. 2”, “Vera”, “Bring the Boys Back Home” and “Comfortably Numb”. That last is one of the five greatest rock songs ever. It retains that reputation. The show finished at about 10:30pm, nearly 3 hours of music.
It was a great show song-choice-wise, sonically, and visually. Roger sounded better throughout than I thought he would. He sounds as good as he did 8 years ago, and better than he did at Live Aid three years ago. But he also seemed happy and engaged and excited and into it. His unshaven visage and black T-shirt made him seem intense and vital.
It was all really good. It’s sometimes hard to believe that one man could have his hand (often the sole hand) in the creation of so much unique, exciting, thoughtful music. If I had to compare it to David Gilmour’s show I’d say that David’s show is classier and more focused, whereas Roger’s is more emotional and rock ‘n’ roll. I’m so glad I’ve seen them both.
Not as glad as the guy I spotted in front-row centre, though. He was up cheering and waving his arms at the start of nearly every song. I’ve never seen a short, bearded bloke in a white T-shirt look so happy.