Roger Waters
at TD Banknorth Garden,
Boston, MA
(9 July 2007)

It was a dream come true for Pink Floyd fans. Only one thing could be better than witnessing Roger Waters perform the legendary Dark Side of the Moon album, and that would be if David Gilmour was willing to join him. Alas, that reunion is even more far-fetched than the mid-1990s Eagles "Hell Freezes Over" tour. But the evening wasn't just about one 34-year-old recording. After all, Pink Floyd has many memorable songs in its catalogue. We heard a good variety of them this night in the Garden.

The entertainment began even before the musicians took the stage. The large video screen gave us a peek at a western bar room, where a lone drinker appeared just off-camera and grumbled to himself. Unfortunately, those of us who had seats to the immediate left or right didn't get the full effect of any images shown on the screen, before or during the show. We may have had an advantage, for we could focus our attentions on the musicians and the music. The additional nonvideo effects were dazzling enough.

Backed up by a 10-piece band, Waters opened with "In the Flesh?" from The Wall. The fireworks that erupted with the last chord only foreshadowed more to come. Political protest emerged from the resulting fog with "Mother." Some members of the audience cheered after Waters sang "Mother, should I run for President?" and many more booed after the follow-up line: "Mother, should I trust the government?" Again, that was only a glimpse of what was ahead of us. Waters, who had first appeared in a trim black suit, took off his jacket and got down to business for "Set the Controls for Heart of the Sun," which featured a stellar soprano sax solo by Ian Ritchie and lead guitar work by Snowy White.

Bubbles rained down on us during "Shine on You Crazy Diamond," and Ritchie's sax lent a jazzy feel to the ending of the song. Dave Kilminster provided the guitar solo in "Have a Cigar." And when the song ended with the same suppressed radio sound heard on the original recording, every person on stage froze in place. It was another surreal feature of an already surreal show.

White and Kilminster exchanged solos during "Wish You Were Here," and no doubt provided what Gilmour would have offered if he'd been invited to the party. Then it was time for Waters to feature his solo work. "The Post War Dream" and "The Fletcher Memorial Home" both illustrated his blatant anti-war stance. A floating space man from 2001: A Space Odyssey drifted throughout the arena and hovered above the folks with floor seats for "Perfect Sense, Part 1 & 2." In true evangelist fashion, Waters led the audience in the sarcastic chant, "It all makes perfect sense" -- for, of course, we know that political decisions these days generally don't. Waters took time to explain the background of "Leaving Beirut," the result of a visit to the Middle East. With that tune, it was most obvious that his vocal range tends toward the lower side, for hitting the higher notes of the melody were a bit of a strain for him. He closed the opening set of the evening with "Sheep," another assessment of the ills of society and the dangers of conformity. That was the lift-off cue for the Pink Floyd flying pig, which followed the airy path the space man had carved a bit earlier. The animal's eyes glowed a fiery red, and its carcass was covered with relevant bumper stickers, like "All religions divide," "Fear builds walls" and "Impeach Bush," the latter placed indelicately on the inflated porcine rump. Subtlety is not what Roger Waters is all about. He and his band left the stage so that we could consider what we had just experienced during intermission.

The main event had been saved for the second half of the show. Waters and his colleagues made their way through the entire Dark Side of the Moon album, beginning with "Speak to Me," and following a progression we all knew by heart. "Breathe" featured Kilminster on both guitar and vocals, because someone had to fill in the space without Gilmour. Drummer Graham Broad did an extraordinary job during "Time," as Waters plucked the signature tick-tocks on his bass guitar. But soprano Carol Kenyon was the one who stole the show when she stepped forward to supply the improvisational descant for "The Great Gig in the Sky." Her live performance far surpassed, in complexity and length, the one heard on the original standard recording. Waters' familiar bass line anchored "Money," as did Ritchie's raucous sax line. Kilminster starred in the tune as well, though White joined him in a duo by the end. Keyboardist Jon Carin sang the slow but steady "Us & Them." And as the group advanced through "Any Colour You Like" and "Brain Damage," the tension built to the climax and the album's benediction, "Eclipse" -- "All that you touch, All that you see, All that you taste, All you feel...." A giant prism descended from the ceiling and began to rotate slowly; and the light it reflected spun over and and under and around and through us. And then, almost all too soon, everyone landed on the last note. Waters introduced the band members (including guitarist Andy Fairweather-Low, keyboardist Harry Waters and singers Katie Kissoon and P.P. Arnold) during the standing ovation.

Of course, everyone wanted more. The encore was made up of songs from The Wall, an album that is, unbelievably, 30 years old. We heard "Happiest Days of Our Lives" and "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2," before "Vera" calmed the crowd down ... until the music culminated in more explosions. The evening ended with "Comfortably Numb," and many in the audience were, by that time. The vocalists on stage had no need to sing the song, for the melody and lyrics echoed throughout the arena, fueled by thousands of ordinary voices. It sounded darn good, too. Smoke -- both band-made and fan-made -- billowed up to the steel Garden rafters. And when it was all over, the only thing we could think of to say was a stunned "Wow."

Gilmour's absence aside, it's difficult to imagine how this show could have been any better. Suffice it to say that if you missed it, you missed it.

by Corinne H. Smith
26 January 2008

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