ROGER WATERS: Singer/songwriter Roger Waters performs Pink Floyds "Dark Side of The Moon" in its entirety Friday at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.
The Orange County Register
Friday June 15th 2007
USA Irvine CA
Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
By BEN WENER:
Review: 'Dark Side' wowed, but even his stinging statements got an appreciative reception in Irvine. They're all hallmarks of the Pink Floyd experience.
I knew going into Roger Waters' show Friday night at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater that by intermission it would very likely merit the overused term awesome.
Last October, when the philosophical rock composer and his large ensemble played three sold-out nights at the Hollywood Bowl, Waters unveiled what might best be described as the ultimate Pink Floyd extravaganza. Fireball blasts, prismatic laser displays, a dazzling hi-def backdrop engulfing the group as it mightily revived a raft of classics, including "The Dark Side of the Moon" in its entirety: Short of the real thing reuniting – little chance of that happening ever again – this is just about the most all-encompassing Floyd experience any fan could hope for.
The whole shebang is framed by bricks from "The Wall" – the paranoiac alienation of "In the Flesh?" and "Mother" at the start, the final rush culled from most of Side 3, concluding with "Comfortably Numb." As such, Waters' re-envisioning of his seminal work becomes a skillfully structured theater piece, one whose resonant meaning has been deepened by forces both natural (time, age) and unnatural (the ravages of the Iraq war).
It's as much a tolling bell designed to arouse consciousness – alert people that the worst of history may be repeating itself – as it is an eye-popping reminder that no band provides a better mind trip than the Floyd.
Yet, as anyone who has attended other politically edged performances here this decade can attest – whether they saw mildly infused sets from Don Henley or Linda Ronstadt or a full-blown impeach-the-president rally like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's last outing – these things don't always go down so well in the Republican stronghold that is Orange County.
So more than this being Waters' first appearance here since 2000 – and the first time he has performed "Dark Side" in O.C. – I had two other reasons to reconvene with the 62-year-old mastermind: to discover how people would react to his scathing message, and to see if the graffiti-strewn inflatable pig paraded around the amphitheater during "Sheep" would get loose as it did at the Bowl. (Is it deliberate, in other words? Answer: Yes, it's released at a precise moment, its peace-promoting, Bush-bashing pork belly sent skyward as the first set ends. How and where Waters' crew retrieves that prop, I have no idea.)
One would like to think that, as with the ever-outspoken CSN&Y, people would know what they're in for with Waters. Casual classic-rock fans should be knowledgeable enough to know that "Dark Side," like parts of "The Wall" and much of "Animals," is meant to point out and stare down oppressive totalitarianism while inspiring listeners to "look around, choose your own ground" in the cosmos. Since "Dark Side," Waters' lyrics, never mind the expansive music he helped create, have increasingly been centered on such questioning protagonists, people on the brink of insanity battling forces (from within and without themselves) that threaten to impinge upon their free will.
But just as "The Wall's" mock-fascistic overtones were derived from the mob mentality Waters witnessed while touring increasingly vast venues, so is it possible that all these years later his meaning can still be lost on unthinking masses unwilling to meet him halfway. For some, any sort of Floyd-related encounter is merely a means to hit the bong and space out; for others, the sort who insist all shows should be entertainment and nothing more, just about any message will be deemed heavy-handed and unnecessary.
So here's the real surprise: The reception to Waters' most stinging statements, primarily directed at Bush and the war, were met not with hostility but with respect – and often standing cheering.
Certainly not everyone agreed with the Englishman's point of view, and he gives grumblers a lengthy stretch to stew over toward the end of his first set. First comes "The Fletcher Memorial Home" and its video-expressed notion that Bush and Blair belong in that closed-circuited asylum "for incurable tyrants and kings" alongside Osama bin Laden.
That's followed by one of only two Waters solo pieces, the ranting "Perfect Sense" and the new song "Leaving Beirut." A thought-provoking bit of life-changing autobiography – in which a then-xenophobic 17-year-old Waters is taken in by a saintly Lebanese family – the latter tune eventually turns into a rambling diatribe and plea for action.
During one of its contentious verses I heard a loudmouth a few rows behind me shout out, "You're a lunatic!" After which he added angrier comments I can't print. But where such disgruntlement at times grew infectious at CSN&Y's show, leading to walkouts, here it stuck out like the last gasp of the unenlightened, quashed by the roaring approval of the majority.
Is it fair to say this reflects some political shift in O.C.? Probably not. Does it suggest, however, that people think twice these days about America's role on the world stage, and are thus a bit more willing to hear dramatically challenging viewpoints from an empathetic source? Perhaps.
Besides, were they greatly irritated by these passages or Waters' use of the stage as soapbox, they were repaid for their patience with a tremendous run through "Dark Side," its wild sound effects and spiritual themes as timeless as ever.
Overall, this performance wasn't quite as exacting as that Bowl opener, with Waters as apt to flub a note or rush a cue as any of his three highly skilled guitarists (Dave Kilminster the best substitute for David Gilmour, one-time Thin Lizzy man Snowy White the most serviceable, and incomparable utility player Andy Fairweather-Low providing the most personality).
