Roger Waters, Madison Square Garden, NYC, 9/13
Odd as it might be to say, there was booing at the Roger Waters concert Wednesday night. I don't mean booing so much as I mean BOOING. Like loud, angry, purposeful booing. Of course, that's to be expected to a degree following a song in which US President Bush and UK's Tony Blair are called terrorists while pictures on the screen behind the band essentially equate our President with Osama Bin Laden. Of course, this was balanced out by some real, hardcore cheering. I don't mean the obligatory we-know-you're-coming-out-for-an-encore-so-we'll-clap-half-heartedly-until-you-do clapping. I mean it was the Good-Lord-that-show-was-amazing-and-so-I'll-clap-until-you-absolutely-have-to-come-out-for-an-encore type clapping. Such was the Roger Waters concert on the 14th at Madison Square Garden.
Coming on the heels of the fabulous David Gilmour concert at Radio City Music Hall, Roger Waters seemed determined, either consciously or subconsciously, to meet or upstage his former band mate in any way possible. Gilmour came to NYC for two nights at RCMH, so Roger booked two nights at The Garden. Gilmour asked Richard Wright to play with him on the tour, so Waters went out and commissioned Nick Mason to join him for a number of shows, including both NYC dates. Gilmour broke out a few Floyd classics including a monster by way of "Echoes," so Roger goes and plays TWO monsters, "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" and "Sheep." But that aside, the fact of the matter is that both shows were excellent but one has to give the nod to Roger, if only because his concert leaned more towards the Floyd catalog for the whole show, whereas Gilmour's concert featured one set of his new album, clearly less popular than, say, Another Brick in the Wall. A competition this may not have been, but a damn fine concert it was.
And so, opening with "In the Flesh?" the show kicked off in high gear with sparkling pyrotechnics shooting up from the floor and down from the ceiling. Waters' past tours have always featured a mixture of his solo material and the obligatory Floyd songs, however on this tour the latter is taking center stage highlighted of course by the second set featuring a complete performance of Dark Side. But focusing on the second set would do a disservice to the first which saw stellar takes on "Have a Cigar." "Set the Controls," "Mother," Sheep" and "The Fletcher Memorial Home," one of the strongest songs off the relatively weak The Final Cut.
Of course, one would be remiss in failing to mention the new song "Leaving Beirut." Based on Roger's experience as a teenager in Lebanon, the autobiographical song features Waters' trademark too-literal-lyrics-at-the-expense-of-solid-music, highlighted by some blatant Bush-bashing. As a remote controlled Pig, spray-painted with "Vote Democratic" and "Impeach Bush", flew around the arena, fans began to boo which only grew louder with the songs culmination.
I can't wait to hear how that song goes over in Kansas.
In the second set, Roger delivered what the fans wanted; a complete reading of the classic album Dark Side of the Moon essentially relegating Waters to backup man as the concert became the Kilminister-Carin show. But even playing, more or less, a secondary role during the set, Roger still managed to keep the spotlight on him, wandering around the stage hamming it up for the crowd as his thunderingly loud bass reverberated throughout the arena. Phenomenally accurate guitar solos during the set from Dave Kilminister, wielding a lime green Telecaster in fine fashion, surely appeased even the most ardent Floyd aficionado, while Jon Carin’s multi-instrumental prowess added layering and texture, not to mention Gilmour’s vocal duties, to the sonic masterpiece that is Dark Side.
Returning for the encore, Roger dipped back into The Wall catalog for two songs I'd never thought I'd see live, "Vera" and, fittingly, "Bring the Boys Back Home." While he added "Another Brick in the Wall" and "Comfortably Numb," they served merely as icing on the cake for what was, in many respects, already a stunningly great concert.
A competition it may not have been, but a great freaking rock concert is surely was.