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ROGER WATERS @ Perth Arena gets 10/10

ROGER WATERS @ Perth Arena
Tuesday, February 20, 2017

10/10

Pink Floyd are one of the greatest bands of all time, with a legacy and music that seems to transcend time, genre and boundaries. While diehard fans may still be hoping for a reunion between frontmen David Gilmour and Roger Waters, it seems unlikely that will ever happen. Waters continues to tour with his own band, and for this Us + Them tour (perhaps a play on Us/U.S.) Waters also had a new solo album under his belt, last year’s widely acclaimed Is This The Life We Really Want?

In some ways it’s been a boon for fans who get two Floyd’s touring the world, despite Gilmour’s infrequent visits to our town. There’s no denying Gilmour’s incredible guitar playing and trademark vocals, but in recent years it is Waters who seems to have the most vitality and remains the most relevant. Always the more dramatic, artistic and political, his live shows are incredible, mind-blowing spectaculars. He played Coachella. He did huge scale album themed tours for Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall. He pushes the boundaries of a live show, updating the visual component to reflect current socio-political issues. He seems genuinely engaged and passionate about the subject matter, and you feel it in the heart and the head. There are few artists of his ilk putting on productions of this depth and scale, and this tour may well be his greatest yet.

The music is the main feature of the show, the carefully sequenced glue that holds it all together, but is just one element of his grand, curated audiovisual extravaganzas. And lately, the evergreen 74 year old seems reinvigorated with his first solo album in 25 years – one of his best. The classic Floyd themes are ringing more true and powerful than ever.

Perth Arena was full with an excited crowd of all ages, ready to rock for the 8pm scheduled start, which ended up being a little delayed. You could feel the anticipation building in the air. Walking in to take your seat in the giant cavernous venue, you were greeted by a massive ultra high definition video screen and surround sound, behind the big stage strewn with instruments, that featured a peaceful still image of a girl sitting on a beach facing out to sea.

Suddenly the image on the screen started to move, with the wind blowing and the sky moving. The image then slowly morphed as the horizon out to sea turned dark and red, approaching the shore, drawing us into in an immersive, apocalyptic abyss, as the band took the stage to the rising sounds of Speak to Me – the brief intro track from Pink Floyd’s classic 1973 album Dark Side Of The Moon. As on the album, the rushing sounds exploded and resolved into Waters’ gentle plodding bassline of Breathe, as the giant video screen took us into space, flying through stars and planets.

Next the imagery turned darker, taking us into a dirty, dingey corridor and room, with flashes of junkie imagery, blood and syringes – as the heavy, delayed, reverberating bass of One Of These Days rung out, before the infamous distorted sample “One of these days, I’m going to cut you into a million pieces!” and the huge beat kicked in.

Time followed, as swirling animated images of clocks filled the big screen. Filling in for Gilmour on guitar and some vocals was David Kilminster. He stepped up to deliver an impressive lead, making his beautiful Fender Telecaster scream. At times the visuals were so impressive, it was hard to look away at the equally impressive band. 

Out of the eight-piece backing band that sprawled across the wide stage, two figures that stood out were the striking, blonde-bobbed, black-dressed, tambourine playing, backing singer duo – who were in fact the frontwomen of Brooklyn indie-folk duo Lucius – themselves playing a Perth Festival gig tonight at Chevron Gardens.

Their vocal harmonies were incredible, and nowhere better was this exemplified as on The Great Gig In The Sky. The orgasmic track is a fan favourite that has been tackled by various backing singers over the years, but this new duo’s interpretation of it was magnificent, as they got right up in each other’s faces, which were cast up among stars on the big screen to match their sparkling outfits.

Welcome To The Machine resonated as powerful as ever, with some fitting Wall-era style animation. Waters strained a little at times with his vocals, but at others sounded stronger than ever. The rough, raw yelp of his youth, has matured into a smoother croon, or at times howl. He worked the stage, standing arms outstretched at the wings, encouraging the crowd to sing along, which got a few old rebels out of their seats, arms outstretched and screaming to the skies.

