Roger Waters – Spark Arena January 24, 2018

Six years after bringing The Wall to Auckland, Roger Waters returns with his Us And Them Tour. Rather than simply a trip down memory lane, Waters and his crew have put together a show that is technically stunning, thought-provoking and quite beautiful. The 74-year-old artist has reached a new high in live performance, and that’s saying something.

I’ll admit to feeling rather laissez-faire about seeing Roger Waters again. I saw his Wall tour in 2012 and was impressed, but I thought, well, “What’s he done since then?”

He has released a new album, 2017’s Is This The Life We Really Want?, but I was unimpressed. Waters seemed to be treading the same old ground, both musically and thematically, although the anti-Trump content was a nice touch.

But that feeling of indifference quickly dissipated as Roger Waters and his band took the stage while the familiar sound collage that is Speak To Me, the opening track from Dark Side Of The Moon, bounced around through the speakers set up throughout the Spark Arena. When the band launched into Breathe, I, and it seemed like everyone else, leaned back in their seats and let the music wash over them.

There was a huge screen behind the stage with images relating to the music splash across it, and if that had been the extent of the visuals, I would have been happy.

But there was much, much more.

Waters has always had a flair for the dramatic and so old favourites like the flying pig were trotted out. But again, there was much more.

I’m reluctant to give much away, as there are two more NZ shows scheduled, but I will say that the mix of lighting, stage props, lasers and animation is something that every Pink Floyd fan is going to want to see.

As Waters himself said, as he paused to admire a black dome as it float by the stage, “Thank God for German technology.

Of course Waters being Waters, there was always going to be a message with the music. Listening to the lyrics from Mother, a song released back in 1979, you’d think Waters could predict the future as he sang, “Mother should I build a wall, Mother should I run for president.”

Perhaps a younger Donald Trump took those words to heart.

If Waters feels any guilt for inspiring the current POTUS, he certainly takes this opportunity to let us know what he really thinks of him.

The anti-Trump visuals during Pigs (Three Different Ones) are unrelentingly vicious and often quite funny, with quotes as current as the recent “shithole” comment working their way into the melange.

This is the segment of the show that got Waters in trouble in the US with sponsors withdrawing and fans booing and walking out.

Here, it’s a different story, with folks smiling and cheering as Trumpian images are morphed into humiliating and degrading forms.

This injection of contemporary political commentary is exactly what was needed to keep this show from being an exercise in sentimentality.

Having said that, there was plenty for the die-hard Pink Floyd fan to savour.

One Of These Days rocked, Wish You Were Here was a heartfelt tribute to Syd, Another Brick In The Wall closed the first half with local kids from Variety – The Children’s Charity helping out and the song Us And Them was transcendent.

I could go on.

Also kudos to the band which includes acclaimed drummer Joey Waronker (Beck, R.E.M.), My Morning Jacket member Bo Koster, longtime Waters guitarist Dave Kilminster, who handles the Gilmour vocal parts and especially vocalists Jess Wolf and Holly Laessig, from the band Lucius, who performed the female vocal bits from Dark Side Of The Moon.

Waters himself sounded in good voice and played plenty of his iconic basslines. He didn’t say much, but he did want to make one comment.

“I can’t let this opportunity go by without tipping my hat to one of your artists,” he told the crowd before the encore. “To Lorde, who stood up for justice and in support of the rights of the Palestinian people. I’m really proud of that girl.”

He then went on to offer an invitation to Lorde, encouraging anyone in the audience who might know her to tell her to come to one of his shows. “I’d like to share a glass with you and say congratulations…you are a strong, brave woman and I admire you”.

With two more NZ shows slated in the next few days, I highly recommend catching this tour. You will be moved to think and feel and you’ll hear some of the finest music of the 1970s loud and clear in a live setting, possibly for the last time.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Michael Flynn:

Roger Waters set list:

First set:

  1. Speak To Me/ Breathe
  2. One Of These Days
  3. Time
  4. Breathe (Reprise)
  5. The Great Gig In The Sky
  6. Welcome To The Machine
  7. Déjà vu
  8. The Last Refugee
  9. Picture That
  10. Wish You Were Here
  11. The Happiest Days Of Our Lives
  12. Another Brick In The Wall

Second Set:

  1. Dogs
  2. Pigs (Three Different Ones)
  3. Money
  4. Us And Them
  5. Smell The Roses
  6. Brain Damage
  7. Eclipse
  8. Mother
  9. Comfortably Numb