Friday, June 16, 2017

unstill waters

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 brilliant, 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, ANIMALS, and MEDDLE, if i could have only one roger album, it would be his solo masterpiece AMUSED TO DEATH. The lyrics are more cutting and immediate than anything Floyd offered. 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...i might take the solo box.
I spent the thirty-six hours leading up to the concert immersing myself in his new album, IS THIS THE LIFE WE REALLY WANT? A twenty-five year buildup of 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 (though lacking the one or two standout tracks that grace those works), it delivers a dark edge but breaks no new ground.
Roger has hinted that this tour, "Us & Them", is probably his last. The concert promised to focus on Floyd songs, and as i took my seat in the arena, 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 still 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 power station descended over the arena, cinematic images of global 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, positive or negative, 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 not lost on 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 almost certainly not lost on roger). If this is his swan song, he can walk away with no regrets, knowing he gave us a much-needed voice of protest, unrest, and hope. His songs touched the masses, and his lyrics fed the brilliant.
DREAM SET LIST
-One of These Days
-Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
-Us and Them
-Three Wishes
-Picture That
-Have a Cigar
-What God Wants
-To Kill the Child
-Echoes
(intermission)
-Time
-Towers of Faith
-Comfortably Numb
-Hey You
-Shine On You Crazy Diamond
-Knockin' on Heaven's Door
-Each Small Candle
-The Tide is Turning
*encore*
-It's a Miracle
-The Final Cut

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