So ya, thought ya, might like to go to the show
To feel the warm thrill of confusion
That space cadet glow…
If you have *ever* tripped on a Pink Floyd number, you *know* that it would have been near impossible to go to a Roger Waters concert and come away unimpressed.
I was not disappointed.
Having read the reviews of previous shows on this tour, I sort of knew what to expect, but none of the reviews prepared me for the *size* of this show!
The stage was simply *huge*. There was no other way to describe it. With technicians, roadies and artists crawling across the mountains of equipment on stage, with the racks of guitars lined up along various sides, with literally hundreds of spotlights, strobes and floods sweeping the entire area, and that massive backdrop screen, along with the little catwalk-like stage-on-the-stage – the whole thing felt more like a city!
A look around the grounds showed stacks of speakers all along the sides of the arena – clearly, you were in for a loud experience no matter where you stood, though the details on stage couldn’t have been seen very clearly from the Rs.1500 and Rs.900 sections of the audience. For us lucky ones up front in the Rs.2500/VIP area, it was amazing to see the amount of stuff on the stage – from rotating spotlights, stacks of on-stage speakers and monitors, mysterious bar-graph flashing devices mounted on the walls (which turned out to be mid-air tuning devices for the guitarists), and…
…a card table? Surely they wouldn’t dare to pull *that* stunt, would they?
“Eins, Zwei, Drei…”
All eyes were on the door at the back and center of the stage, which we knew would swing open to reveal the band.
And at 7:35pm, it did.
Led by the man himself, the Roger Waters band poured onto the stage, grabbing their instruments and were in position before the crowd could catch its breath.
Except that there was no Roger Waters up front leading his troops into battle.
Then the spotlight came on, as did the first backdrop visuals – highlighting Roger standing on a catwalk-like mini stage raised above and behind the main stage, as he screamed the familiar “Eins, Zwei, Drei…” into the mike, which triggered off an avalanche of sound and light as the band swung into “In the flesh Part 2″ – that wonderfully ironic and sarcastic number that lets us know that “Pink” wasn’t well and couldn’t make it, that this was the surrogate band, and it was time to find out where the fans really stood.
Well Roger, they stood just where you expected them to be – all near-40,000 of them – in front of the stage as they sang along, word for word, note for note, every number you threw at them, over a period of three hours. You didn’t come to the Concert Capital of India expecting a few Saturday evening strollers with their families, did you?
Before I go on – here is the set list:
- In The Flesh pt 2
- The Happiest Days Of Our Lives
- Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2
- Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert
- Southampton Dock
- Pigs On The Wing, Part 1
- Set The Controls
- Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Parts 1-5
- Welcome To The Machine
- Wish You Were Here
- Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Parts 6-9
- 20 minutes breakBreathe (In The Air)
- 5:06 AM – Every Stranger’s Eyes
- Perfect Sense parts 1 and 2
- The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range
- It’s A Miracle
- Amused To Death
- Brain Damage
- Comfortably Numb
- Flickering Flame (Encore)
Yes, for those of you who have been following the tour online – there was no deviation from the set list from the other shows, so there was very little by the way of surprise there.
Roger sang and played his bass in a most convincing fashion – to an audience that has (in the past) been subjected to lip-synced shows, there was no question that this was someone who was playing his heart out, and enjoying every moment of it. And that included a moment when he was handed a guitar that had all its controls turned to zero. Roger launched into “Mother”, only to abort the takeoff when he realised that there was no sound coming out of his guitar. Professional showman that he evidently is, he used the moment (while a technician fixed the problem) to welcome the crowds and establish what would be the theme for the evening – interaction.
While the band played on, spotlights picked out individual artists as they performed. While much of this focus was naturally on Roger, he evidently is not the kind of show-grabbing head-honcho, showing none of the “I, me, mine” performance one got to see in the “Pulse” show, performed by “another band”. Throughout the show, he often receded into the background, yielding the spotlight to his bandmates as they performed their magic.
And perform magic they did.
Chester Kamen, who, along with Snowy White, had the task of taking on the role of David Gilmour in the lineup, lived up to his responsibility splendidly. While he was careful to maintain the context of the many guitar licks that often represent the soul of a Pink Floyd number, he nevertheless managed to retain his individuality, often taking “detours” as he exhibited some really scorching guitar work. And to make it clear that he wasn’t just a session musician, he handled the lead vocals of many important songs as well, including “Breathe”.
Snowy White, the second lead guitarist, was less concerned with sticking to the original Gilmour licks, often playing completely differently in places. But even Snowy knew when not to mess with a good thing – on “Wish you were here”, he didn’t disappoint, sticking faithfully to the original.
Harry Waters (incidentally Roger’s son, though he was on this tour purely on merit, and it showed) and Andy Wallace had the difficult tasks of producing keyboard and synth work that would not let down the fans who virtually knew every note of every song they played. And on “Shine on…”, Harry *blew* the crowds away. This simple sounding intro-tune is in reality extremely complex, and it is to young Harry’s credit that when he hit the last note of that piece, the crowds went *wild* with appreciation.
