The Wall, Animals, Wish You Were Here... they're all practically masterpieces... but The Dark Side of the Moon (at the time of this writing, the best selling album of all time) is the indescribable, inspired, inspiring and still poignant Concept Album that somehow improves with age (both the album's and the listener's). There are certain lyrics that I simply didn't "get" as a younger man... not really. The Dark Side of the Moon might as well be considered the soundtrack to the Self-Aware. All of the lyrics and the majority of all the music was written by Roger Waters, and both the music and the lyrics seem to mean more every year. So when I found that Roger Waters had launched "The Dark Side of the Moon" Tour in 2006, did I think I might like to go to the show? You Flex your Rod, Fish takes the Hook! It sold out fast (I credit Roger's stalwart perseverance and the timelessness of his music that he could sell out a theatre this big for this many shows) and only by the grace of an added Sunday Show did I manage to procure my tickets. Thank you, God!
The night was upon us... Michelle and I fought our way through traffic like interstellar heroes through an asteroid field to get to the Hollywood Bowl in... well, you know where it is. This was the show I had waited literally twenty years for. I thought that by the time I finally saw Any part of Pink Floyd playing "Dark Side" in its entirety, Pigs would Fly... I was right.
Picture this: We're outside in the bowl, the domed stage at peace, filled only with colored light. An enormous, classic-looking radio filled the backdrop. A World War II Era prop-plane rested atop it, a bottle of Scotch flanked it and a smoking ash tray lay before it... each about the size of a house. A brobdignagian hand reached in from the side and turned the radio on (no, I wasn't tripping, the show had begun). As the hand chose a channel we heard varied oldies playing just before the proper station was selected, just in time to hear Roger's German introduction to "In the Flesh" followed by that loud, building climb of the guitar, backed by Roger Waters' skillful bass. It's amazing that song is still played out of context (check out the lyrics some time to see what I mean), but the song couldn't be more appropriate for rousing the crowd into awe-struck Frenzy. "So ya... thought ya... might like to... go to the show...", he sang as the screen behind him morphed into an army of marching crossed hammers, "To feel the warm thrill of confusion that 'Space Cadet' glow?" What other show besides Roger Waters can that be said about? Okay, Pink Floyd, but you get my meaning!
Trading in his Bass for an acoustic guitar, Waters eased gracefully into "Mother", allowing one of his skilled "Guest Vocalists" take over Gilmour's part, which makes sense, as she sounded more like a "Mother" than Dave ever did. The song was incredible, as was the visual screen show accompanying it. During the line "Mother won't let Anyone Dirty get through" we were treated to some really fantastic nudity. Thank you, Roger.
But wait... Both those songs were from The Wall! Right... Roger was giving a whole show here, kids, not content to give us only "The Dark Side of the Moon", then take his nap. The man is a consummate professional who seemed to still love what he's doing, even if much of it is what he's been doing for over 30 years. And that's especially counting the next song, the bleak, science fiction infused "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun", which was originally released just under Forty Years ago! With a fiery and astronomical (literally) visual show and the greatly appreciated 360 degree surround sound to accentuate the haunting delivery of Roger's lyrics, this was truly entrancing to see and hear.
It was the perfect intro for the next three songs, all from the Barrett tribute concept album "Wish You Were Here". As the back drop changed from the Signature round disk behind the band into a full-frame image of Syd's face, the slow rise of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" Pt. 1 filled the surrounding speakers and blossomed into the four-note riff that brings the song to fruition. Making it through the third part (of nine total pieces, usually not all played live anyway), Roger gave a fitting tribute to his friend who died on July 7, 2006, but who was lost long before then. "Shine On" gave way to "Have a Cigar". The Keyboard riff, so recognizable now, sounded incredible in the full surround experience. Meanwhile Roger's voice at 62 years of age sounded as good, if not better than ever before, especially in this vaguely disconnected, echoing song. He left little room for the question of "Which One's Pink?" to be asked. To compliment the sounds of a radio changing stations on the album, the two-story radio took the screen again at the end of "Have a Cigar". Channels were changed by the enormous hand until the opening chords of "Wish You Were Here" were heard, as played by Roger himself. It was a passionate rendition and that passion could be felt in the audio as well as seen in the face of Roger on the four Jumbotrons that adorned the venue. R.I.P. Syd.
