“Mum, you know I can’t drink that wine!”
“Durr…” (rolls eyes, points to own stomach) “ – PREGNANT!”
Two nights ago, I saw Roger Waters in Auckland on his Us + Them world tour. I’ve seen him in concert before, six years ago in the same venue, performing The Wall (more on that overheard mother-daughter exchange later). That 2012 was a fantastic show, and something I’ll never forget, but you probably had to be a fan of The Wall to truly enjoy it. This current tour is almost a fully dedicated Pink Floyd greatest hits set, and so there was lots to like.
Opening, of course, with Breathe, the set included the lion’s share of Dark Side Of The Moon, a couple of songs from Wish You Were Here – its title track plus Welcome To The Machine – and the more well-known songs from The Wall – The Happiest Days Of Our Lives / Another Brick In The Wall parts 2 and 3, played as one continuous piece, and encores of Mother and Comfortably Numb.
What surprised me though was the portion of the set allocated to Animals – the oft-overlooked 1977 Pink Floyd album (overlooked only in relation to its chronological neighbours Wish You Were Here and The Wall). Up to that point, the concert had been your standard, straightforward arena show: one stage, band playing, big screen at the back projecting images alternating between the band playing, and artful, mind-bending imagery.
But as the band kicked into Dogs, a huge structure descended from the roof of the arena. The four chimneys of the Battersea Power Station emerged telescopically next to an in-scale flying pig, while the sides of the power station were projected onto massive screens. The whole piece looked like the front cover of Animals was floating in the middle of Auckland’s Spark Arena (as a sidenote, the former name of the arena – the Vector Arena – was a more fitting name to host Roger, particularly if Clarence Clemons from the E-Street Band was playing saxophone).
Dogs segued into Pigs (Three Different Ones), and Waters used this as his opportunity to shame Donald Trump. The band donned pig masks and sat around a dining table sipping from champagne flutes, while a selection of Trump’s inane (or should that be insane?) tweets were projected onto the walls of the power station. ‘TRUMP IS A PIG’ eventually appeared inscribed on the screens as the song climaxed.
I really appreciate that Waters is still (seemingly) a fan of the Animals record. When it was overlooked as one of the Immersion box sets a few years ago, it seemed to lose some of its cachet. Perhaps it was an absence of decent additional material that could have fleshed out such a set, but it just seemed to be a snub for a record that resonates so much with fans as the last true Floyd album (if you follow the theory that The Wall and The Final Cut are just Roger Waters solo albums in everything but name).
The other highlight of the set for me was the inclusion of One Of These Days, the bass-heavy opening song from 1971’s Meddle. I love this song – it’s in my top 5 Floyd tracks – and so when Waters strummed that first heavily-delayed bass note, I let out a squeal of excitement much to the amusement of my wife.
The rest of the show featured everything you’d expect from a Roger Waters show (or a Pink Floyd show for that matter): laser projections, a school choir for Another Brick In The Wall Part 2, a huge inflatable pig flying around the arena (much more manoeuvrable these days thanks to drone technology), and lyrics to die for. If there’s ever been a finer quartet than ‘And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking / Racing around to come up behind you again / The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older / Shorter of breath and one day closer to death’, I’d really like to know.
My only disappointment was the absence of Shine On You Crazy Diamond – but I presume this was substituted for the Animals suite due to its topicality in terms of world events. Hopefully he’ll return to New Zealand one day and I’ll get to see him play it.
My experience in seeing Roger Waters play live twice now is that he never fails to attract New Zealand’s cream of the bogan crop. When we saw The Wall, I invested in very expensive diamond tickets, just a few rows from the front. We’ll be away from the riff-raff here, I thought. How wrong I was. To my right sat a twenty-something blonde, dressed like a stripper, accompanied by her forty-something mother. They looked so similar – blonde with roots, caked in make-up, stumbling in ridiculously high heels – they could have been sisters. After the older one returned from the bar, forgetting that her daughter was pregnant (she drank the wine regardless), they proceeded to stand-up in their seat, and danced along to the show. Not a huge problem you might say, but the people sat behind them who had shelled out $400 a ticket thought differently. Security was called after they became belligerent and abusive, and they were thrown out.
This time around, we were sat in the cheap seats with a group of drunken bogans sat behind us. Before the show started, one of them kicked a full tray of drinks over, with the resulting liquids spilling under our seats. They apologised, and it wasn’t too much of a problem, so fair enough. The guy sat directly behind me then thought it was acceptable to put his feet up onto the top of my chair, which I just sat back on, his toes digging into my back, until he got the message and stopped. Then during the show, one of the males spat his drink out, laughing at something one of his companions had said. My wife took the brunt of it to the side of her face, while a lady in front of her stood up and turned around to give him an absolute bollocking. As I was debating whether to notify security – I wasn’t too sure what had happened, or whether it was accidental or a malicious act – one of their party returned from the bar and passed my wife and I a whiskey and coke each to apologise.
I appreciated this greatly – but the exchange did take me by surprise and as a result I missed Roger singing my favourite lines from Wish You Were Here: ‘Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war / For a lead role in a cage?’
Oh well, maybe next time (and I hope there will be a next time)..
I don’t know The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking too well, despite having heard it a number of times. I really need to listen to it more – and probably through headphones so I can pick up on all the little nuances and snippets of dialogue. It’s an album that’s crying out for an accompanying film (like Alan Parker’s 1982 film of The Wall), and while such a project was initially mooted, nothing has emerged in the subsequent 35 years.
Hit: 5:01 am (The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Part 10)
Hidden Gem: 4:47 am (The Remains of Our Love)