The advance word on the Roger Waters live show of Dark Side Of The Moon suggests this is going to be one of The Events Of The Year. Indeed, you'd have to be around the dark side of the bend or living on the back side of Luna to miss it. The concert is meant to start at 2000 hours, Thursday 15th of February at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. Major road works outside the building, coupled with a half mile stroll inside the CEC to reach Hall 3, means that it won't get underway any earlier than 2030. There appear to be about 8,000 people cramming inside at once, while a few souls besiege the box office downstairs for last minute tickets.
Inside, Neil Young is quietly warbling "Heart of Gold" before crashing into an interrupted rendition of "Like a Hurricane". I'm about 100 yards away in the yellow cheap seats feeling the first rush of a trip down the grassy knolls of Memory Lane, coursing through my synapses. I'm also wondering how the fuck did they get a 30 foot bottle of Johnnie Walker scotch, a large tumbler, oversize ashtray, radio/stereo console and massive headphones here as props?. They dwarf the action on stage as techies do last minute sound checks and alignments. There are two large screens stage left and right and a circular screen above the drumkit. Banks of overhead speakers hang from the rafters. Loads of familiar Lamma faces in the crowd so high-fives to Liz and Vicky, Adele and Tom, Sian and Chunny, Eva and Dave and Georgie and Ian. I'm sure I'll spot others as the show progresses
Neil fades out as random radio bursts of static mutate into Vera Lynn singing "We'll meet again..." I realise somewhat stupidly that the props are a DVD still image when a large hand starts tuning the radio, pouring a drink and lighting a fag. (Wot! No giant baggie of spliff and Rizla papers?) I wonder if the hand belongs to Roger Waters as the music flits between Jerry Lee Lewis singing "Hound Dog",, fragments of Abba tunes and Kenneth Wolstenhome saying "they think it's all over...." Radio KAOS indeed. The lights dim and the 11-piece band are on stage with Roger singing "So you thought you might like to go to the show..." The circular screen is showing old newsreel clips of Nixon overlaid with MTV migraine inducing cartoon FX.while the opening tune (an overture?) winds down amid fireworks and exploding flare pots.. Roger sets out his stall early with the second tune. "Mother, do you think they'll drop the bomb...". Mr. Waters clearly has his agenda for tonight and education is as important as entertainment.
I'm thinking I've died and gone to heaven as "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" rises from the fading echoes of "Mother. This is quite a radical re-working. Synth oboes play the melody and a definite Eastern drone is apparent. This is Nu-Space Psychedelia of the finest kind with a monster mid-song jam between the keyboards and Ian Ritchie blowing his heart and mind out on saxes. All punctutated by Graham Broad's heavy tom-toms. The screen shows extreme solar flare activity overlaid with pyramids, obelisks, monoliths and other geometric shapes tumbling and disappearing in "random precision".. The oldest tune he plays tonight and still a mindfuck.
Speaking of fucked minds, it's Shine On (You Crazy Diamond) next. The band are note-perfect as far as I can tell and Syd's haunted face and Kohl-black eyes are the backdrop to a Liquid Len style light show with a double helping of cosmic nebulae. I think the film is from Syd's first acid trip. Roger doesn't actually mention the late Mr.Barrett at any point, but it's clear this is a heart-felt tribute to the Floyd's Founding Freak. "Have A Cigar" and "Wish You Were Here" mine the same rich vein of bucolic space folk that was the band's mid-70's forte. Most of the audience are on their feet, rushing the front and singing unabashedly throughout. I spot Big Mark and Lucy. He's on his way to the mixing desk because "the sound is centred there" as he puts it. The mixers are the best I've heard, since the Korn concert.. The digital noise explodes from all around the room, phasing and fading round my brain. "These guys are Old School" says Mark. It's a privilege to hear them. Reminds me of Dan Healy, the sonic sculptor for the Grateful Dead. The way he could play a mixing console.like he was another band member. Also Nigel Godrich and his collaborations with Radiohead. Or Kraftwerk in full 4-D flight. The quad sound is similar but better than that used by Pet Shop Boys at their world debut shows at the Coloseum in the early 90's.
Things turn darker and more political with "The Fletcher Memorial Home" Footage of various tinpot dictators and despots flashes up on the screen. The words dig at Thatcher and Reagan, Begin and Pinochet. This could be a bit self-indulgent of Roger as this song is from his "solo".Floyd LP "The Final Cut". The close up shots make him look like a gleeful, slightly decadent Peter Cook or Leslie Phillips as he puts the boot into the nasty little people who have too much power for our own good. Well, it's always open season on dirty politicians. The next song I don't know the name of, but has voxbites of HAL from 2001 in sync with film clips of space walks and the Big Blue Marble spinning serenely below. Then an Apollo astronaut balloon, possibly representing Frank Poole, tumbles and drifts from the rear of the auditorium to the stage as the crowd's jaws collectively hit the floor.
There's been so much to take in as the first set draws to a close. The gospel-tinged vocals from Katie Kisoon, P.P. Arnold and Carol Kenyon. Each of them has had several chances to strut the solo spotlight and they look fantastic in close up. Someone mumbles something about "Diana Ross's embalmer..."Dave Kilminster on lead guitar and vox has some of the mannerisms of a young David Gilmour. (I wonder if he's related to Lemmy by any chance) Snowy White on lead guitar and Andy Fairweather-Low on accoustic guitar have been with Roger since The Wall Live In Berlin. Jon Carin is quietly flashy on keyboards, while Harry Waters handles piano and Hammond organ duties with aplomb. Ian Ritchie gets the same amount of solo time that Bruce Springsteen gave/gives Clarence Clemens.
