Thursday, June 14, 2007

Roger Waters! [A Concert Review]

I went to a Roger Waters concert at the Hollywood Bowl yesterday night, with my dad, my brother, and some family friends. To sum it up in a word: amazing.

We didn't eat dinner before we arrived at Hollywood at 6 (concert started at 7:30), and believe it or not, we had to wander the streets for half an hour before we could find a decent place to eat (so much upscale dining in Hollywood, so little fast food), namely a Subway.

We got to the Hollywood Bowl fifteen minutes before the show was scheduled to start, but had to wait for some friends, and finally pushed toward the stadium at around 7:30. The crowd was huge, the biggest I'd ever seen in my life, but my friends estimated it to be between 10,000 and 15,000 people. Anyway, the Bowl was sold out (there were a bunch of people who went all the way to the Bowl without tickets, holding up signs like "Please give me a ticket. I am a fan, not a scalper." And plenty of scalpers too. Not to mention all of the "musicians" and T-shirt sellers standing outside the Bowl. There are a lot of business opportunities available there I suppose ...)

We reached the stands at about 8:00, after much pushing and shoving and security (in my backpack I had two identical opaque bottles, one with water, one with iced tea. A guard picked one at random and asked, "What's in it?" "Water?" I guessed. The guard sniffed it: "That's not water..." and looked at me suspiciously. On the other hand, my friends ran past security, and managed to smuggle in, among other things, a camcorder and a digital voice recorder.) At the back of the stage was a large display showing an antique radio that played oldies, while a hand occassionally reached in to change the channel or pour some wine. Roger Waters entered the stage at around 8:15.

The first setlist was pretty good, with both its high and its low points. The audience was so excited by In The Flesh that I was a little worried that they might take the song seriously. Mother featured a nice acoustic performance by Roger Waters but I never did like the song that much. I was surprised by the inclusion of Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, a very old song, but it was played well and the inclusion of a slideshow old photographs in the back was in my opinion a nice touch. Shine On You Crazy Diamond was played well, and the visual transition (climbing out of the heart of the sun of the previous song, with various distorted images of Syd shown) was nice, but in my opinion David Gilmour's group played it better at the Pulse tour - one of the things I noticed about this concert was that Roger tended to keep the experimentation down to a minimum, playing exactly like the album version, while David's Pink Floyd played most songs a little differently, in some cases even better than the album version. Have a Cigar was an amazing song even in the studio, but played live it sounded even better - I was surprised by guitarist Snowy White's capability of playing exactly as David Gilmour had done in the studio, while still adding his own touch. Wish You Were Here had equally good guitar, but in my opinion it was Roger who was the weakest link here, as his vocals for this song seemed subpar, and he was speaking more than singing.

It was at this point that the songs began to go downhill. The next two songs were Southampton Dock and The Fletcher Memorial Home, neither of which I ever liked particularly. Perfect Sense was one of Roger's better solo songs, and I liked its inclusion, but I felt that Leaving Beirut was overly segmented, with a very predictable spoken verse - guitar - spoken verse - guitar pattern. Roger finally closed the first half with Sheep, which was a nice touch, as it is one of Pink Floyd's loudest songs, in other words, perfect for closing a concert. And of course, everyone cheered and began taking cell phone photos as the pig flew above the stands (although my Republican friends cringed at the "liberal propaganda") - it's too bad that we forgot to bring a camera, but binoculars did help.

Intermission lasted about fifteen minutes, during which a small dot on the back screen slowly grew into a moon, a nice visual touch.

I didn't enjoy the second set as much as the first set, for the most part because at this point the smokers seemed to lose interest in the music, something that was only helped by the two repetitive instrumental passages, On the Run and Any Colour You Like. There was a guy right in front of us who was definitely an addict - he couldn't go for more than a minute without putting that thing in his mouth. Still, we weren't the worst off - in the section where some of my friends were sitting, they were literally the only people there who didn't smoke - my friend's brother actually passed out from the fumes. Other than that, though, the Dark Side of the Moon was played admirably well (I won't go into song-by-song analysis because it was played exactly like the album). There were some amazing special effects in the end, with the giant prism and the lasers. Good times.

After Roger Waters congratulated us for being a great audience, blah blah blah, the band finally closed with five songs from the Wall. As The Happiest Days of Our Lives came to a close, the whole audience stood up for Another Brick in the Wall, singing along with Roger Waters. Similarly, after Vera, another short passage, the audience chanted Bring the Boys Back Home. personally, I only liked the last encore: Comfortably Numb, which was played very well, particularly the two guitar solos. Snowy White once again showed his talent in emulating David Gilmour!

After another twenty minutes of pushing through a crowd, we walked thirty minutes to our parking space through Hollywood at midnight (admittedly not the safest way to travel), and drove home. The End.

Correction: Dave Kilminster, not Snowy White, played lead guitar. To be fair, Snowy White played well too!


Isorski said...

Good review. I had some similar observations, as I just saw Waters this week in Oakland and posted a review here:

Anonymous said...

I was lucky not to have "smokers" around while enjoying the concert I attended. It was AMAZING. I don´t know if your comments show less or in general the concert was less emotional as it was where I enjoyed, in Santiago de Chile. We were 55,000 amused to death floydians, from 10 year old beginners to those in their 60s. Roger Waters conquered us, he exceeded our expectations and surprised us, though with the same sound as when performing with The Floyd, with a huge better sound quality, impressive domain of the stage and an incredible intimate touch to each of us, even though we were 55,000 there. He did it for each.