Concert Reviews

Roger Waters (Manchester & Birmingham 2018) Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     August 11, 2018    
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Roger Waters - Arena, Manchester (UK) & Arena, Birmingham (UK) - 03 July & 07 July 2018

I had waited thirty-eight years to see Roger Waters, and when I finally did get the opportunity, I was blessed with seeing him twice in one week. My wife had already bought me a ticket for my birthday for the Birmingham Arena show when, a day before the Manchester show, I got a message from friend and fellow Fireworks writer Mick Parry to see if I wanted to make the short trip across The Pennines – I didn't have to think too long and hard to make my decision...

Roger Waters Live 2018 1

The air of anticipation was almost palpable as Waters arrived on the stage with his touring band to the sound of 'Speak To Me' – the opening track to one of the greatest albums of all time, Pink Floyd's 'The Dark Side Of The Moon'. 'Breathe' might be a laid-back song to open a show, however, the hairs were already stood up on my arms, such was the magnitude of this number. The sound, as expected, was first-class, as were the visual effects played on the largest video screen I have ever seen, one that covered the whole width of the stage and almost reached the ceiling.

Roger Waters Live 2018 2

The oldest song played on this tour was the Progressive 'One Of These Days' from Pink Floyd's 1971 'Meddle' opus, complete with Waters' menacing bass line. The spinning clock on the video screen signalled 'Time', and by three songs in, most of the audience had been completely hypnotised by what they were witnessing. The "hippie" Jonathon Wilson superbly sang David Gilmour's vocal parts; so good is Gilmour, that it took another fantastic musician, Dave Kilminster, to handle his guitar parts. Jess Wolfe & Holly Laessig from the Brooklyn Indie Pop band provided stunning vocals throughout, none more so than on 'The Great Gig In The Sky' (aka 'The Wailing Woman Song').

Roger Waters Live 2018 3

The Pink Floyd classic 'Welcome To The Machine' was hauntingly mesmerising with yet more incredible visuals. I make no apologies for over-using the word "classic" as we are talking about seventies Pink Floyd here!

Roger Waters Live 2018 4

There was no noticeable drop in momentum, with a run of three songs from Waters' last solo album, 2017's 'Is This The Life You Really Want?'; the highlight, for me, was the emotional 'The Last Refugee'. It was then back to the Floyd classics to close out the first half of the show. Firstly, there was 'Wish You Were Here', with an accompaniment of ten thousand plus backing singers, the first half of the show then concluded with 'Another Brick In The Wall', which each night featured a dozen local kids. They initially appeared on stage in orange jump suits with hoods over their heads before eventually removing both to reveal black t-shirts emblazoned with the word "RESIST". The band left the stage to tumultuous applause for a twenty-minute interval while the big screen ran a list of people Waters' suggested we should resist.

Roger Waters Live 2018 5

The first set was incredible by anybody's standards; however, the second half was spectacular, almost beyond words. The band re-emerged with the word "DOGS" across the rear screen. A large horizontal platform lowered from the ceiling and came to rest a few feet above the heads of the totally engrossed and mesmerised crowd (it also covered two thirds the length of the arena floor). It then began to expand into a huge, three-dimensional image of Battersea Power Station, complete with a pig floating above the smoking chimneys! This was all going on whilst the band were playing 'Dogs' from Pink Floyd's 1977 album 'Animals'.

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As they continued with 'Pigs (Three Different Ones)', the walls of the power station turned into nine separate video screens portraying a myriad of images, mostly anti-Trump rhetoric, accompanied by a large inflatable pig that circumnavigated the arena. At the end of 'Pigs', Waters took the adulation of the crowd which coincided (at the Manchester show) with England having won their first ever penalty shoot-out at the World Cup! At the Birmingham show, most people were already in good spirits as England had already secured their place in the semi-finals, having defeated Sweden earlier in the afternoon.

Roger Waters Live 2018 6

Although the political point was still being made during 'Money', with its images of many of the world's leaders, it did not seem quite as intense as what had gone previously. However, arguably the most powerful song of the whole night was the quintessential Pink Floyd song 'Us And Them', which featured a breathtaking saxophone solo by Ian Ritchie; the contrasting images of war and pollution against those of women and children just left one with goose-bumps.

Roger Waters Live 2018 7

The screens started to disappear during 'Smell The Roses' and a dark inflatable orb (representing the Moon) started to orbit the arena at the start of 'Brain Damage'. A large pyramid, produced by white lasers, then appeared at the front half of the arena. As the "Moon" began its path towards the pyramid during 'Eclipse', a prism of rainbow light shone through and fittingly brought the set to an epic finale. To say it was spectacular would be an understatement; this stage show was not over-produced, but produced to absolute perfection. The band left the stage to rapturous applause and returned to a well-deserved standing ovation; the latter went on for several minutes at the Manchester show and you could see that Waters was physically moved by the fan's adulation. He then introduced all his very talented band members and each one received the recognition of the appreciative fans. He then made a short speech referencing the 1948 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights' and concentrated on the part that states all persons are equal, independent of ethnicity, colour, sex or religion.

Roger Waters Live 2018 8

Roger Waters may still be an angry young man at the tender age of seventy-four years; however, he lets his music do the talking along with such powerful images. He seemed to successfully get his message across on this tour; not through protest but it was via a feeling of love within the arenas. This was very notable at the Manchester Arena, probably due to the horrific events a year earlier. Hopefully, the overriding feeling of love within the arenas will be the emotion that saves our planet.

Roger Waters Live 2018 9

That just left a one-song encore and yet more chills down the spine with 'Comfortably Numb' where Dave Kilminster absolutely nailed the guitar solo's, albeit with a slightly more metallic edge the originals.

Roger Waters Live 2018 10

Never has a standing ovation been so richly deserved. This was definitely not your archetypical Rock 'n' Roll concert and most people I spoke to afterwards agreed it was one of the greatest shows they had had the privilege of seeing.

Mark Donnelly

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