From the Dark Side

Roger Waters, formerly with Pink Floyd, performed at Scotiabank Place Wednesday.
Photograph by : Jana Chytilova

6th June 2007
Ottawa CA
Scotiabank Place

By Lynn Saxberg:
The Pink Floyd album, Dark Side of the Moon, is widely considered an epic rock masterpiece, a musical exploration of human nature that continues to resonate 34 years after it was created.


But much like any other ambitious creative effort, it all boils down to the details, the meticulous sonic brushstrokes that contribute to the sum of the whole. Things like the particular quality of the voices, the carefully crafted solos and the sound effects. A heartbeat, a cash register and clocks all have a specific role to play within the music. We’ve all listened to that record so many times that one tiny misstep can destroy the integrity of the entire piece, if performed in a live setting.


That’s why I have a hard time watching a Floyd cover band perform Dark Side of the Moon. Sure, they try their best but there always seems to be something that’s not quite right. It’s one of the rare concert situations when I don’t want to hear the artist take liberties with the music. On Dark Side of the Moon, every note has its place.


Enter Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s singer-songwriter and bassist, and one of the key forces in the original creation of The Dark Side of the Moon. His ongoing effort to reclaim the record fell on more than 13,000 pairs of receptive ears at Scotiabank Place on Wednesday. It was his first appearance in Ottawa in 20 years.


Of course, the major problem with his approach is that the rest of the band is not involved with this tour. Instead of Pink Floyd, he was backed by a 10-piece band that included two keyboard players, three guitarists, three backing vocalists, a saxophone player and drummer. His son, Harry Waters, was the dreadlocked fellow behind the organ.


Without the rest of Floyd, it was impossible for Waters to be completely accurate in recreating Dark Side. This was especially evident when curly-haired keyboardist Jon Carin took over the vocals that are originally sung by David Gilmour. He did an excellent job, especially on Time and Us and Them, even though his voice has a slightly different character than Gilmour’s.


But when Waters stepped up to the microphone, he brought it all back home with his smoky tenor, although he may have had a little extra vocal enhancement on the high end of Brain Damage/Eclipse. The proper sound effects were in place, as far as I could tell, and the playing and soloing were impeccable.


For me, the litmus test would come during Great Gig in the Sky. The disembodied female voice, originally recorded by Clare Torry, could make it or break the whole concert in my books. Happily, Carol Kenyon, a British singer who’s backed both Waters and Pink Floyd on separate tours, pretty much nailed the phrasing, breathing and tone, to many rounds of applause. Wow.


One surprising realization of the evening was how short the album is. It seemed like it was over in 15 minutes, though in reality, it was closer to 45. The album itself clocks in at 43 minutes, a little skimpy by today’s CD standards, but in high school, it was just the right length to drift away from homework.


With two sets to fill on Wednesday, Waters dipped into the non-Dark Side Floyd catalogue, and added some songs from his repertoire of solo material. A fairly recent song of his was Leaving Beirut. Waters was sincere and passionate in singing it, unafraid to reveal his anti-Bush attitude, but it’s not a fantastic song. It’s too repetitive, wordy and plodding to be a hit.


Elegantly dressed in black, with thick gray hair, Waters didn’t talk much to the audience. As a trio of giant inflatable figures floated above our heads, the stage-zone special effects included a paper snowfall, a bubble machine and a few blasts of pyro. The staging was spare, the focus on a huge screen behind the stage, which carried images of war and conflict. The whole rig will be transported to the next city in nine tractor-trailer trucks.

Concert Review: Waters_Roger

Sun Media
6th June 2007
Ottawa CA
Scotiabank Place

OTTAWA -- About the only thing as big as last night's Senators game was Roger Waters and his brilliant live concert version of Dark Side of the Moon at Scotiabank Place.


More than 13,000 fans packed the arena to travel back to 1973 for Pink Floyd's enduring classic.


Good call too, because this Waters' showing, which began more than a year ago at the "Rock in Rio" festival, is a state-of-the-art theatrical event that pushes the boundaries of what a rock concert can be.


But not before a set of Floyd favourites, all set to the most jaw-dropping visuals I've ever seen in a rock show. But this should come as no surprise coming from Waters and Pink Floyd, who in their heyday, on seminal albums from Wish You Were Here to The Wall, were unrivalled showmen, blending psychedelic, larger-than-life visuals with meandering songs of alienation.


So, not surprisingly, the live revival of Dark Side of the Moon gave fans lots to look at all night, with a tightly choreographed, eye-popping stream of dazzling video, beginning with an imposing pre-show projection of an old 1950s-era console stereo, a bottle of Johnnie Walker, a glass and an ashtray, while Bob Dylan played on the PA system.


You might not have put the two together until an ABBA song played momentarily over the PA system before a hand turned the radio station to My Funny Valentine, a little Rachmaninov and finally Waters' thundering opener In The Flesh, complete with animation of marching scissors, and Mother with singer Katie Kissoon and her gorgeous soprano wail.



The striking visuals were a perfect compliment to Waters' cinematic musical lamentations. In fact, while the 63-year-old Waters appeared to be in good vocal form, the show is probably miles better than the original tour of 35 years ago, simply because Waters seems to have taken full advantage of the new digital video and audio technology.


Perhaps that is why there was very little evidence of smokables to enhance the concert. In fact, an audience as largely middle-aged as this probably didn't even need their bifocals to fully experience the striking Peter Max animation and montage of closeups of the Milky Way during Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun and Shine On You Crazy Diamond, which Waters dedicated to Pink Floyd's original madcap member Syd Barrett.


The evening wasn't short on inflatables either, as a giant NASA astronaut hovered over the audience throughout Perfect Sense, Parts 1 and 2, and later, a hog covered in graffiti went airborne on Sheep.


Alas, the only lapse in the first half, a potpourri of old favourites, was the new political ballad, Leaving Beirut which proved that Waters is capable of writing as forgettable a song as anyone.


After an intermission, the concert became more of a screening, with the audience mesmerized to the big-screen projections while the band played the album, complete with all the sound effects it is famous for, beginning with Speak To Me and Breathe, and continuing with note-perfect live versions of Time, The Great Gig In the Sky, Money, Us and Them, Any Colour You Like, Brain Damage and Eclipse.


Waters' fusion of atmospheric music and brillant video now speaks clearly why Dark Side of the Moon continues to be as thrilling in 2007 as it was in 1973.