Wednesday, October 18, 2006

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

My brother, David, sent me this review he wrote about the Roger Waters concert. Since I love embarrassing him, I'm going to post it here. He is a senior in college and he is studying film (journalism is just a hobby). It's not perfect, at times he sounds like a fan who will enjoy anything Roger Waters performs, and this takes away his authority. When I was discussing the concert with him, he did have some criticism (mostly that Waters doesn't have a good voice and the new work was not very good), but this didn't make it into the review for some reason. In any case, there are some really good things in this review, especially the way he describes the crowd. I really feel like I was there, though sadly I wasn't, but he did call me during "Wish You Were Here."

Waters Shines on the Dark Side

As I stepped into the Hollywood bowl, the usual smells of marijuana and beer filled my nostrils. I immediately glanced over at the stage, too anxious for my own good, obsessed with what was to come. From my seat in the Promenade section, I could only make out what looked like a giant glass in the center of the stage. On the left, there seemed to be an equally large bottle of some sort of alcoholic beverage. Behind all this seemed to be an old radio. I took my seat and waited, for I knew it was only a matter of minutes before Roger Waters, the bassist and lyrical genius of Pink Floyd, would make his way onto the Hollywood Bowl stage. It was Sunday, October 8, and I had been waiting for this night since early August.

The lights went completely dark and the now overcrowded venue was drowned in cheers. A large hand appeared, pouring a bit of the contents of the bottle into his glass. The hand fiddled with the radio, giving the audience some jazz and Elvis to listen to. At one point, the hand switched to a station and the synthesized beginnings of an all too familiar Abba song were heard. The station was quickly switched, met with laughter by the audience.

This unordinary introduction was soon over and the lights went dark again. In a flash the spotlight was on him. The crowd got to its feet in honor of Waters, who was smiling and ready to jam, bass in hand. And that he did, performing "In the Flesh," from Floyd's celebrated The Wall, complete with sounds, lights, and pyrotechnics that brought the Bowl to life. After this, Waters continued with another hit from the same album, the semi-autobiographical "Mother."

Without a break for even the shortest of breaths, he jammed right into "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" from Floyd's second album, A Saucerful of Secrets. All the while I was immersed in surround sound and special effects, allowing me to step into the songs and be one with the music. I had not taken part in something so intense since the time I stepped into the movies at Universal Studios.

Now the crowd was pumped full of rock, and the arena turned to dark once again as I heard the space-like opening of "Shine on You Crazy Diamond." The stage was transformed into the universe; planets, stars and comets rushing past. The audience, now spacemen, flowed through space, listening to the ingenious keyboard intro. The guitar soon joined in and a rush of drums and the other instruments got the crowd up, applause filling the air. This was exciting for me, my favorite Pink Floyd song, performed to its full potential. The song was written by Waters for his childhood friend, Syd Barrett, the badly fated, doomed musical genius and original creative force of Pink Floyd. Due to his schizophrenia and innately insane mind, Barrett was forced to leave the band early on. "Shine on" is the first song in an album dedicated primarily to Barrett, Wish You Were Here. Sadly, Barrett recently died in July, at age 60. As I watched Waters perform the song, I could feel his mixed feelings of love and loss pouring out of him for Barrett, as pictures of him played on the screen. When the first lyrics were sung, "Remember when you were young. You shone like the sun," the crowd cheered and joined in for the chorus, "Shine on you crazy diamond." There could not have been a better farewell for Barrett, a filled Hollywood Bowl in perfect unison, ensuring that he will forever shine on.

I was thrilled to see the commemoration for Barrett continue as the band played two more numbers from Wish You Were Here. First, "Have a Cigar," amazingly performed exactly as in the album, right up to the crescendo jamming at the end of the song with a sudden sharp decrescendo transition to the same tune, only softer and lighter in feel. I remained in awe at how Rogers conceived this transition on stage. In a flash the band was gone, and the hand returned, turning the radio volume down. The best was yet to come. The hand began to tune the radio to different stations as something sounded vaguely familiar to me. My suspicions were accurate, the hand stopped its fiddling, and the ever recognizable opening riff of "Wish You Were Here" began. The crowd went a little insane at this point, many unable to contain their excitement for the highly lovable ballad. The song, originally Waters' cry for Barrett who could not share in the band's success, now lived on as a remembrance of the talented musician.

The concert could have ended at this point and I would have gone home happy. But Waters did not stop here. He went on to perform more Floyd favorites from their 1983 album, The Final Cut, "Southampton Dock" and the gorgeous, soft "The Fletcher Memorial Home." I was also exposed to some of Waters' solo work which was previously unknown to me, such as "Perfect Sense" and "Leaving Beirut."

