Roger Waters – Melbourne Concert

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Back in the late-70s & early-80s the only exposure I had to Pink Floyd were lengthy listening sessions with a friend and his battered copy of Dark Side of the Moon, without fail the climactic Brain Damage/Eclipse finale would always give us the shivers.  Earlier still, I was terrified of my older brother’s copy of Wish You Were Here and the wordless album gatefold sleeve and accompanying mysterious Storm Thorgerson imagery. It wasn’t until 1987 when my personal love affair with all things Floyd really geared up. I can pinpoint the exact moment: it was September 1987 and they had just released their ‘comeback’ album A Momentary Lapse of Reason. I had just finished school and my part time job was funding my vast record collection (The Doors, Bowie, Stones etc). It was there and then my Pink Floyd obsession skyrocketed and never landed.

At that time I was in the fortunate position of being in a state of ignorant bliss. For me Pink Floyd was a faceless iconic brand. A singular entity. I had no idea who the main players were, their rift, let alone Syd Barrett. I didn’t care either. All I knew was the (former) bassist Roger Waters wrote the lyrics, and their amazing guitarist and singer David Gilmour had released a solo album in 1978 (cause my bro’ had that too), but the detail was otherwise new to me. I don’t think the general record buying public knew or cared about this sort of thing either. All I cared about was that it was a new Pink Floyd album. Waters, unfairly, would later call A Momentary Lapse of Reason “a pretty fair forgery”, but at the time for me, it looked like a Floyd album, and sounded like a Floyd album. And I loved it.

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Then in 1988 Pink Floyd released an Australian-only box set called The Box, containing all of the albums released between 1975-1988. Perfect for me. It is now common knowledge this collection of music is some of the greatest music the 20th Century has to offer, so along with my new pink vinyl copy of Dark Side… and the superb Meddle rounding out my collection, what a treasure trove this was to cherish for a lifetime.

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My obsession did not stop there, it continued into associated solo materiel too. As much as I admired Dave for his chops and sublime vocals, I developed a major liking to all things Roger. I bought The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking which was a huge game changer for me and an album I still rate incredibly highly. The increasingly contemptuous Waters-penned albums like Animals, The Wall and particularly The Final Cut fascinated me no end, and I grew to love them more and more. I even bought Radio KAOS (I’m one of those rare enthusiasts that actually likes it), and devoured that. These albums rounded out my Floyd requirements nicely, creating the perfect balance. My familiarisation with all of this materiel led me to realise Pink Floyd also had a guy who screamed when he sang, and took on subject matter like his deep personal feelings, politics and World War II. I thought it was all atmospherics and ethereal instrumentals with vocals a la Shine On You Crazy Diamond. Now I could not get enough.

the box

Over time I came to realise what we all now know: megalomaniac Roger, the creative driving force behind the band’s conceptual masterpieces, bitterly splintered with the rest of the band who bravely continued on without him, while Roger pursued the steep uphill climb of a solo career for which I think we can safely now say, with this top 1 arena ticket (the Us + Them world tour), he has well and truly reached the summit, and is now a household name. Which brings me to the Melbourne show 11 Feb 2018.

Where to begin? Arena shows are not really my bag these days but there’s no getting around it when it comes to this kind of performer. A mother and daughter next to me bragging about previous Floyd and Waters experiences, and of all people the highly conservative Alice Cooper of which they were huge fans notwithstanding, my buddy and I settled in ready to be blown away. Rather than one conceptual performance as we had previously seen with The Wall show (a tour I missed), here Waters delivered something of a best-of selection.

Openers Speak to Me and Breathe were quickly followed by Meddle’s One of These Days. A huge screen delivered stunning classic Floyd imagery: animated clocks for Time, Breathe (reprise) and Great Gig in the Sky, rounding out the Dark Side set nicely. Other well known tracks taken from The Wall and Wish You Were Here were tastefully interspersed with decent new album materiel (Is This the Life We Really Want? from 2017) and more laser precision visuals, before a 20 minute intermission. How very 1970s.

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Intermission consisted of smashing our way to the bar for water where I spied enough Pink Floyd t-shirts to loop the globe, although none quite as good as mine then back in time for Part 2 where it was immediately clear this was what we had come for. A huge Battersea Power Station rose up out of the audience for Dogs (an all time personal favourite song) using a combination of laser and giant screens, and for a big Animals fan it was truly an amazing spectacle. The follow up was another Animals classic: Pigs (Three Different Ones). This turned out to be a huge and somewhat gruelling Trump-bashing marathon. It was sort of beneath Roger to do this. We all know Trump is a dangerous dummy. Do I need that shoved down my throat at a gig like this? Not sure. Roger has certainly updated the lyrics well for 2018 as it was originally an attack on Mary Whitehouse, a ghastly censorious figure from the 1970s. Anyway, the Alice Cooper ladies next to me up and left so I guess they were Trump fans. Go figure. My feeling was there was no one more into this political bombast than Waters himself. He was parading around the stage, arms aloft, fists of fury pumped, urging us to do the same, but receiving nothing more than a level of indifference (don’t forget this was in Australia). A touch heavy handed for this Floyd fan.
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Then it was back on track with classic crowd pleasing Dark Side numbers to round out the set (Us and Them, Money) before a gigantic rainbow prism engulfed the auditorium, a rather breathtaking sight, and a clearly emotional Waters delivered the knock out punch of Brain Damage/Eclipse.
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For the encore Waters appropriately gave us Mother and Comfortably Numb from The Wall, having wisely dropped Vera and Bring the Boys Back Home. The guitarists, band and backing singers were spot on both musically and vocally.
I regularly listen to a highly entertaining podcast call WTF by Marc Maron and he interviewed Waters in 2016. The main thrust of his lasting legacy  was to be a major contributor to the theatricality of arena rock. This high-tech spectacle, accompanying the brilliant music he made with Pink Floyd perfectly demonstrated his unrivalled brilliance and prowess in that department.
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