Words by: Mark Miller
Roger Waters :: 06.19.07 :: Oracle Arena :: Oakland, CA
Even after a two year dual-hemisphere Dark Side of the Moon Live tour, Roger Waters was more than able to summon the proper passion to satiate the hunger pangs of the Pink Floyd starved crowd at his recent stop in Oakland, CA.
Since Pink Floyd's one-off appearance in July 2005 at the London Live 8 concert, the fervor of Floyd fanatics for a proper reunion with founding member Waters has been stirred up again. But, with creative control issues still lingering between Waters and David Gilmour, and Gilmour's stated intention that he has retired from lengthy touring, hopes of an extended Floyd reunion remain, at best, a pipe dream.
Until then, Waters will more than suffice. While he's committed to not playing stadiums (unlike the Gilmour-led Pink Floyd), his fans have still come to expect the highest standards of audio and visual quality, and this tour was no exception, with elaborate staging designed by Mark Fisher, complete with projections, floats and a 360-degree quadraphonic sound system.
His band featured, amongst others, Waters solo vets Andy Fairweather Low and Snowy White (who played a solo on the Animals ancient 8-track) on guitars as well as Roger's son Harry Waters on Hammond organ.
"In the Flesh" was the perfect opener that allowed Waters to interact with the crowd as he sang the accusatory lyrics ("Who let all this riffraff, into the room?") accompanied by a sinister spotlight. "Mother" followed and suffered from poor placement after the high energy "Flesh," too early in the set for such an emotional powerhouse. Still, when Waters sang, "Mother, should I trust the government?" the liberal-as-you-can-get Bay Area throng was sure to remind him that he should not. Perhaps Waters used "Mother" to tone down the tempo for the upcoming psychedelic gem, "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun," one of the only songs from the pre-Dark Side era Waters played. Waters has explained his emotional connection to "Set the Controls" in relating a story about a terminally ill boy who listened to the song repeatedly as he was dying. The version in Oakland was touching and far more folksy and ambient than the acid-electric version from Waters' 2000 tour.
Roger Waters World Tour
The beloved paean to Syd Barrett, "Shine on You Crazy Diamond," followed, and while the images of the recently deceased Barrett floated by on the video screens, this performance seemed rather by-the-numbers, although vocalist David Kilminster brought some zeal. "Have A Cigar" was a nice addition to this latest tour, Waters not having played it in years and it segued properly into the emotional sing-along "Wish You Were Here."
Things quieted down for a couple of slower pieces from The Final Cut, the last Waters-Floyd release from 1983, including "Southampton Dock" > "Fletcher Memorial Home," the latter featuring a faultless replication of Gilmour's emotive solo. Unfortunately, Waters only chose to play "Perfect Sense Parts 1 & 2" from his underrated 1992 album Amused to Death.
The one new song Waters has played on this tour (since 2006) is called "Leaving Beirut." Waters introduced it with a story of how a family in Lebanon took him into their home when he was hitchhiking. "Beirut" is a lyrically complex song that draws parallels between Waters' youth and his present objections to the U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Musically, "Beirut" leaves a little bit to be desired, with its 1950's throwback theme. Perhaps the song grows on one upon repeated listens but it lacked the immediacy demanded in a live setting. However, the visuals for "Beirut" must be acknowledged - a series of graphic novel quality illustrated projections that depicted Waters' adventures in an innovative format.
Waters saved the best for last as he closed the first set with "Sheep." The epic high-energy track from Animals was the first song where Waters truly let loose on the bass for the hard charging extended jam at the song's finale. With a bit of a deranged smile, Waters promised to return to do the groundbreaking Dark Side of the Moon album in its entirety. Though everyone knew it was coming, no one in the house was complaining. The revamped Gilmour-led Pink Floyd performed DSOTM in 1994, but this two-year tour marked Waters' first complete performances of the long-charting classic rock album in over three decades.
Roger Waters World Tour
The old Floyd staple, the floating Pig, has been resurrected for this tour, but with a Waters-inspired twist - the Pig was scrawled with political graffiti including "All Religion Divides" and a strategically placed "Bush is an Asshole" on the float's behind.
Second set kicked off with glorious harmonies befitting "Speak to Me" > "Breathe," but it was "On the Run" that was the early standout, with its still innovative mélange of synthesizers, guitars and newly added effects such as construction and traffic noises that were jarringly effective. Visually, "On the Run" was spectacular, as well, featuring a blurring array of cosmic and psychedelic visuals that proved the perfect enhancement to the hyped tempos of the music.
The intro to "Time" proved as interesting as it was intense. Drummer Graham Broad was all over his toms with intense pounding fury as the camera keenly focused on Waters playing the low end of his bass strings to create the song's temporal tones. As expected, "Money" got the crowd moving, and "Us and Them" made them reflect. Experiencing the instrumental "Any Colour You Like" - not played by Waters since the 70's - was a treat that added some musical muscle to the set.
Roger Waters World Tour
The closing suite of "Brain Damage" > "Eclipse" ended the sincere recreation of DOSTM by Waters and his band. And what would Dark Side be without incredible female backing vocals? Katie Kissoon, P.P. Arnold and Carol Kenyon were more than up to the task.
Waters returned to The Wall for the extended encore. "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" > "Brick in the Wall Pt 2" are almost obligatory for a Waters show at this point, but "Vera Lynn" > "Bring the Boys Back Home" was perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening, with "Boys" being especially poignant in light of the ongoing war in Iraq. There was a moment of irony in the use of pyrotechnic explosives, almost as if Waters is recreating the conditions of a war, or perhaps, offering a more peaceful substitute for the shock and awe of modern warfare.
A jammed out but characteristic "Comfortably Numb" closed the show, and while it's an undeniable classic, perhaps next tour Waters could mix things up a bit and close the show with an equally potent rocker such as "Not Now John" from The Final Cut.
Should Waters tour again? Indubitably. Even approaching his mid-sixties, Waters appears as vital as ever and there is no reason he shouldn't continue performing live indefinitely, even if Pink Floyd's future is still obscured by clouds.
JamBase | Oakland
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