I arrived in California for the first time this week, and attended a roger waters concert almost immediately. Both events were steeped in surreality - roger's music has permeated my life, but i never imagined i'd hear him live. In terms of impactful lyrics, there's lennon and waters...and nobody else, really.
His time in Pink Floyd is the heart of his legacy - his solo work has been great, but not nearly so transformative or transcendent. In a hopefully pardonable oversimplification on both sides, he was the spirit of Floyd, but his bandmates were the sound. When he left he struggled to recapture the balance between word and melody. Yet for all the genius of DARK SIDE, THE WALL, WISH YOU WERE HERE, and MEDDLE, if i could have only one roger album, it would be his solo masterpiece AMUSED TO DEATH. The lyrics are less abstract than Floyd. It's searing, eviscerating, and melodically fantastic. Beyond that, were i about to be dumped on a desert island and could grab only Floyd or roger's solo work...it would be a tough, tough choice.
I spent the thirty-six hours leading up to this concert immersing myself in his new album, IS THIS THE LIFE WE REALLY WANT? A twenty-five year delayed gratification might swamp anything, and perhaps this one will wear better with time, but it feels...average. Better than HITCHHIKING, and on par with KAOS and FINAL CUT, it delivers a dark edge but breaks no new ground.
Roger has hinted that this tour is probably his last. The concert promised to focus on Floyd songs, and as i took my seat, i realized this meant that i might not hear any of my favorites...but told myself that if i heard just one of four tracks ("Three Wishes", "It's a Miracle", "Towers of Faith", or "...Crazy Diamond"), i'd be happy. As the encore arrived, i held out a slim hope for "Miracle"...but the double-bang of "Dark Side" and "Comfortably Numb" was no consolation prize. Nor was the show itself. Roger and the band were exquisite. "The Great Gig in the Sky" offered entrancing variations on clare torry's vocals, and after intermission, the show ascended to another level. As a suite of songs from ANIMALS began and a replica of the Battersea station descended, cinematic images of devastation, poverty, and trump flowed over the crowd...it culminated in "Money", and was breathtaking in its anger and outrage. I myself might have chosen to avoid the donald angle (giving a narcissist any attention is generally the wrong choice), but roger left nothing unsaid, and i love him for it. The political theme of the show was RESIST, a message embraced by the crowd (though i should add, that anyone rich enough to afford this show isn't likely to be on the front lines of the revolution...a sad paradox certainly not lost on roger). If this is his swan song, he can walk away with no regrets, knowing he gave a much-needed voice of protest, unrest, and hope. His songs touched the masses, and his lyrics fed the brilliant.
One more tour? Roger, picture this...
DREAM SET LIST
-One of These Days
-Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
-Have a Cigar
-What God Wants
-Towers of Faith
-To Kill the Child
-It's a Miracle
-Is This the Life We Really Want?
-Shine On You Crazy Diamond
-Knockin' on Heaven's Door
-Every Stranger's Eyes
-Each Small Candle
-The Final Cut
-The Tide is Turning