Proceeding to what is usually called the first "Roger Waters Solo Album" (though it was performed by Pink Floyd), Roger reintroduced us to The Final Cut with the song "Southampton Dock", complete with scenes from the "Video EP". This gave way to "The Fletcher Memorial Home" with imagery that now includes an apparently bombed out hospital with the portraits of the more current "Overgrown Infants" therein. The political theme continued with "Perfect Sense" (parts I and II) from "Amused to Death". The screen filled with a sports stadium filled with water. A submarine surfaced and launched a torpedo at an oil rig, destroying it to the cheers of fan and announcer alike... Hey, that's subtle, Roger!
But this was only a precursor to the new track "Leaving Beirut", available on the internet, but not yet released as an album. Detailing the true story of Roger's trip through the Middle East at the age of Seventeen, "Leaving Beirut" was accompanied by the comic book images of greats Bill Seinkiewicz and Neal Adams. While the song more than spoke for itself, the pictures were worth a thousand words each, including when they took a back seat to word balloons pointing to Roger and his three Guest Vocalists (Katie Kissoon, P.P. Arnold and Carol Kenyon), detailing every lyric. But there's the rub. As great a song as it is (and really, it is) it's hard not to think the politics (though admirable) are a little heavy handed. Further, for a man whose music and lyrics are "timeless", words describing a Texas Education Fucking George Up places a pretty definitive "Time" on the song. Not that I disagree.
But a more cerebral (if vastly more nihilistic) political statement was found in the next song. Appropriately from an album called Animals, "Sheep" started with the bleats and soft keyboards of the opening and traversed the terrifying journey through "The Danger", including the infamous "prayer" and on through the triumphant squeal of the finale with those roaring, driving guitars. But first... We were greeted by the one animal virtually no Waters show is without... The Pig! This time out the Helium-Inflated pig was dressed in its usual pink, but this time such political statements as "Impeach Bush Now", "Free at Last" and "Kafka Rules OK!" scrawled on her body as she was led around on wires throughout virtually the entire audience. Sadly, after the October 5 show (at the same Venue) Roger was prohibited from releasing the pig into the sky (I'm told it was quite a sight), so "Algie" was led to another entrance to the back stage area. Makes sense, too, I mean... what if that piggy had gotten in someone's eye, for Pete's Sake!
Roger promised to return after a fifteen minute break to give us The Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety. Meanwhile Michelle was "treated" to a fill-in-the-blank primer of the history of Pink Floyd (or at least from Syd to The Final Cut, which was completed later in the car. Yeah, I know, I talk too much, but I don't know much about History, don't know much Biology, don't know much about Science Books, don't know much about the French I took... but when it comes to Classic Rock, I'm "Encyclopedia Pink".
A blurry splotch was projected onto the stage's screen. Slowly over the next fifteen minutes the picture got larger and clearer until it filled up the space of the disk and became fully formed as the image of Luna. Luna was accompanied by a ticking... no, wait... a heart beat. The Dark Side of the Moon had begun with a scream as "Speak To Me" was performed. But not before a special introduction was made. Accompanying Roger's band on the Drums was none other than Pink Floyd's own Nick Mason himself!
The Tour Program suggests that one in 14 people under 50 own a copy of The Dark Side of the Moon, so it's a safe-as-airbags bet that many more than one in fourteen people at this show had a definitively intimate relationship with the album. While Roger wasn't above a bit of improvisation with his creation, he also didn't mess with perfection, offering up a superb version of the classic album much more accurate than even the current line-up of Pink Floyd can deliver it (see the admittedly excellent DVD Echoes for their full version from 1994). This included actual spoken sound effects from the album as well as the varied sound effects that enhanced it then and now.
As "Speak to Me" gave way to "Breathe", it was notable that the tradition of letting others (besides Roger himself) perform Dave and Rick's lyrics held true. For the most part the converse is true for David's Pink Floyd shows as well. "Breathe" took on an eerie presence with the band harmonizing on it (and not just the Backing Vocalists either). The Mason-Centric "On The Run" followed with a laser and filmed light show that blew us all away.
It's ironic that an album like The Dark Side of the Moon (so much about time) has become so Timeless. And, of course, this is exemplified in the song "Time". Does it mean the same thing coming from a 62 year old man that it did coming from a 30 year old man? Perhaps it means a lot more now. As always, this morphed beautifully into "Breathe (Reprise)", sung by the backing vocalists.
This set the stage perfectly for what followed. The Wright-penned "The Great Gig in the Sky" was performed vocally with incredible precision by P.P. Arnold, matching the Clare Torry-improvised screams beautifully and operatically. When you're dealing with a crowd who knows the material like their own names (90% of us probably could have conducted the whole show), the nuances have to be precise. By God they were. Bravo!
