Roger Waters

support none
author RUB date 07/08/18 venue Boxen, Herning, DEN

Roger Waters should not need any introduction whatsoever. His work with the legendary Pink Floyd and later also his own solo project has firmly cemented his status as not only a brilliant songwriter and composer, but also one whom people listen to when it comes to statements about politics, equality and other societal issues, not to mention the huge problems with racism in the United States of America. Taken from the iconic ‘Floyd album “The Dark Side of the Moon”, the title of “Us and Them” for this tour serves as an obvious statement against the current POTUS, Donald Trump, so undoubtedly tonight’s concert would be charged with political rhetoric as well. Sadly though, I’m quite certain this means that my personal favourite, “Shine on You Crazy Diamond”, won’t be included on the setlist, since it doesn’t really fit the theme of the gig. But nevertheless, I’m sure that it still has the potential to become the first-ever concert to receive a 10/10 from me.

The concert, which is not completely sold out much to my surprise, is apparently a seated one, which I wasn’t aware of, and this is a first for me. What’s even more strange is that people sit around the arena with popcorn on their laps as though they were about to watch a movie. Even though Roger Waters is known for his visual spectacles, I still find this weird. But I’m nonetheless also eager to find out if this arrangement has any effect on the overall experience and atmosphere of the show.

Sadly, there was no photographer available for the evening, so you will have to make do with some pictures I took with my mobile phone instead.

Roger Waters

A video montage of a beach with a woman sitting in the hills is displayed prior to the show, while sounds of the ocean and seagulls accompany it nicely, setting the mood for the concert and telling people that the show is about to start. The stage is packed with instruments, and at around 20:15 a soft and gentle female voice is introduced into the soundscape. Roughly five minutes later, the massive backdrop changes into an ominous-looking red smoke-type shape as the band finally takes the stage. By now. the intro of “Speak to Me” is starting to air, and eventually it transforms into the brilliant “Breathe” — to huge applause from the crowd. The aforementioned red smoke has now transformed into an enormous blue, planet-like figure (perhaps inspired by the cover of “Pulse”?) on a starry sky, and at this point it’s already clear to me that the massive backdrop will play an essential role in tonight’s gig. Lead guitarist Jonathan Wilson is singing the parts of David Gilmour on the ‘Floyd tracks, and actually he does a very good job at it, and could easily have been mistaken for the voice of a younger Gilmour.

With the third track, ”One of These Days” we’re treated to a lengthy bass intro, which almost feels like a jam session between the musicians. This is the first time that Waters is acting like the true frontman that he is and serves as a fantastic bridge to the next timeless classic. A spinning clock appears on the backdrop, and it tells us it is “Time”. This very iconic track from the just-as-iconic album, “The Dark Side of the Moon”, is played with precision from all the members on the stage. It is already audible that the sound mix tonight is superb, with every instrument — from drums and guitars to organ and bass, not to mention the backing singers — all sounding incredibly tight. Waters’ vocals are equally superb, and one already knows that this gig will be good.

Onto “The Great Gig in the Sky”, where the two backing vocalists truly shine, acing this beautiful song. The backdrop displays yet another starry sky and it almost looks like the two singers are one with it, as they, too, are wearing glimmering and flickering dresses. Indeed, the backdrop is utilized in a way that helps tell the stories the music is expressing, and when “Welcome to the Machine” is aired, a short cartoon with a sort of metallic machine is shown, its psychedelic and weird-looking exterior complementing the synthesizers in the song very well, and helping the crowd better to understand the meaning behind the track, which of course deals with the negative aspects of conformity. This could be visualized by the plagued rats that feature in the cartoon as well. Towards the end, the backdrop shows a huge sea of waving hands, so of course Waters tries to project this onto the crowd. And this is where the concert has one of its only flaws — but alas, it is a big one. I can count the amount of the seated attendees just in front of the stage who bother to raise their hands, as suggested by Waters, with one hand. I mean, why else would you want to sit so close to the stage and pay so much money for your ticket, if not because you want to interact with the show? And sadly, this is not the last time something like this happens, either.