Graham Broad – what can you say? The man literally carried the show on his broad (no pun intended) shoulders, but his drumming in “Time” was *unbelievable*. The switch from the mad conga-drumming to the regular rock playing (which involved getting back from standing position, facing the back of the stage, to his seat in front of the drums and picking up his sticks) was something I am not going to forget so soon. This song alone would have normally required at least two drummers, but Graham did this whole solo in one go, not missing a single beat as he switched to pick up the beat on “Ticking away…”. That bit deserved a standing ovation, and he got it.
The backing singers, Katy Kissoon, P.P.Arnold and Linda Lewis, did a fabulous job. All three are individual solo artists in their own rights, and throughout the show often stepped out of the rigid “sound good, look better” mould that most rockbands encase their backing singers in, to add a level of authenticity to a song that would not have been possible without them.
Norbert Stachel appeared and disappeared off the stage when required, but his contribution to making this evening a memorable one was simple: he played the saxophone and woodwind pieces that were so essential to the “real-ness” of the songs the band performed. I am sure most wind-instrument players like their work to be called “haunting”, but Norbert would have none of that – his sax work had exactly the kind of downplayed, sneaky aggression that the songs he played on demanded.
That brings us to the man whom many could easily have dismissed as a backing musician, given that he preferred to stand at the back of the stage throughout the show, playing guitar.
Luckily, I was forewarned, and therefore was a witness to just how much Andy Fairweather Low contributed to the success of this show. Often switching through several guitars in a single song, playing brilliant bass when Roger switched to rhythm guitar, singing backing as well as lead vocals at times, only coming to the front of the stage one time when he played a *violent* riff (with Roger scampering out of the way). Andy was a total delight to observe and listen to. I am not surprised that other greats like Eric Clapton depend so heavily on him!
One bandmember often neglected in a Pink Floyd-like show is the visuals projector. The huge 40 feet backdrop screen played as much a role as any of the musicians on the stage, setting the mood for every song. Whether it was the marching hammers during numbers from the “The Wall” album, through the floating pig over the factory during songs from “Animals”, to the rather touching visuals of young Syd Barret during “Shine on…” – this show would have been only half of what it was, had it not been for the visuals.
And yes, they pulled the card-table stunt. In the middle of “Dogs”, Roger, Snowy, Chester and Andy parked their instruments, settled at the card table set up at the back of the stage, drank coffee, played cards, chatted – while Harry and Andy Wallace and Graham filled our world with that distinctive sound from the “Animals” album. And just when you thought they were going to muff their cues, they got up, picked up their instruments, and continued playing!
The set list covered much of Roger’s work with Pink Floyd, and also included songs from his solo albums. I could see the surprise on his face when he faced thousands of fans singing along on songs that he would have assumed no one in India would have heard before. The chorus during “Perfect Sense” was *thunderous*.
But in the end, this crowd had come to see and listen to the man who gave them the wonder of Pink Floyd, and he wasn’t going to disappoint them. A quick run through “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” set the stage for the inevitable – “Comfortably Numb”.
Life will never be the same for most people who saw this mind-bending version of this song performed before them.
Midway through the song, I realised that Snowy White had disappeared from the stage, with Chester and Andy carrying the burden of the heavy-duty stuff. Roger valiantly tried to make himself heard as he sang the vocals, but hey! – it isn’t every day that you get a 40,000 piece backing vocals group! In the end, he gave up – encouraging the audience to sing the song that for many of them defined Roger Waters’ lifetime of music.
And just as you thought it was all over, the spotlight moved…
Up on the catwalk stage, Snowy White appeared, launching into a brilliant guitar solo. And this was just the start – suddenly the spotlight extinguished, to light up again on Chester Kamen, who was now on the other end of the catwalk stage! He too launched into a solo, meshing into Snowy’s solo. The spotlights flicked on and off as these two guitarists slowly advanced towards each other, trading riffs and licks, until they met in the center of the stage, to the blinding visual of a setting sun, giving the appearance of these two bursting into flame as they played the dying notes of “Comfortably Numb”.
Oh. My. God.
This was it. It doesn’t come any better than this. People talk about once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and this performance by the Roger Waters band definitely deserves that tag. Bands might come up with more brilliant pyrotechnics, a louder sound, a bigger stage, but to an audience that has literally grown up with the sound of Roger Waters and “that other band”, nothing can replace the feeling of not only hearing the songs, but seeing them performed by the man who wrote them.
Roger ended the show with a performance of “Flickering Flame”, his new song. In a way, this was carefully calculated – I would have been scared to death driving on a road filled with thousands of people who had just witnessed that rendition of “Comfortably Numb”.
If I was to sum it up this show in one word, I’d say
To me, nothing describes it better.