A Roger Waters concert is like no other. To try and explain to the uninitiated is impossible. You can check online clips and read the stories but until you are there – hearing, seeing and feeling – only then will you understand.
I didn’t want to see any online footage or social media posts prior to Friday night’s gig at Qudos Arena, Sydney. I wanted to hand myself over on the night, knowing that you’re in the best hands, to let it unfold and take me away. To say you are flying during this epic creative journey, is an understatement. It is more like being on the most superior and craziest roller coaster that you have ever encountered. And for someone like me who can’t actually go on rides, this is the only one I will ever suck up and buckle myself in for. Click and go!
After the cracker ‘The Wall’ tour, which was one of the most intense and stimulating concerts I had ever seen, I couldn’t wait for another chapter to these live chronicles. I can only describe ‘Us And Them’ as another masterpiece. Whatever your political leanings, you should be able to cast that aside and absorb and revel in the genius of this man who has affected so many over a more than 50 year career. Like many, my first introduction was through my older sister who had Pink Floyd’s ‘The Dark Side Of the Moon’ album. I’ll never forget hearing those first bars of ‘Speak To Me/Breathe’ as a kid, which ended up being our first foray into the brilliant and complicated brain of Waters last night in Sydney. Before the music even started, we had a screen beach visual of someone just sitting and watching the ocean. A back view, quiet, with waves crashing, drawing us in to the story which we await to be told. Then it’s melting into aural pleasure time.
God, I can’t explain how much I love the complete mind fuck of any Waters and Floyd music and gig. I won’t hide that I get over excited. Just non-stop: hear that, look there, listen to this, look over there, what’s that? Transcending everything, this should be a compulsory concert for every human, just once. When that bass starts on ‘One Of These Days’, it’s blow-your-head-off time and it’s only the second track. This song (as most of them would be) has to be at the top of the list of best ever and also best live; pumping through your nervous system like a fine and heavy hammer. Sweet torture, sublime. Then ‘Time‘, enough said. The perfection of Roger and band, while the screen works us visually in the background, is extraordinary. The arena isn’t there anymore. We are in a different place, a different time, a different planet really, as the magic of ‘The Great Gig In the Sky’ slowly encompasses us. Then we have the amazing Jess and Holly from the band Lucious – wow ladies, you just gave everyone chills and then some. Your vocals were made for this song and this genre of music, what a match. I can still hear you, your effect is so pronounced.
‘Welcome To The Machine’ is another visual and musical feast. Angst and aggression coming to life. Every track is just so multi layered and luscious. The anticipation of what’s coming next is verging on anxiousness as you just can’t wait for more. ‘Deja Vu’ and ’The Last Refugee’ from Roger’s new album ‘Is This The Life We Really Want?’, just continued the poignant undertones of a world filled with sorrow and corruption. Then ‘Picture That’, from the same album, tearing our psychopathic world apart. We get visuals of homelessness and hopelessness. A woman pretending she is a dancer when she is really a squatter in an abandoned building. The real traumas of planet Earth.
Once this next song started, I tried to not to get teary. I think ‘Wish You Were Here’ can soften even the most solid and blackened of hearts. Stunning, of course, while two hands attempt to touch on screen and they eventually crack and break away before initial contact. Ah, it’s painful but so, so good. It’s like those hands have reached in and are flicking our heart arteries. We go from gut wrenching to more angst with the overbearing helicopter of ‘The Happiest Days Of Our Lives’ bringing goosebumps as we know what’s on its way. The bass, the drums, that unique sound of ‘Another Brick In The Wall Part 2’ and then Part 3 with some Sydneysider kids appearing on stage. Experiencing brilliance in this capacity, I can’t find the words. If you have seen all of this, you know. I can only implore anyone who hasn’t to try any way, and any how, to get to this tour, if you can. I would even go so far as to say ‘lay-by’ a loan from a friend, try and get last minute tickets from a reputable source. Anything! Every penny you have worked for is worth this. And then it was intermission…. trying to bring your body back to a normal state but I didn’t want to move.
Soaking in this atmosphere is a part of the spectacle. The sirens working through the arena as some went on drink and bathroom breaks. The build up of more to come. More anger, criticism, and for a few maybe, shock value, intertwined with perfect musicianship. ‘Dogs’ just set the next scene brilliantly. Eight screens with buildings, and showing four chimneys, rise up across the whole dance floor and, being seated on the left side near the stage, we were in the best location for this decadent of second sets. A little pig floats towards the last chimney whilst Waters and a few band members put on pig masks. They pour, drink and toast, mocking the greedy. We lap up the continued pummeling, it’s haunting but calming. I could cry, this is so magnificent and spellbinding. Like a scene from Eyes Wide Shut but after Waters has finished editing. Just reminiscing, I am overcome with emotion. This happened on the last tour, days of processing and attempting to understand everything you just witnessed. We are in our element, it’s frightening. I’m sure you either get it or you just don’t, and that’s ok, as long as you appreciate and respect it. This is not for the closed off mind.
Of course ‘Pigs (Three Different Ones)’ polarises. The big floating pig makes his entrance, all dolled up like Trump with slogans and dollar signs, advertising the absurdity of our world. Yes, it’s spot on and many of the sights on our screens did make me laugh, but I was glad ‘Money’ was more of a wide net and showed multiple political leaders from across our globe being chastised. I don’t believe in full left and right, more just right and wrong, and these so called ‘leaders’ being cast across our screens are people that deserve to be ridiculed and torn to pieces. No sympathy for the evil sell-outs from me, regardless of side.
‘Us And Them’, stunning, again. From eight to two screens we go, with visions of the poor and maligned who are floating and hovering, the saxophone weaving in and out. Dramatic and gorgeous. ‘Smell The Roses’ is another new track cutting to the core of defective humanity. This is just exquisite, every note, every sight on screen, every odd placed sound. ‘Brain Damage’ and ‘Eclipse’ round out this second set of sheer mastery, a moon starts to float over the crowd. A pyramid of lasers appears, coloured lasers on top, while other lasers move around and eventually join. A standing ovation, without a doubt. The arena has already lost their minds. This is surely human wizardry.
An encore could be anything from an artist like this, take your pick. ‘Mother’ brought us down to our knees and then ‘Comfortably Numb’ took the final swing. The allure of the agony. Absolutely divine. Roger’s passion and energy is intoxicating, the whole concert is otherworldly and is the only deep web I want to fall into.
Oh, how I envy all you older fans who got to experience multiple Roger Waters and Pink Floyd gigs in your lives. After the last tour, I felt I needed to go twice as once is just not enough to take it all in, and this ‘Us And Them’ tour is no exception. This music and art installation coming to life is pure concert perfection. I actually turned to my sister, who came with me on the last tour as well, and mentioned to her just how lucky we were, that we had these musical artists in our lifetime, as the future generations will be missing out so sorely. I really feel for them and I hate to think what is to come. Bravo to the parents who brought their kids and to Roger and everyone involved in this tour. Thank you so much for another unforgettable night. I wonder how many days it will take to process this one?? You have already made my new year!