LIVE: ROGER WATERS – Perth, 20 Feb 2018

LIVE: ROGER WATERS – Perth, 20 Feb 2018
Perth Arena; Tuesday, 20 February, 2018
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Photography by Stuart McKay

Roger Waters has always had something interesting and intelligent to say in his songs, both with Pink Floyd and through his solo career, and just as most recent album Is This The Life We Really Want? was a vitriolic diatribe shouting at us to distrust and resist the vacuous and the corrupt pigs feeding at the trough, so too is his Us + Them world tour a continuation of that theme.

It starts innocuously enough – with a simply staged band area that could have fit in a mid-sized club, and an enormous video screen showing a twenty minute film of a lone figure sitting on a beach, the sound of waves and gulls filling the air from speakers located throughout the Arena, making it sound like birds were about to swoop on us from all angles. It’s the truest ‘surround sound’ experience we’ve ever heard.

On his last tour, in 2012, Waters recreated the brick-by-brick assembly of Pink Floyd’s titular Wall, but here he starts with only the bare necessities on stage, and purpose-shot movies moving a slightly disjointed narrative forwards.

Backing vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of pop act Lucius chant the vocals from Speak To Me before the band – Dave Kilminster on stunning lead guitar, piano & B3 player Bo Koster, keyboards and guitarist Jon Carin, guitarist and vocalist Jonathon Wilson and bass player/guitarist Gus Seyffert, Joey Waronker on drums and Ian Ritchie on sax – assemble for a run of Pink Floyd classics. Breathe, One Of These Days, Time and The Great Gig In The Sky are all performed with technical mastery by the nine musicians on stage, while stark images of junkies, squalor, consumerism and mortality flash across the screen, interspersed with this sad woman gazing longingly at a child’s toy, and a mysterious sphere hovering above suburbia.

It has the effect of repurposing the meanings of some of Waters’ lyrics, and in unison with the band’s technical excellence – but the lack of any verbal interaction with the crowd – makes for a strangely cold and clinical – rather sombre – experience.

A trio of tracks from Is This The Life… are coupled with footage of anonymous drone strikes – and knowing we just saw the loss of lives is a punch in the guts at a rock and roll show. The video goes on to attack the vacuous culture using cell phones to film everything instead of watching and absorbing it ourselves – but so many of the crowd continue to do so, missing the point entirely whilst so enveloped in their own need to record something they will most likely never watch, rather than experience it firsthand. A pair or hands reach for each other on the screen, slowly getting nearer until they disintegrate bit by bit, just out of reach, all this symbolism and commentary highlighting so much of what is wrong with our culture.

Suddenly footage from the movie version of Pink Floyd’s The Wall flashes onto the screen and that iconic bass riff starts – Another Brick In The Wall! A dozen hooded children line the front of the stage in detention centre-like overalls, while the band play the classic song in front of images of gun violence, Waters even tweaking one lyric to “we don’t need no gun control.”

The kids rip off their hoods, clamber out of the overalls wearing t-shirts blaring the word RESIST, and dance wildly. After the song they enthusiastically wave goodbye, and the rakishly handsome and fit 74-year-old Waters finally speaks to the crowd, warmly congratulating the local kids (from the Variety Youth Choir) and thanking the crowd. It’s a brief moment of comfort after an hour’s barrage on the senses.

The second set starts in surrealist style: As a waiter pours champagne glasses on a table to the side of the musicians during the song Dogs, while an elongated model of the Battersea Power Station which adorns the cover of the Floyd album Animals manifests above the crowd, effectively splitting the room in two.

As Waters and Co, wearing pig masks, taunt the crowd with their bubbles and play Pigs (Three Different Ones), the model reveals itself to be a huge series of projection screens. “None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe themselves to be free,” screams a banner on the screen, before a tsunami of anti-Trump images full of vitriol and hate barrage the audience. A fat inflatable pig flies above the crowd, emblazoned with “piggy bank of war” and many of Trump’s more ridiculous and bigoted tweets are flashed over the screens, followed by the legend, “TRUMP IS A PIG.”

Surely no-one can misunderstand the meaning behind all this?

The classic Money – a diatribe in 1973 shining a light on much of what is wrong with our consumer-driven world, and now with added Trump soundbites – features that glorious saxophone solo, before Us & Them again proves how well these forty-year-old songs can be repurposed for Waters’ activist means.

The screens continue to rail against injustice and intolerance, and the sad woman who has lost her daughter – and her soul – appears again, followed by the mysterious silver sphere, now made into real drone itself and flying, like the pig before it, around the room.

Through Brain Damage and Eclipse coloured lasers flood the room, around a simple white laser outline of a 3D pyramid – yes that’s right: just like the one on the cover of Dark Side Of The Moon, which is what they recreate, in solid, though abstract form.

It’s an amazing piece of technical engineering, as well as artistic vision, and the rendering of the music – almost of secondary important to the spectacle at this point – is sublime. The band receive a well-deserved standing ovation when it comes to a breathtaking halt.

Waters seems genuinely moved now, and – surprisingly – warm and chatty. “There’s a lot of love in this room tonight, and the world needs a lot of love right now.” Instead of the Floyd classic Mother at this point, like he’s played on most of the 76 dates of the tour thus far, Waters plays Part Of Me Died from his solo album, pointing out that they’d only played it once before live, in Vancouver last October. It is heart-wrenchingly sad put to the background film of the lady whose daughter has died, and leads directly into what – for many – is Pink Floyd’s finest moment in a stellar career: Comfortably Numb.

Again, Waters’ point is clear: we’re all so comfortably numb to the atrocities happening by our elected leaders and those we trust with our money. Nothing will ever change until we make it change. It’s an oddly uplifting end to a sombre and emotionally heavy show, Waters conducting the audience to sing the song, playing air guitar, and walking down the front rows shaking hands, before returning to the stage for a bow draped in an Aboriginal flag.

If Waters’ point is to make us reflect on everything wrong with our society, it’s hard to tell if he succeeded or not. We left the Arena conflicted – somewhat saddened by the experience, but thrilled by the stunning music and the technical mastery of the spectacle of the show. Most others we heard or saw talking on Facebook seemed to simply say “what a great show.” Were their eyes opened to Rogers’ messages, or did they only care about singing a few songs and seeing some pretty laser lights and a flying pig?

It would be wonderful to think that Waters is making a difference, making people realise all is not right, giving them the knowledge and will to “RESIST”… but I don’t think enough people saw it as anything other than entertainment.

Set List:
Speak to Me
One of These Days
Breathe (Reprise)
The Great Gig in the Sky
Welcome to the Machine
Déjà Vu
The Last Refugee
Picture That
Wish You Were Here
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2
Another Brick in the Wall Part 3

Set 2
Pigs (Three Different Ones)
Us and Them
Smell the Roses
Brain Damage
Wait for Her
Oceans Apart
Part of Me Died
Comfortably Numb

LIVE: ROGER WATERS – Perth, 20 Feb 2018

Filed Under: Live ReviewsPhoto Galleries

About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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  1. Noel says:

    Roger should form a political party and fight the causes he so firmly believes in. No one is going to do the fighting for him. We just want to be entertained. Real glad he left Pink Floyd else all we would have been hearing all these years are more of his diatribes.

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