But while this set might have been noticeably less precise, it was doubly rousing, the Irvine crowd's outpouring of support clearly felt deeply by the show's star. It's enough to urge Waters to do more than enlist Cirque du Soleil for a Broadway-bound production of "The Wall," which could sanitize that sprawl.
A potentially more rewarding idea? Take that epic out on the road as he has with "Dark Side." Maybe as a way to celebrate the end of the war, Rog?
You know, when it ever comes
Friday June 15th 2007
USA Irvine CA
Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
By George A. Paul, Staff Writer
An inflatable pink pig.
A rotating prism with lasers.
They're all hallmarks of the Pink Floyd experience.
Aside from a one-off reunion at Live 8 two years ago and a recent Syd Barrett tribute concert (where various members performed separately onstage), the hugely successful and influential British art rock band is defunct.
During the '70s and early '80s, Roger Waters helped set the bar for concert spectacle. He didn't disappoint on Saturday night's "Dark Side of the Moon: The Return Engagement" tour stop either. Pyrotechnics, riveting film projections, familiar props and more were expertly utilized.
The Floyd's tall bassist/singer/songwriter took the audience on an amazing musical journey at a packed Verizon Amphitheatre in Irvine -- his first O.C. appearance since 2000.
It started and finished with selections from 1979's "The Wall," reached back to 1968's "A Saucerful of Secrets," touched upon other Pink Floyd albums and briefly, Waters' solo work.
A 70-minute career overview comprised the first set. Following a short intermission,
"Dark Side" was played in its entirety. The 20-minute encore section revolved solely around "The Wall."
Waters, 62, and his exceptional 10-piece band (notably veteran Andy Fairweather-Low on bass/guitar/vocals) launched the proceedings with "In the Flesh."
Careening guitars, ferocious drums and spiraling keyboards made a cacophony of noise while the frontman sang, "So ya thought ya might like to go to the show" with a sinister edge. Meanwhile, the famous marching hammers cartoon was shown on a large screen.
"Set Controls for the Heart of the Sun" proved hypnotic and slowly enrapturing with Waters on acoustic guitar, horn player Ian Ritchie doing a smooth clarinet solo and fiery sun imagery behind them.
Soap bubbles suddenly floated above the orchestra section as the band unveiled the atmospheric and subtle rock nuances in "Shine on You Crazy Diamond." A picture of late Floyd founder Barrett was shown as guitarists Dave Kilminster and Snowy White replicated David Gilmour's original runs (two others joined in on guitar throughout the evening). Full-bodied female backing vocals bolstered the tune.
Slinky, synth-driven FM radio staple "Have a Cigar" was fun (a different type of smoke filled the air). The crowd jumped to its feet and went nuts for the poignant, triple acoustic guitar-driven "Wish You Were Here."
Lesser known tracks from "The Final Cut" and politically oriented fare prompted a beeline for the beer stands. Each got mixed reactions. "Perfect Sense Parts I & II" featured big dramatic gestures from Waters, soulful backing vocals (props to Katie Kissoon), an inflatable spaceman, plus a faux submarine launch videogame on the screen with voiceover by Marv Albert.
One of the more intriguing segments came via "Leaving Beirut," a newer song where Waters recounted a Middle Eastern road trip he took at age 18. A Lebanese couple took the young musician into their home and the experience left quite an impression.
Black and white comic strip panels drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz ("Elektra: Assassin," "Fantastic Four") and Neal Adams helped tell the story. Waters sang about the foreign country, then he shifted gears to current politics.
Among those taken to task: British Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Bush ("Oh George/That Texas education must have (messed) you up when you were very small") and America in general ("Don't let the might of the Christian right (muck) it up for you and the rest of the world"). Amazingly there were no boos in the Republican stronghold of Irvine. Ritchie really got to shine here, with some subtle jazzy clarinet work and a sumptuous sax solo.
The hard rocking' "Sheep" and its animal noises made startling good use of extra speakers. An inflatable pig with multiple graffiti slogans ("Impeach Bush," "Free at Last," "Torture Happens") caused quite a commotion among audience members and their camera phones before it finally floated away.
"Dark Side of the Moon" is a masterful, rock era classic and one of the biggest selling albums of all time. Truly mesmerizing, watching it performed front to back was a high point. The band handled the intricate soundscapes well. Waters only sings on four tunes, so he spent a lot of time at the front of the stage playing bass. A laser prism emerged for "Brain Damage" and "Eclipse." Set 2 went by in a flash.
Helicopter sounds signaled the encore with Berlin Wall images and ominous "The Happiest Days of Our Lives." Waters pointed to the crowd and devilishly sang the lyrics that led into a strong "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)." Fans in the orchestra area didn't really sing along to the children's chorus, but pumped their fists.
Finally, the gorgeous "Comfortably Numb" capped the evening off. It soared, courtesy of Kilminster's scorching solo ending.
Upon exiting the amphitheater, one enthused male concertgoer could be overheard telling his son, "I never thought I'd hear those songs played live again in my lifetime."