Roger Waters, Cricket Pavilion, Phoenix, AZ 10/3
For Syd, of course, and Roger, Dave, Nick and Rick
Wish You Were Here
It had been twenty years to the month since I had seen Pink Floyd, Mach II in Sacramento, California. I was a wee lad at the time and it was the biggest thing to hit the town sincewellsince the Stones had played there in the mid 1960s. I grew up in the Bay Area, migrated to Sacramento and eventually headed back to the city by the bay, which is exactly the sort of thing that Roger Waters did at Live 8 with the Floyd in 2005.
Alas, that Sacramento gig did not contain the likes of Waters since he had long since vacated the Floyd universe to embark on a solo career after the well-publicized tumultuous breakup with his former and future bandmates. The October 1986 beast would be the final show at Hughes Stadium because after the Floyd left town, the blue hairs and squares went berserk and insisted that concerts would cease and desist, post haste. WellI guess the flying pig with the laser beams as eyes and the flying-man-in-a- bed that crashed on the stage was just too much for the locales to stomach. Ironically, a massive rainstorm had soaked the city that day but it held up for the entire duration of the outdoor gig. Twenty years later, a fire a couple blocks down from where I live torched a home giving a proper and surreal bookend to Mother Nature’s awesome force.
Waters began the Phoenix gig with the obligatory “In the Flesh” opening salvo, which was also the intro to his watershed schizophrenic masterpiece, The Wall. The song’s chorus was coupled with huge theatrical flashpots up and down the back of the stage lest we forget that this was a Floydian/Sir Roger affair. Indeed, the much-heralded Waters touch was apparent as soon as one hit the seats in the sprawling amphitheatrea film backdrop with a giant old AM/FM radio, the inevitable WWII model plane and a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black sat on a table next to a smoldering ashtray mocking my current sobriety. Meh. No need to worry. Occasionally, a hand went up to fill a shot glass and light another cigarette before adjusting the radio station. This scene would play throughout the set leading to its logical conclusion at the famous commencement of “Wish You Were Here,” with its radio knob-twisting schtick.
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
“Mother” followed “In the Flesh” and was a bit of a surprise for an early set choice. However, the song’s pathos rode the wave of enthusiasm and suddenly Waters appeared as a genius yet again as the melancholic tune served as a wonderful buildup before the blast-from-the-acid-past chestnut, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun. I had heard this song many times beforeas many of the crowd hadbut most had not heard it performed live. Waters delivered an appropriate changeup by adding a welcome clarinet solo from one of his legion of talented sidemen during the freak out sequence. The band was also accompanied by some old Syd Barrett-era Floyd films on the backdropa thematic theatrical device that would evoke major goosebump moments during the show. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” followed with more Syd footage, as the imagery was not lost on any of the cheering crowd due to his recent corporeal departure from this planet. “Have A Cigar” continued the passage through the 1975 album before the “Wish You Were Here” hook had everyone singing along like a pack of 20,000 people fondling the same precious moment from one fleeting glimpse of the Floydian majestic past.
Upon Solo Waters
Waters and Co. then offered three solo effortsone from the Floyd’s final album with their estranged bassist (and arguably Waters’s first solo album, The Final Cut)with “Perfect Sense” scoring the biggest points from the audience and offering Waters as the comically sardonic bleeding heart liberal that he is (and thank the Makers for that). “Leaving Beirut” was the only new song of the evening and was presented in tandem with perhaps the best graphic novel film I’ve ever seen at a show as it described a young Waters and his real life hitchhiking escapades in that region. His car had broken down and a nearly destitute Arab family had taken the wayward Brit into their home offering room, shelter and food without anything asked in return. Apparently, the food Waters ate while at the humble home was the meal that the wife of the house would have eaten. She had charitably given her own portion to this strangerthe Golden Rule that transcends and unites all religions in full effect.
Sheep No Mo
“Sheep” the 1977 Animals closer followed and ended the first set of the show as the theatrics reached an early and lasting highlight. A pink inflatable pig with various messages spray-painted across its mammoth frame sparked the biggest cheers of the night with the once Conservative with a capital C’ Arizona crowd had suddenly (very recently) turned quite liberal. The messages? Here is a mere sampling of the continuing Waters sharp and pointed political wit:
IMPEACH BUSH NOW!
Cut Along the Dotted Line (a dotted line drawn around the neck)
Fear Build Walls – Habeas Corpus Matters A LOT
Don’t be led to slaughter
Set II – The Dark Side of the Moon
Two words: STILL brilliant. And, oh yeah, lest we forget. The final DSOTM circular film during the closing “Eclipse” was a montage of scenes from the prior films solidifying the career-length thesis that Roger Waters is a) a conceptualist master, b) a fucking hardcore lefty, c) a passionate man who mourns for Syd Barrett and, d) an artist that is able to grasp all the strands of his work and tie them together into one giant thematic Big Crunch for all to view, hear and cheer.
Encores or Set III
Did encores matter at this point? No, not really but we got them anywayspecifically, he closed the concert sandwich with a return to his Barrett masterwork, The Wall: “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II>Vera Lynn>Bring the Boys Back Home (from Iraq, dig)>Comfortably Numb.” In the end, we got a good ole Dead-like mini Set III.
What was still iswhy does the Floyd and Waters endure? Well, the same reason I don’t write much about a DSOTM performance. The 1973 work was inspired at a time when every ounce of the band had used up every abstract outer space idea they had and could only turn inwards, to the vast inner space of the mind and all of the external obstacles that distract one from the meaning in life. The work endures because we endure.