Waters also visits his own material with songs like “Déjà Vu”, “The Last Refugee” and “Picture That”. These are all very melancholic songs that feature acoustic guitars and have an overall sad atmosphere to them. This is due to the serious socio-political issues raised in the songs, and they are accompanied by the backdrop showing various pictures and videos of war, famine, refugees and destruction — stuff like this really makes you think. People seem to dig this serious side of Waters, which makes it that much more peculiar that people won’t rejoice along with Waters when he paces to the outer rim of the stage. Instead of feeling the atmosphere and mood of the songs, singing along and waving their hands, the frontmost crowd grab their mobile phones to take pictures and videos instead. It makes me giggle as it just so happens to coincide with the repeated words of “Picture That”: “no fucking brains”.

As this is my first seated concert, I’m not sure whether it is restraining people — because from where I’m sitting it is easy to see that people don’t seem to share the same ecstatic emotion that Waters is projecting. This finally changes as ”Wish You Were Here” is aired. The hands of the audience are thrown into the air, and it would seem like people just needed to hear the right song. This impression is further strengthened when the last track of the first set starts to echo. The backdrop displays a ”Hand of God”-inspired theme with two hands trying to reach each other. But as the hands start to crumble (perhaps another “Us and Them” reference?), “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” starts to play and serves as an intro to the timelessly classic, two-part “Another Brick in the Wall”. Accompanied by sounds of gunfire and helicopters, a line of people enters the stage wearing black hoods and orange prison suits in another massive political statement that makes you think of Guantanamo and the atrocities that have gone on there. As the song reaches its choir-part with ”we don’t need no education”, the hoods are taken off and of course it is children underneath them — the message cannot be clearer than this. The crowd finally claps to the sound of the guitars, and as the orange prison suits are thrown off, a capitalised “RESIST” is revealed on the t-shirts underneath. The song ends to huge ovation, and as the backdrop displays “RESIST WHAT”, Waters proclaims that the first half is over, but that he ”will return to resist as best as one can”. The audience has now finally managed to loosen up a bit, and hopefully this atmosphere would spill over into the second half.

During the intermission, various political statements about resistance are shown on the big screen (for example, “Resist the attempted silencing of Julian Assange”). A massive flashing red light and a loud alarm then rings in the crowd for the second set, and there is now a huge stage prop in the middle of the arena, depicting the cover of “Animals” (of course, also with a small inflatable pig at the end of it). This sets the overall theme for the second half of the concert: anti-fascism and anti-Trump. The band, now wearing pig masks, puts on a small play about greed and conformity. With signs announcing ”PIGS RULE THE WORLD” and ”FUCK THE PIGS”, the stage is set for the first few tracks of the second set: “Dogs” and “Pigs”. Trump is clearly the target now, as the backdrop display photos of him with a capital ”CHARADE” on top of it. Trump is portrayed as a pig and a baby, and even a huge inflatable pig-drone is sent soaring over the audience, asking us to both “STAY HUMAN” and “FORBLIV MENNESKELIG” (a Danish translation of the former statement). It all seems a bit much at times, as the concert no longer is so much about the music, but rather about the negative imagery about Trump, former president George W. Bush, Joseph Stalin and Kim Jong-un. The message is just not as subtle anymore with these many visuals and we get it: Trump is a fascist. During the aforementioned “Pigs”, a series of the more questionable quotes from Trump is displayed on the huge stage prop, which stretches out in the middle of the arena and ends with by saying “TRUMP ER EN GRIS” (”Trump is a pig” in Danish).

Quite fittingly, the brilliant “Money” is up next. And just as you thought the spectacle of the visual performance couldn’t get any more impressive, the screens on the newest addition stretching out in the middle of the arena start to move up and down and change in size. After this, the song which gave the name to the tour, “Us and Them”, is aired. It is accompanied by various pictures and videos just like the previous tracks, but it is specifically aimed towards the great divide going on around the world, depicting demonstrations, armed police forces and war. The overall message is that we should unite and not divide, and are all serious matters which Waters addresses. It gives you food for thought, perhaps even after the concert is over. The imagery is in fact quite violent at times, and the message is therefore that much more underlined when shown together with iconic songs such as these.