Roger debuts a new song "Leaving Beirut" It's a 30-ish year old tale about the Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking around Beirut and how a Lebanese family helped him out with food and a place to stay. The film shows a Sin City type graphic cartoon with the lyrics in little voxbubbles. He's had a few digs at Dubya the REMF-in-chief, but the lines about "...that Texas education must have fucked you up when you were very small" nearly raises the roof. The last song is from "Animals" (I think) Sheeps, baa, dogs bark, people talk and the sound twists and recoils and ricochets sideways round the hall Then an inflatable pink pig floats out from stage left and over the audience. It's 2 days before the start of the Year of the Fire (or Golden) Pig and very appropriate. The pig has peace signs, Chinese writing, and slogans like "Save Our Bacon", "Habeus Corpus Matters", "Kafka rules OK?" and the CND emblem. Most pertinently, it also has "Impeach Bush Now" written round its curly pink tail and plastic arsehole. This gets the biggest cheer of the night while a galaxy of flashing cameras and mobile phones record the moment. The song ends and Roger announces a short break of "20 minutes and then we'll do Dark Side of the Moon"
While the band enjoy a welcome break, the screen shows a slow close up of the full moon that takes about 15 minutes to fade in. It goes blood red as the band kick into a virtual replication of the whole LP. All the songs are there, the mumbled voices and heart beats and pulses echoing from one side to another. No real point trying to describe everything, save to say it sounds way perfect and REALLY LOUD. The track "On The Run" is among the best rave dance moments I've had in years. The synths, churgling with menace, are interrrupted by random white noise freak outs. It almost sounds like bits of "One Of These Days" have been spliced in as well. The screen shows dayglo spaghetti loops and whirls and some Scarfe style animations. The clocks in "Time" are stunning; alarms, bells etc. It's like playing the album with the volume dials at 11-hundred. (Yes, I'm one day closer to deaf!) Graham Broad's tom-tom solo is spot on. Same with the abaci and tills in "Money" against a backdrop of money symbols and Texas oil wells like giant mechano-locusts or Mechagodzillas. "The Great Gig In The Sky" is fraught with anticipation. Can Carol Kenyon outdo Clare Torry and Nail the Wail? All eyes are on here as - deep breath - and.... She doesn't get the hump(back) or lose her bottle(neck). It's a killer wail, an ululation for the ages and the audience is wrung dry with the emotion. Standing ovations all round. This show is precise. The changes between films, vox Fx and the songs doesn't allow for too much spontaneity, but there was almost a moment when Carole and Dave got a little call and response going before the lunatics got on the grass. I think it might have been possible to freeze the film to allow a bit of jamming to take place, but maybe there were time constraints.
The second set is over and there are howls for an encore. Roger says, "thank you so much, you mean so much to us, you've been great" and introduces the band to great acclaim. Voices start mumbling about meat and pudding and -bang- it's straignt into "Brick In The Wall (Part 2)" A dance remix of this tune has been getting constant play at the recent big raves, but fuck it, this is The One That Counts! I'm still not sure how to adequately describe the sight and sound of the entire audience singing together the line "we don't need no thought control" New post-modern irony? Brainwashing? Total surrender to the pleasure-id? This song is still relevant. It could possibly refer to what has quaintly been named The New Smart Dumb. These are the Cyberians, the nu-breed who can program, utilise and dominate any piece of technical equipment, but have no grasp of historical perspective and current affairs (unless entertainment-based) Nor can they rede, rite and spel proper..
"Brick" segues into "Vera", the lament for a simpler time from The Wall. It reminds me a lot of "Celluloid Heroes" by The Kinks in its phrasing and delivery. The final song is "Comfortably Numb" which is how most people's brains probably feel after this stunning display of sound, vision, props, fireworks and the re-birth of a kinder, gentler Roger. He's performing at the peak of his powers, nothing really left to prove. He's acknowledged Syd, reformed Floyd for Live-8 and charmed the audience with his humility. He's also delivered The Show Of The Year (even with Muse waiting to headline the Airport Arena on March 3rd and Youssou N-Dour the same weekend at the Arts Festival.) Everyone I've spoken to is lavish in their expletive-ridden praise.
The crowd leaves as George Formby begins chirpily singing "When I'm Cleaning Windows". I'm struck by the thought that the show is bookended by two Pre-1945 ditties. The seminal event in Roger's life is the death of his father Eric Fletcher Waters (1913-1944) before the birth of his son. The whole of Roger's career has been one long angst-ridden howl against this injustice coupled with a need to honor the father he never knew. Thus "The Fletcher Memorial Home". Starting with Vera Lynn's "We'll meet again" (a bittersweet Karmic hope of happier times) and ending with "Windows" (a safer job than being in the Military), he ensures his father's presence throughout the show. (Are you keeping up at the back there?)
I hope I've come close to describing how good this show is Too much medication and I just don't have the words, but maybe this will do. Thank you, thank you, thank you...(repeat and fade) .
Tickets are priced at HK$990, HK$790, HK$590, HK$390.
Public sales: 10 am on Dec 7, 2006 at all HK Ticketing and Tom Lee Music outlets
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