Live Reviews : Roger Waters @ Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney 02/02/2018
Images: Michael Goddard
Words: Douglas Skene
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There’s no questioning the star status of someone like Roger Waters or anyone in Pink Floyd for that matter. It is assumed that the multi-generational set of fans will be out in swarms to revel in the enjoyment of tunes that have been a background to the many events of their lives. Tonight was something different though – somehow a man who was an integral part of so many classic albums has been elevated on the coattails of his own success with the stunning world tour of his opus ‘The Wall’. Roger is a man in the popular consciousness once again and with the pertinent and critical evaluation of life in the 2010’s in his new album ‘Is This the Life We Really Want?’ produced by Nigel Godrich (of Radiohead fame), we were in for an evening of fascination and challenge combined with timeless songcraft.
Unfortunately the evening was marred for a few by some viagogo scam on tickets, however, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the show when I eventually got in from the long lines at the box office. Nonetheless, this is a huge issue for Australian concert tickets.
In traditional Roger fashion, he has included the whole of (well almost) Dark Side of the Moon into his show played back-to-back -this time he decided to split up the experience through his set, in sequence of course but it gave the whole show a feeling of the conceptual scale of our favourite prism fronted album.
Set 1 was remarkably scaled back especially when you compare it to the experience of seeing ‘The Wall’ last time where the whole stage was loaded up with bricks with individual screens to form said wall. I saw it as Roger’s bold statement of “what do you reckon of my band?” with the backing screen as our only supplement along with masterfully executed effects and foley. Not always known as being the most upbeat of characters, Roger was beaming with glee has he performed the entire set, utilising the full breadth of the stage interacting with the audience and gesticulating inclusively. The definite highlights of this half of the show was the 3 new tracks Deja Vu, The Last Refugee and Picture That for their stirring rawness, and the crowd favourite Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 into Part 3 along with a Sydney youth choir. This is when the real star player of the night started to shine, Dave Kilminster. He joined Roger for his tour of ‘The Wall’ and he has been on my radar since then. A virtuoso with the sense to know when to pull back and he plays all of these songs with the restraint and faithfulness that could only magnetise fans of the Floyd. No wonder he has become the guitarist of other Progressive Rock heavyweights like Steven Wilson and the late John Wetton.
A brief intermission with lots of voiceovers sounding like radio communication in different languages played with people in the fully lit arena, with many looking a bit perplexed at the theatrical atmosphere to be honest (don’t worry they’ll get to hear Wish You Were Here soon). Next, a giant model of a factory like that seen on the ‘Animals’ cover dropped from the ceiling as the lights went down which was covered with evolving animated textures. When I am talking giant, I mean that it extended across the whole floor area of the venue. This display took centre stage guiding us through a visual journey of Roger’s not-even-veiled-at-all thematic and political intentions. I can imagine it could have been confronting to some but it spoke to me (pun intended). I think everyone should have been expecting it if they know the man, and I was personally glad to see how these pieces of music from 40 years ago had been visually reappropriated to the modern life and issues. In many ways, it wasn’t such a daunting task because the lyrical themes fit now as well as they ever have. It had to be seen to be believed though; this was a technical feat of lighting and engagement that was probably only rivaled by his last show.
The performances of Dogs and Pigs were astonishing and with ‘Animals’ being my favourite Floyd record, we were treated to something different to the tokenly performed Sheep which has been in the standard repertoire for live Waters performances. This band had the skill to deliver on these epics in a convincing manner with was intensified by an odd moment involving some interesting animal masks and a champagne drinking session that was as spooky as it was hilarious. This set was chockablock full of goosebumps moments borne from the subject matter to the flawless solos to the laser constructed version of the aforementioned prism over the audience to wrap up the Dark Side component of our set with the gospelesque Eclipse.
No Run Like Hell to wrap up the set, which was fine by me as Comfortably Numb with the best live rendition of the solo I have heard finished the night. There was musical joy scattered across that stage as people ploughed out that monolithic finale. The joy made it out from the bounds of the stage into the crowd as the hair stood on end all over our bodies.
This show was simply electric. For Sydneysiders, the last time I looked there were still a lot of tickets available for the Saturday night show. Get on it!
Catch Roger Waters on the remaining Us + Them Australian tour dates. For a full list of tour dates, plus tickets, head to: www.livenation.com.au.