After a short visit to one of Waters’ own songs in the form of “Smell the Roses” off “Is This the Life We Really Want?”, we’re treated to one of the best songs ever written by Pink Floyd: “Brain Damage”, which is yet another track from “Dark Side of the Moon”. Once again the visuals are taken into another dimension, with lasers forming the iconic triangle from the classic album cover. Eventually, the rainbow colours are added to the sublime sight, underlining just how great the production value is for this tour. The audience recognises this, and finally shows the appreciation and standing ovation that this music deserves. Waters is still not done with the political statements, however, as he proclaims how ”the love in this room is political!” and wants it to spread outside from the arena. Irrespective of religion, ethnicity and nationality, everyone should have equal rights, human rights. He even touches the Palestine/Israel-conflict, which becomes a little too much for some people in the audience, as some start to shout. Waters addresses this situation, and simply states that he won’t quit, which is a good thing in my book because of the gravity of the issue, and it is definitely a big part of what he stands for as a person. Again, this is followed, quite fittingly, by the next-to-final song: “Mother” off “The Wall”. When Waters sings the text “Mother should I run for President?”, the crowd cheers loudly, so it is definitely only a small handful of people who do not agree with how much space the politics are given in Waters’ music. People just can’t get enough now, cheering at almost every stanza. And finally, what many have been waiting for: perhaps the most iconic ‘Floyd song, “Comfortably Numb”. The entire arena is now standing, and some are even getting out of their seats to run to the edge of the stage. By the end of the show, Waters’ calling is finally answered. Every hand in the room is waving, and it simply looks mesmerizingly beautiful. As the guitar solo is played, Waters even takes some time to thank the first row for coming out. The colourful lasers get a last bit of attention as confetti is dropped from the ceiling. And as the backdrop now shows, it’s no longer ”us and them” — it’s just ”us”, as the two hands mentioned earlier finally reach each other, and the woman on the beach is united with her small child. What an incredible show the aging legend has put on tonight, and it really looks like he will still be doing this for years to come.

So, if you haven’t fallen asleep by now, I would like to sum up my (many) thoughts and impressions of this spectacle of a concert. The production value is unreal, and probably the best and biggest I’ve ever seen (bearing in mind that and I’ve seen the likes of AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Rammstein). The overall political message might have overshadowed the music a bit at times, but this is something that means a great deal to Waters and has done so for many years, so for people who thought it was a bit much, I can only ask: what did you expect from a tour dubbed “Us and Them”? He touches many important issues, and just like music has been the way to amplify one’s opinion for decades, so it is used here to problematize these topics tonight. The songs are several decades old, but it would seem like mankind hasn’t learned anything, because these timeless classics are still very much relevant today. The sound mix is also sublime, so what could’ve been done better to reach the highest grade? In my opinion, most of the first half of the set is perhaps a bit too professionally executed — both by the band and the audience. Even though it’s a seated concert it shouldn’t take anything away from the listening experience. Show some joy and enthusiasm over being at this concert and having this experience instead of simply taking to your mobile phone to record every second of it. Because that is what it is: an experience, a night to remember. It is not a mere concert — it is a showcase of what’s possible when you have the funds, imagination and of course the songs to back up a spectacular show. For a man with so many years of concert experience, it still baffles me that he can keep surprising concert goers at every new tour, and still make yours truly go wow, that was simply incredible!

9

Setlist:

  • 01. Speak to Me
  • 02. Breathe
  • 03. One of These Days
  • 04. Time/Breathe (Reprise)
  • 05. The Great Gig in the Sky
  • 06. Welcome to the Machine
  • 07. Déjà Vu
  • 08. The Last Refugee
  • 09. Picture That
  • 10. Wish You Were Here
  • 11. The Happiest Days of Our Lives/Another Brick in the Wall (Parts II & III)

— Intermission —

  • 12. Dogs
  • 13. Pigs (Three Different Ones)
  • 14. Money
  • 15. Us and Them
  • 16. Smell the Roses
  • 17. Brain Damage
  • 18. Eclipse

— Encore —

  • 19. Mother
  • 20. Comfortably Numb

Comments
comments powered by Disqus

Legal

© Copyright MMXVIII Rockfreaks.net.