One of the biggest (and strangest) hits of Pink Floyd's (and Roger's) career is a little song in 7/4 time known as "Money"... you might have heard it... about every hour on the hour from every classic rock station from here to Beirut! The stumbling bass line had Roger Waters a little busy, so the band again took over Dave's vocals, specifically in the form of Keyboardist/ Guitarist Jon Carin. What stole the whole song, however, was the dueling guitar solos of Snowy White and Dave Kilminster. While faithfully capturing both halves of Gilmour's solo the gents free-styled their way through a good bit of the song, adding their own accent to the riffs that followed Ian Ritchie's Saxophone Solo. Best of all, the video accompaniment to "Money" gave us our second taste of some really fantastic nudity. Thanks, Rog.
An enjoy-the-silence moment followed with the anti-war ballad "Us and Them", which proved a sharp contrast to the earlier in-your-face commentaries. The instrumental "Any Colour You Like" (a song written by every Dark Side-Era Pink Floyd member BUT Roger Waters) was a beautiful introduction to "Brain Damage", the macabre song about "The Lunatic", complete with the maniacal laugher that marked the original recording. It's hard to imagine that song sounding better! During this duo, a huge pyramid rose from behind the stage into the air, glowing in various colors in a cool simulation of the Prism of the Dark Side of the Moon album cover. As the finale of "Eclipse" built lyrically upon itself laser lights and floods affixed to the "Prism" shot a white beam from one side and a rainbow from the other, beautifully rendering one of the most recognizable covers in rock history.
The Dark Side of the Moon was incredible live, especially with the impeccable sound system and the completing sounds from the album. Though "Dark Side" had ended the show was far from over. Roger returned to the stage with the full band (including Mason and full-show drummer Graham Broad, Andy Fairweather-Low on third guitar and, believe it or not, Roger's own son Harry Waters on Hammond B-3 Organ) to perform "The Happiest Days of our Lives" and, of course, "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2". Need I say that the entire audience was screaming out "We Don't Need No Education"? Probably not... we were though. Need I say that I wasted my musical education by playing virtuoso "AIR GUITAR" to the incredible guitar solo? Probably not... I did though. Might I say I'm a big fat dork? Probably not.
The crashing echo had ended (as it had at the plane-crash ending of "In The Flesh"), and I realized... Hey, I think we're firmly planted "Behind The Wall"... so the sadly anti-war medley of "Vera" and "Bring The Boys Back Home" filled the Hollywood Hills with the repetitive, yet heart-felt chorus.
It was time to go... I knew because of the sound of knocking filled the speakers, coupled with a voice that said "Time to Go-o", along with varied other sounds from The Wall. The cacophony rose to the crescendo of "IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE???" Could this be the intro to "Comfortably Numb"? You Flex your Rod, Fish takes the Hook! There is a little something missing when someone besides David Gilmour plays that solo, but the coupling of the band's vocals following Roger's own verses formed an incredible final Encore. "Comfortably Numb" is one of those rare songs that could probably get addicts off of Methadone. It's a comfortably numb feeling as the show ends.
Then, of course, there's the obnoxious amounts of money for memorabilia. I tried to buy the Pig... denied. I tried volunteering to play the pig at the next show... denied. Something about requiring the "Pink Floyd Pig" to be "Aesthetically Pleasing". Noted.
All in all I can say this is quite possibly the best rock concert I've ever been to. I was taken aback to note that there were no songs from "Radio K.A.O.S." or from "The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking" (which meant, no naked images of Linzi Drew), that and the thinly veiled politics could have constituted a negative... but then, Roger's politics are mine (he's screaming louder for balance, baby), and he couldn't play every song, right? Man, I could've used some Hiking Linzi, though.
The night was just about everything this old fan could've hoped for, and happily Michelle had a great time too, which is half the reward right there. I'm not exaggerating to give "The Dark Side of the Moon, Live" (plus a few) by the great, great Roger Waters Five Stars out of Five! One can only hope there is a live DVD presented for this tour, as there was for the In The Flesh DVD (which I highly recommend you check out, by the way). If you can't catch him on this tour, keep those high hopes... maybe, though the sun goes down sooner each day, he'll leave all his hopes and dreams to the wind and the rain, take only his stash, leave his litter and trash, and set out... on the road again! On the road again! Until then, I'll see you in the next reel. Sorry, gotta go (like this stupid review isn't WAY too long anyway)... I'm in a bidding war on Ebay for an "Algie" blow up doll. It's hard to explain that one to my wife! Really hard. Every time I tell her "She's a PIG!" she only responds "That makes it even MORE disgusting.
Great... I can't win, man!