Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Concert Review - Roger Waters

Flew down to California for work Monday morning and driving to the hotel, I was treated to some Pink Floyd on Bay Area radio. Imagine my utter SHOCK to find out Roger Waters was performing the very next night in Oakland at the Douche Bag Arena or whatever the Oakland Coliseum is called this month.

One Craig’s List posting and a few emails later and I found myself at the show for $80 with a decent seat.

In my mind, Rog would have to work pretty hard to top the last time I saw him, which was on the tour immortalized on the In The Flesh DVD. That DVD was filmed in Portland, by the way, the night after I saw him in the Bay Area. His band was stellar and the emotion packed into the set was palpable. My buddy Bill and I logged it as one of the best shows we had ever seen. He did Dogs, Set the Controls and all sorts of his best solo stuff. Go buy the DVD and you will get a good feel for that tour.

What I didn’t expect, or forgot, was that this time around he was doing the whole Dark Side and was whipping out some stuff I have never seen live before like Sheep, The Fletcher Memorial Home, Have A Cigar and even some new material. So I thought, what the hell? Let’s check it out with an open mind.

So how was it? Generally, the show was great but I vacillated between thinking I was connecting with a visionary artistic genius to thinking I was watching a fairly authentic Floyd cover band.

First off, his core band was pretty much the same as last time. Same drums (Graham Broad), guitar/vocals (Andy Fairweather Low and Snowy White), and same keyboard/guitar/vocals/Gilmour impersonator (Jon Carin). He had three backup singers like last time, and also added a Hammond player (his son, Harry Waters – no joke). They were fine, and in some spots exceptional.

The weak link was the primary lead guitarist, Dave Kilminster. Having seen Doyle Bramhall II rip the hell out of all the leads on last tour, I knew it would be hard to top him. Kilminster did a great job on Have A Cigar but I thought his tone and feel were weak in Shine On, Money and especially Time and Comfortably Numb. And for some reason he sang Money and it was like low grade Karaoke.

After tapping Clapton, Jeff Beck and Bramhall for the lead guitar spot over the years, the standards are incredibly high for the lead guitarist at a Waters show and this guy didn’t cut it. The few leads Snowy White got were also – while smoking – not even close to Gilmour’s tone and feel. So that was kind of a buzz kill for me. That and the songs he let other band members sing made me feel like I was watching a Floyd tribute band. And then I started making comparisons to MY Floyd tribute band The Floydian Slips and you don’t even want me to go there…

Anyway, the high points. There were lots. First off, Waters’ voice was great. I was very surprised that his croaking through songs like Wish You Were Here was the exception, not the norm. Go pull out The Final Cut and listen to Fletcher Memorial Home. He nailed all of the high parts live.

Also, he sang more of the songs and played way more bass this time than I remembered from last time, which was nice. Again, every time someone else sang, it felt like Karaoke at Chopsticks on Burnside.

He opened the show with In The Flesh and Mother, which were very solid. The third song was Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, which was a ballsy third song. Separated the boys from the men right there! But Snowy White’s short solo came nowhere NEAR Bramhill’s epic ripping jam from last tour. As Neil Young would say, “They weren’t even in the same BUILDING.” That was an opportunity lost, I tell ya.

Next was Shine On, which was OK, and Have A Cigar which Waters also sang really really well. That is a high vocal part and he nailed it!

Wish You Were Here followed, and this is the only song that was changed from the original, as Waters and the other guitarists all played acoustic and even the solos were acoustic. A nice, stripped down, different version. Very good because that song is so worn out from multiple plays on radio.

From there, Rog ditched the guitar to take a seat to sing Southampton Dock and Fletcher Memorial Home from The Final Cut. These were two of the strongest songs of the night. Poignant and well delivered by his band, probably because they didn’t need to try and sound like Floyd to pull them off.

Rog then got up to pace the stage, mic in hand, while delivering Perfect Sense from Amused to Death, which I thought was better last time. Some of those lyrics are embarrassing, too. He needed an editor on that album. Sadly, the next and newest song, Leaving Beruit, pretty much sucks. It was my pee break song.