The first track from the new album was welcomed by the crowd – the acoustic ballad Déjà Vu sees Waters contemplating with a smirk how “If I had been God… I believe I could have done a better job,” showing that British sense of humour is still alive and well in him.

The all-time classic Wish You Were Here, a call to absent friends, was given a wonderful rendition, with duelling acoustic guitars, before a spectacular sequence of songs from The Wall to end the first set, comprised of The Happiest Days Of Our Lives and Another Brick In The Wall Parts 2 and 3.

Some amazingly powerful choreography saw a bunch of kids in orange, prisoner jumpsuits, hooded for execution, marched out onto the stage forming a line, before ripping the bags off to reveal their faces and sing the famous chorus part: “We don’t need no education…” The kids then ripped off the jumpsuits to reveal black shirts with “RESIST” emblazoned upon them. As they left the stage, Waters thanked the kids who were in fact from our local Variety Youth Choir.

After such a climatic moment it was time for a brief intermission, with many thinking they’d already witnessed an incredible concert… but little did they know what was in store for the second half. Waters was only just getting started and had some big tricks up his sleeve.

To start the second half of the show, giant screens appeared from seemingly nowhere, lowered and unfurled from the ceiling above the crowd, down the middle, from front to back.  The displayed images, combined with the large scale smoke stacks above them, replicated the iconic imagery of the Battersea Power Station, the album cover of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals. The screens lit up in a dazzling, colourful explosion, as the band launched into the epic track Dogs.

Then the eerie, opening keyboard riff of Pigs (Three Different Ones) drew cheers, and as the beat kicked in, giant, gaudy images of Donald Trump appeared on the big, colourful psychedelic screens, as Waters sang, “Big man, pig man. Haha, charade you are.” It was amazing how such an old song could suddenly seem so perfectly relevant. And Waters didn’t hold back. He performed with impressive intensity and energy, as more lewd images followed; Trump’s head on a pig, hooded KKK figures and Trump’s made-up face on an obese, naked woman.

Then when you thought it couldn’t get any more crazy – a giant, inflatable, flying pig appeared from the side of stage and did a lap around the Arena, covered with graffiti and slogans like “Piggy Bank Of War”. While this was happening, several of Trump’s most outrageous and disgraceful quotes were projected on the screens. Reading them all in quick succession like that, it really hit home how obscene it is that such an obvious scumbag could be the President of the USA.

Then just in case you didn’t get the message, “Trump is a pig” was projected in giant letters across all the screens. It was a powerful moment that saw the crowd rise to their feet and applaud such a bold statement.

This then perfectly segued into Money, which saw images of world leaders being displayed. Us And Them was another powerful moment, as striking, emotional, contrasting images were displayed of smiling, innocent children, drones, Black Hawks firing missiles, cops in riot gear and peaceful protesters – as well as some amazing, rarely seen, sweeping footage of the West Bank wall dividing Israel and Palestine.

The way these old songs still resonate so powerfully and seem so relevant is incredible, yet also sad – as what does that say about our progress as humans?

Another new song Smell The Roses gave guitarist Jonathan Wilson a chance to step up, looking very much like a young Gilmour. The magnificent, epic closing two tracks from The Dark Side Of The Moon, Brain Damage and Eclipse, were a fitting finale, as an amazing, giant, three dimensional prism of light was revealed, with a rainbow of coloured lights fanning across it, as a giant silver orb floated around it. It was a mind-blowing, jaw-dropping climax to say the least.

Following a brief encore, the band returned to the stage to play a trio of new songs Wait For Her, Oceans Apart and the moving Part Of Me Died. Waters took some time to introduce the band and thank the crowd for the loving vibes, commenting “The world needs love right now so if that could spread a little bit, that’d be good.”

They finished the night triumphantly with Comfortably Numb, featuring Kilminster’s impressive take on one of the greatest guitar solos of all time.

It’s almost impossible to put into words, the sights and sounds and deep emotional responses this night provoked, but it’s fair to say it’s a show no one will ever forget, and one of the best you’re ever likely to see from a true living legend. Roger Waters doesn’t fuck around.

ALFRED GORMAN

Photos by Paul Dowd Photography

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