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Liverpool Echo Arena 15 May 2008

Which one is Rog?

First of all a confession. I first went to see Floyd play at the Liverpool Empire in 1975, so it was a belated return for the Floyd impresario. Many of a certain age will still get dewy eyed that those four chums fell out over contractual handbags at dawn. But the best way to view such inconvenience to your listening pleasure is to review your own hissy fits over the years and then multiply that by the stresses and strains of running a business empire.

For an artist as politically charged as Roger Waters, it’s little wonder that Floyd survived as a creative four piece until Animals. In a sense Dark Side of the Moon which we came to witness in its entirety tonight ended Pink Floyd as a cohesive entity.

I sat for the first time Liverpool’s new showpiece 10,000 capacity waterfront Liverpool Echo Arena with an open mind about what to expect from the more abrasive force in the Pink Floyd chemistry. Now one thing I didn’t expect was a stage show. Dunno why. I’d just got it into my head that Waters, like Gilmour, had decided that age and circumspection had led to a more sedate waterfall of acoustic remonstrance.

Roger Waters

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I'd always seen Gilmour and Waters a similar yin and yan balance as Lennon and McCartney. Anyway, the yin part put on a show of immaculate dexterity and co-ordination, if a little self indulgent at times. But that's our Roger in a nutshell. The Hannibal Lecter of rock. Would we have him any other way?

The backdrop, the cornerstone of Pink Floyd iconography, showed a forties style radio, a bottle of bourbon and a model bomber sitting precariously on top. As the lights went down, a hand (ours?) reached out for the dial to alter the station. Elvis kicked in and then…Abba. A cheer went up when the hand swiftly grasped the dial to spare us from Dancing Queen. Radio KAOS. Tongue in Cheek. Very Rog. Very Floyd. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.

Early in the first half we welcomed a very considered and orchestral treatment of Set the Controls which lit up these eyes, especially as it was punctuated by some rare footage of the four piece Floyd with Syd Barrett still being revered as the dynasty's first pharaoh. Leaving Beirut was never designed to be a crowd pleaser but those whose obsession wasn't to grab another three scoops from the bar, stuck around to discover that Roger's politics may be sourced in the mind of 17 year old who was touched by the generosity of a challenged Lebanese family.

When the Tigers Broke Free and Fletcher Memorial Home further underlined Water's approach to the establishment and its propensity to wage wars and scar families for life. Sheep was a reminder that Waters' intention was always to concentrate on disturbing us. Apart from one or two gems, the Waterless Pink Floyd lost that particular plot.

Roger Waters was the first punk. Discuss.

For Wish You Were Here, Have a Cigar and Shine, Waters was more than happy to intersperse vocal chapters with the amazingly talented ten piece band which included lieutenant from The Wall, Snowy White and the rock star stance of Dave Kilminster. If I have a criticism and a compliment at the same time, Kilminster handled Gilmour's vocal passages and guitar signatures with immaculate aplomb. But perhaps some of his own interpretations might have added to the mix.

A graffiti pig, and an astronaut enjoyed a journey across the whooping Liverpudlians who were trying to catch them before they landed safely back stage. The European Capital of Culture was in full swing.

And so to that album Dark Side of the Moon. Even a satirist like Waters could never have expected that 10,000 people could sing every word to every track except On the Run of course. Although not to be denied his contribution to the ensemble during the sequencer classic, I did witness one inebriated punter going “dubbleubbledubbleubbledubble….215.”

Whatever our social backgrounds, our football teams, our age group, our political allegiances and our musical tastes Dark remains a reference point for any of us who have been cast aside during life's rocky journey. Doesn't that include all of us? It was delivered with the reverence it undoubtedly deserves by the handpicked team of musicians and techies on duty.

It would have taken a martian not to predict that Another Brick in the Wall and Comfortably Numb would provide the encores. It came to pass on that balmy night in Liverpool that Roger Waters can make humans laugh and cry within eight bars of each other. And that's what made Bach, Mozart, Puccini and Beethoven timeless. QED.


Review by Keith Thompson

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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