But Waters redeemed himself immediately to close the first set with Sheep. The band pummeled this song, and Waters also unleashed a terror of confetti from the rafters, through which floated a VW Bug sized inflated pig zeppelin. The pig was spray painted with graffiti that said things like “Impeach Bush.” The crowd went nuts.

After a 15 minute set break, the band came back for the Dark Side of the Moon. The huge video screen that had been providing some of the BEST visuals I have ever seen at a concert (more on that in a second), changed to just show images via a circular shape, mimicking the classic Floyd circular screen for the whole of Dark Side.

The ‘big hits’ from Dark Side were sung by others (Karaoke). The high points were On The Run, which ping ponged in quadraphonic sound around the arena ceiling to some of the most mind bending visuals I have ever witnessed, and Great Gig, which was crushed by one of the backup singers. She oversang it, though, and I wanted her to hold it back a bit. Funny that no matter how kick ass a singer, no one can really top the original of that cut.

A piece of gear that looked like the tripod bottom of the lunar lander had been hanging from the ceiling all night above the front floor seats. For Brain Damage, it came to life as lasers shot out from four points, creating a 3-D laser prism that rotated slowly above and in front of the stage. While this sounds like a Friday night planetarium laser Floyd show effect, it was actually incredible. They also had a machine that emitted laser from within the shape on both sides, creating a 3D prism from the cover of Dark Side that rotated in midair. Highly cool.

The encore was all stuff from The Wall: Happiest Days, Brick 2, Vera, Bring the Boys Back Home and Comfortably Numb. Again, the big solos in Brick 2 and Numb left a lot to be desired. But Vera and Boys were incredibly and oddly moving. Weird songs to include but nice rarities. Waters sung Vera just like on The Wall and Bring the Boys Back Home was extended to include an additional chorus. Iraq war related visuals and explosions on the screen behind brought the point home that this song is as relevant today as ever.

I need to make special mention of the visuals. I remember thinking last tour that the visuals were a bit weak. The whole night was like a Power Point slide show. It felt low budget. This show, on the other hand, had some of the highest quality visuals I have ever seen. The screen felt like HD even from my 200 level seats, and the scenes seemed to be filmed in 3D. It was stunning.

To start the show, 15 minutes before the lights went out, an old time radio appeared on the screen. A bottle of whiskey and ash tray were in the foreground and a hand came up repeatedly to turn the radio dial, pour and drink glasses of whiskey and smoke cigarettes. It was a cool way to cue up the pre-show music. Chuck Berry and old 60s classics played. There was a laugh when Abba’s Dancing Queen came on and the hand came back quickly to switch the dial. You wondered who that hand and arm belonged to.

This “hand turning radio knob” video came back on screen to play the opening radio sound effects to Wish You Were Here, and it reappeared a couple of other times, providing kind of a visual theme throughout the night. In other songs, you got to see images of the room the radio is in. The scene would pan around slowly, and the radio would be there in the background. Well finally, in Comfortably Numb, we see this whacked out kid sitting in a chair eyes blazing like in the Wall movie but in 2007. As the camera pans back, there is the radio, booze and ash tray next to him. It was a subtle but effective way to tie the night together.

Overall, we got a lot of rarities, we got the hits, we got the whole Dark Side and we got Waters really connecting with the crowd even when he wasn’t singing. We got killer audio and visual. But we got weak solos and tepid vocals. Basically we AGAIN got reminded how awesome the original Floyd was and how the parts of Floyd can make great music and entertainment, but it ain’t Floyd unless it’s Waters, Gilmour, Wright and Mason. Amen.

Set List

set one:
--In The Flesh
--Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
--Shine On You Crazy Diamond
--Have A Cigar
--Wish You Were Here (acoustic)
--Southampton Dock
--The Fletcher Memorial Home
--Perfect Sense parts 1 and 2
--Leaving Beruit

set two:
--The Dark Side of the Moon

--Happiest Days of Our Lives
--Another Brick in the Wall part 2
--Bring the Boys Back Home
--Comfortably Numb


mike budd said...

Dave Kilminster? Any relation to Lemmy?

