Roger Waters is a rock legend in his own right, as well as a former member of one of the world’s most legendary rock bands – Pink Floyd. Currently out on his “Us + Them” North America tour, Waters is hitting the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia for three nights – August 8th, 9th, and 11th. I attended Night 1 on August 8th, and while I wasn’t blown away, the show is something to see. I’m not a huge fan of Waters or Pink Floyd, but I have a deep appreciation for the songs and the musical talent. As a “live music junkie”, this is one of those shows that I felt I had to go see and check off my live music bucket list.
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ROGER WATERS BACKGROUND
George Roger Waters was born in England in 1943. In 1965, he co-founded Pink Floyd with drummer Nick Mason, keyboardist Rick Wright, and guitarist/singer/songwriter Syd Barrett. When Barrett departed the band in 1968, in addition to his duties as bassist, Waters became the band’s lyricist, co-lead vocalist, and was the conceptual leader of the band.
As most people know, Pink Floyd spent the next 20 years as one of the world’s most successful and critically acclaimed bands. However, as often happens, disputes arose amongst the band members about the direction the band was going, and Waters left Pink Floyd in 1985. Upon leaving, Waters and the remaining band members got into a legal dispute over the use of the band’s name and material. The legal dispute was settled in 1987, but it would be almost 18 years before Waters would perform with the band again.
Since leaving Pink Floyd, Waters has had a very successful solo career, including releasing four of his own studio albums. The most recent – “Is This the Life We Really Want?” – was released this past June, and was his first new album in almost 25 years. But, what Waters is most known for is his live shows. Incorporating his solo music, as well as the music of Pink Floyd, the shows are full productions with impressive lights and video. His 1990 concert – “The Wall – Live in Berlin” – is considered one of the biggest and most extravagant live concerts of all time, with 200,000 people in attendance. You can buy the DVD of The Wall – Live In Berlin by clicking here.
Waters’ world tour in 2006-07 featured him playing “The Dark Side of the Moon” in its entirety during the show.
In 2010, he toured “The Wall Live”, which included an appearance by fellow Pink Floyd members David Gilmour and Nick Mason during a show in London, where they played the full double album. That tour still remains the highest grossing solo tour of all time.
In late 2016, Waters announced that he would be doing a massive North America tour in 2017 titled “Us + Them”. The tour title is based on the Pink Floyd song “Us and Them”, which was on their 1973 album “The Dark Side of the Moon”. Waters promised that the tour would feature a mix of Pink Floyd songs, as well as songs from his solo career – both old and new. And in typical Waters fashion, he promised the show to be as spectacular as his past shows. You can download Dark Side of the Moon here.
I have to admit that, overall, I was a little underwhelmed by the show. That is not to say in any way that the show was bad. It was a good show. The music was amazing. The video screens – both the one on the back of the main stage and the one that came down above the floor seats in the second half – was very cool. But, I really expected more. In fairness, I think my expectations were a bit too high going in. I kept hearing from other people that this was going to be the most amazing show I’ve ever seen, and that my mind was going to be blown. Neither of those things came true.
I also think that when Waters first started doing his solo tours, the video and lights that he was incorporating into his show were new and innovative and no one else was doing them. Now, it’s unusual to go to a show and not have huge video screens and crazy lights. So, I think what might have been mind-blowing before, is now just par for the course when you go to a concert of any major artist.
As for the specifics of the show, our tickets said that the show starting time was 8 p.m., and that Waters would be starting promptly at 8. There was no opening act, so we made sure we were in our seats by around 7:50 p.m., so we didn’t miss anything. At exactly 8:00 p.m., the video screen came on showing a picture of the back of a woman looking out over the ocean. Throughout the next 15 to 20 minutes, the screen slowly changed to make it appear as if the sun was setting in front of her.
Waters and his band took the stage at about 8:20 p.m., and started into the classic Pink Floyd song “Breathe”. In fact, the first five songs of the show were all classic Pink Floyd songs, before Waters moved into some of his solo work.
After going through some of his solo songs, Waters returned to Pink Floyd’s work, starting with an amazing rendition of “Wish You Were Here”. Waters’ guitar work on the song was incredible.
Right before taking an intermission, Waters went into the classic “Another Brick in the Wall”, which featured local school children on the stage. The kids lined up across the front of the stage, and sang and danced. They were wearing coveralls, which they took off towards the end of the song, to reveal black t-shirts with the word “Resist” written across the front in white.
After a 20 minute intermission, the lights started to dim, and the long fixtures hanging from front to back across the floor started to move. Screens dropped from the fixtures and chimneys rose from the tops, to create the visual of a building with smoke stacks hanging above the floor. The screens continued to big a big part of the second half of the show.
If you haven’t already heard, Waters is not shy about his politics and his criticism of certain politicians – in particular President Trump. The second half of the show started with Pink Floyd classics “Dogs”, “Pigs”, and “Money”, all of which highlighted various images on the video screens that were definitely not complimentary to the President and other politicians. I’m sure most people in the audience were familiar enough with Waters and his shows to know this was coming, and it was only for a few songs. The giant inflatable pig made an appearance during this part of the show as well.
After the political part of the show was over, Waters went into a great version of “Us and Them”, which is the song that the tour is named after. The main set wrapped up with “Eclipse”, off of Pink Floyd’s classic album “Dark Side of the Moon”. Complete with laser lights that formed the pyramid from the album cover, it was a great ode to Pink Floyd and one of their iconic albums.
For the encore, Waters kicked off by introducing his band of extremely talented musicians, including back-up singers Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of the band Lucius. These ladies had amazing voices, and their harmonies were incredible. Waters highlighted them on “Bring the Boys Back Home”, having them sing the end of the song together as featured vocalists.
The show wrapped up with Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”. The visuals featured confetti and great light work. In addition, Waters actually walked off the stage and down along the rail, shaking hands and saying hello to fans, as the song was wrapping up.
All in all, it was a show worth seeing. It wasn’t as spectacular as I thought it was going to be. The music was brilliant, but mellow. I was surprised at the number of empty seats in the arena, as the third show in Philadelphia was added due to the first two selling out. I hope everyone who wants a chance to see Waters gets a chance to do so at one of the remaining two dates in Philly, and scalpers aren’t pricing people out of the tickets.
Waters is continuing this tour across the U.S. and Canada through the end of October. As with any rock legend, if you haven’t seen him, get out and do it. While it may not be the most spectacular show you’ve ever seen, it’s worth seeing a legend while you still can (#JustBuyTheTickets). You can get more information on the remainder of the tour dates on Waters’ website at www.rogerwaters.com.
Set List: Set 1 – Breathe (Pink Floyd), One of These Days (Pink Floyd), Time (Pink Floyd), The Great Gig in the Sky (Pink Floyd), Welcome to the Machine (Pink Floyd), When We Were Young, Déjà vu, The Last Refugee, Picture That, Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd), The Happiest Days of Our Lives (Pink Floyd), Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 (Pink Floyd), Another Brick in the Wall Part 3 (Pink Floyd) INTERMISSION Set 2 – Dogs (Pink Floyd), Pigs (Three Different Ones) (Pink Floyd), Money (Pink Floyd), Us and Them (Pink Floyd), Smell the Roses, Brain Damage (Pink Floyd), Eclipse (Pink Floyd) ENCORE: Vera (Pink Floyd), Bring the Boys Back Home (Pink Floyd), Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd)
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