After this, the recognizable opening of "Sheep," a huge success from Floyd's 1977 Animals rang in my ears. This song had some great special effects, with pyrotechnics and lights galore. On stage was a screen showcasing a three dimensional view of the building, familiar to Floyd fans from the Animals album cover. I nearly jumped from my seat as I noticed a giant pink pig rising from the stage. The pig made its way throughout the entire crowd. On closer inspection I noticed graffiti had been marked on the animal, including "Impeach Bush" and "Don't be led to the slaughter."

The evening was going great when Waters spoke into his mic, "Ok, we're going to take a 15 minute break, and when we get back we're going to do Dark Side!" As the lights came on, the surround sound echoed of nature's finest noises. Soothing waterfalls and birds filled the crowd's ears, which remained until the end of the break. I could not have been more pleased with Waters endurance and ability to put on such a lengthy show, full of great hits. I rushed to the bathrooms and chatted with some overly stoned Floyd fans. I also realized that there must have been some sneaking in, as the place was packed, even for Hollywood Bowl standards. Fist fights were also taking place; the security guards definitely had their work cut out for them this night.

I rushed back to my seat and anxiously awaited the second half of the concert. Waters came on stage and to everyone's great pleasure introduced Nick Mason, Pink Floyd's original drummer. As a drummer myself, I was elated to see one of my most favorite percussionists live on stage. Waters announced that usually The Dark Side of the Moon begins with the beating of a heart. However, the sound effect was not necessary at this point. The audience being so anxious to hear Dark Side, we were able to provide a sufficient heart-beating soundtrack. Waters could not have been more correct.

The rest of the background noises blasted on the surround sound speakers, my neighbors lit up their various joints and pipes and The Dark Side of the Moon officially began. Waters and Mason performed superbly. All of the background noises and special effects from the original album remained intact and reigned over the audience. Of course, "Time," "Money" and "Us and Them" dominated as crowd favorites. The lady who sang "The Great Gig in the Sky," my favorite song from the album, put on an outstanding show. The song is quite difficult, with many high and long notes. The album shined even more than usual with live special effects reminiscent of Pink Floyd concerts of happier times past.

The greatest moment was when we reached the zenith of "Brain Damage," the second to last song of the album. At this point the triangular prism, decipherable to all Floyd fans from the Dark Side album cover, rose high above the stage. I was amazed, as were my neighbors, probably more affected in their non-penetrable state of highness. A white light shone and hit the prism, allowing a rainbow of colors to shine through on the other side. The audience cheered wildly; here in its paramount glory stood the sole symbol of Dark Side, rising above Hollywood.

In a flash, "Eclipse," the last song of Dark Side was played and the album was over. The crowd cheered as if it was to save their very lives. The band bowed, Waters and Mason shared an affectionate hug. But Waters was not about to end here, and once again I smiled at his will to go on and please his fans. The band ran away for a bit, as most do during this point in any given concert, but soon came back to a variety of cheers, whistles and yells.

In a beat, the familiar sounds came of an airplane overhead as the band struck up "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" and "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt.2," arguably Floyd's most popular song. The entire crowd remained on their feet at this point and sang along the infamous words, "We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control. No dark sarcasm in the classroom. Teachers leave them kids alone. Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone. All in all you're just another brick in the wall." The crowd became one, a joyous moment for all present.

Next, to everyone's great delight, Waters performed both "Vera" and "Bring the Boys Back Home," from the same album, The Wall. The crowd immediately recognized the opening of the next number, "Comfortably Numb," from the same album, a legendary piece in its own right. This was naturally the last song of the night and as the words "Hello, hello, hello" reverberated in our ears, bright lights and videos shone on stage. The song ended with fireworks ablaze, towering over the Bowl in perfect synchronization with the music. Beautiful.

Although saddened that the evening was over, I remained in a state of constant bliss throughout the rest of the evening. I walked back to the bus, dodging some of the stammering fans who had a bit too much for their own good. When one rather drunk woman asked me if I had ever tried it with a 55 year old, and if I would like to tonight, I honorably declined the offer. She stumbled away and seemed to pass out by some nearby trashcans.

All in all, the night could not have gone better. Waters has announced that he is planning on touring again next year. I highly recommend to those who missed him this time around: plan on seeing him next year. You will not be sorry, and a splendid time is guaranteed for all.


b1-66er said...

here's my take on a show a couple nights later in northern CA. skip to "it's showtime" to see the review itself.

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