The DVD in Portland is incredible and btw one of the best multi channel music DVD's available. I watch it often, mainly to see and hear doyle play so well.

While on the subject, the Dark Side remastered 5.1 disc is an amazing adventure, like listening to this classic again for the first time.

Great review


harmolodic said...

I saw Roger on the "In The Flesh" tour as well. Generally I agree that tour was a little better, but "Sheep" made this one worth it for me. Excellent review! Thanks for steering me this way.

Mark said...

Awesome review! I added the images and links to the set list from the band as well as a poster that I got signed!
Roger was nursing his voice before the show - and it was worth it! He sounded awesome. I'll look through your other reviews too.

rearset said...

Thanks. Your review is far more detailed than mine and in depth, tho. I can't even imagine being able to pick weak spots in the band lineup...

Armen said...

I have the In the Flesh DVD and it's my favorite concert DVD of all time. And I'm right there w/you regarding Doyle and anyone that has to follow in his footsteps w/playing with Roger. I wish Roger himself would've sung the Gilmour tunes. That's something I'd like to see. But then again, I would rather have heard those tunes than not.

cipriano said...

This is just an absolutely superb review you have written here.
And, are you telling me that you were AT the actual show that ended up being the DVD for In the Flesh?
My God! I worship you!
That is too good to be true!
I concur with the gist of your other commenters here, the In The Flesh DVD is my favorite concert DVD of all time, BY FAR!
I have watched the thing, maybe 50 times? And I am not kidding.
I will never ever tire of it.

I agree that not having Doyle on the current tour sort of... well, I hate saying that it "lessens" the overall experience because I must say I think that Kilminster is really good, I really do. But, there is just not the same dynamic between Kilminster and White as there was with Bramhall and White.
I think that those two clicked on the In The Flesh Tour, in a way that is impossible to duplicate this side of.... the Moon!

Once again, great review here.
Thank you for dropping in on my own [bookish] site and adding your comment on my own Waters review!
All the best.
-- Cipriano

sam said...

Cipriano/Isorski awesome in-depth reviews.
So Isorski I was also there at the Oakland,CA concert on June19'07 and it was my first Roger Waters - Pink Floyd concert.
Even a week later, I get the goose bumps when I think about the concert. This concert has earned #1 on my best of the best live concerts list. On my way to the concert I wasn't sure what to expect but when I walked out of the concert I was just so exhilarated !. I was perched in the upper section-217, 2nd row (just to the left of the stage) with an awesome aerial view of the band. Its amazing the high notes Roger could still pick and
the back-up band was soooo.. tight.
Andy, Dave, Snowy and IanRitchie were really impressive with their solo's. I felt the arena acoustics made a whole lot of difference too. The refracted rainbow-colored laser beams with all that pot-smoke swirling through the beams were just surreal, it really complemented the DarkSide setlist. What did it for me were the set lists from WishYouWereHere, DarkSideOfTheMoon, the song "Set the controls For the heart" from SaucerfulOfSecrets, and the final encore(guess the whole concert ;)). And I walked out of the there comfortably numb and truly elated.
It is also neat to see how people connect through these blogs.. the review from "rearset" from Mumbai sent me down memory lane, my days of yore in Mumbai. I remember live concerts performed by such big bands were such a rarity in the early 90's. I recollect "Deep Purple" ;) being one of my first live concerts at Mumbai (94 ??, gosh gotten old to remember), the other one being JethroTull...
I just wish I could see the real Pink Floyd band lineup one day but for now I am happy...

chris said...

Great review. Sounds like we saw pretty much the same show. There's a bootleg out there that's pretty good. Since it's from the soundboard, it has the click track and Water's count off for each song.

Good fun.

Amo said...

cool review on the roger concert i loved the concert one of the best ever concerts i have been to. Thanks for reading my review and commenting.

MattyDread said...

Good review, I totally am right on with everything you said--I saw him 3x on the In the Flesh Tour, and the show at the Gorge (which commenced with his JET buzzing the arena) can never be topped. But I think this tour was different--he wanted all the old Amex corpos to pay $200 a seat and then have to listen to his politics. Good for him, I say. But not so good for the audience.