Spoiler alert: If you like your concerts with a good splash of surprise and anticipation, stop reading now. All we’ll say is that the progressive rock legend can still make magic after fifty years.
The first Australian concerts of the Us + Them tour kicked off at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. We bought tickets, not just because we’d grown up listening to band’s psychedelia and anti-establishment message, but because Roger Waters is known to put on some of the most immersive, theatrical concerts around.
We were treated to three hours of some of Pink Floyd’s most iconic tunes from The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, The Wall and Animals, as well as Waters’ solo album Is This the Life We Really Want?. And the music was dazzling, from the 17-minute long ‘Pigs (Three Different Ones)’ to the anarchistic, stomping ‘Another Brick in the Wall’, for which local students were recruited, and the haunting ‘Comfortably Numb’ during the encore. Apart from the music, though, here’s what we really loved.
Iconography and video clips from the Pink Floyd era were projected onto the stage backdrop in striking, saturated colours throughout the concert. A procession of clocks stretching into the distance; the steel, robotic lizard from ‘Welcome to the Machine’; a giant handshake. The effect was dizzying, hypnotic and (as in the case of the robotic lizard), occasionally downright nightmarish.
Roger Waters, the man himself
Waters admitted that the ‘hippy’ from California, Jonathon Wilson, provided most of lead vocals, but he displayed enough stage presence and passion for there to be no doubt that it was Roger Waters’ show. His performance ranged from melancholy in ‘Wish You Were Here’ to raging in ‘Picture That’ to poignant in ‘Us and Them’. And while his voice may have gained a slight gravelly edge over the decades, his deft guitar- and bass-playing spoke of his fifty-plus years as a legend of rock.
After the intermission, there were gasps from the crowd when a giant arena-length replica of Battersea Power Station rose from the ground up, chimneys issuing smoke, between the audience. And then the now-famous floating pig with ‘Piggy Bank of War’ emblazoned on one side bobbed across the stadium. If this weren’t enough, for the finale, the arena dimmed and white laser beams criss-crossed around the stadium before a rainbow explosion of light created a three-dimensional reproduction of the prism from The Dark Side of the Moon.
A Roger Waters concert was never just going to be a nostalgic revisiting of old songs. Video footage had been updated to include images from the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests, as well as riot squads, bombed cities and children rifling through rubbish. And his anti-Trump message was given plenty of airtime during ‘Pigs (Three Different Ones)’, when Trump’s and Putin’s faces were splashed across the screens in various unflattering guises. At the end of the concert, bright pink confetti fluttered down on the audience, with ‘RESIST’ printed in block letters.
It was a reminder that, decades after World War II and the fall of the Berlin Wall, in an era of fake news and complacency, we still don’t need no thought control. It’s a message artfully packaged up in a provocative, sophisticated rock concert.
Buy $79.90 discounted tickets to Roger Waters – Us + Them from Lasttix.