The Roger Waters US and Them tour has rolled through Vancouver, playing two stadium shows at Rogers Arena on the 28th and 29th of October (Waters also spoke at a Human Rights forum at St. Andrew’s Wesley Church on the 26th). Vancouver was the final destination on the tours’ North American schedule, and I was able to secure attendance for Mr. Waters’ initial performance. I was lucky enough to see Waters’ The Wall tour in 2012, and the visual show was easily the most staggering I had seen to that point. Nothing had surpassed it since, so I was looking forward to seeing if Waters could approach or, dare I say, surpass the audiovisual sublimity of that first show.
Waters took the stage promptly at 8:00 PM and I was whisked away to an old, sentimental place as Waters and co. played Pink Floyd classics from “The Dark Side of the Moon”, “Wish You Were Here,” and a single track, “One of These Days,” from the lesser-renowned “Meddle”. Waters was joined on stage by a host of talented musicians, which included several guitarists, bassists, pianists, keyboardists, percussionists, vocalists, organists, a saxophonist and backup vocalists.
The complete list of musicians:
• Roger Waters – bass, lead vocals, guitars
• Dave Kilminster – guitars, bass, talk box, backing vocals
• Gus Seyffert – guitars, bass, keyboards, backing vocals
• Jonathan Wilson – guitars, keyboards, lead and backing vocals
• Drew Erickson – piano, keyboards, Hammond organ
• Jon Carin – piano, keyboards, programming, steel lap guitar, guitars, backing vocals
• Ian Ritchie – saxophone, additional bass
• Joey Waronker – drums, percussion
• Jess Wolfe – lead and backing vocals, percussion
• Holly Laessig – lead and backing vocals, percussion
The band switched over to some of Mr. Waters new songs, and the massive screen that loomed behind them transitioned into dystopian anime which, in typical Roger Waters fashion, served to impactfully draw out the meaning of the lyrics rather than distract from them. Given the scale and splendor – or, in other cases, grotesque and lamentable reality – of Waters’ visual displays, this is quite an accomplishment. While the image of a wall is more on the nose than it has been in a warm, long time, I was excited to see Waters perform music that I previously hadn’t seen i.e everything but what he played on The Wall tour (hint: mostly music from “The Wall”). His most recent album, “Is This the Life We Really Want?”, is chock-full of biting political and social commentary as well as existential crocheting that is part and parcel with the vast majority of Waters catalog (especially since the decommissioning of Pink Floyd). The songs were played well and, most impressively, did not seem out of place amongst Waters’ catalog of truly once-in-a-lifetime songs. After playing a few songs off of his new album, Waters moved back to the classics, including a rendition of “Wish You Were Here”, and some songs from “The Wall”.
Waters took a quick break, allowing fans to wet their whistles and cop some righteous merch. I’m usually a pretty pragmatic guy but somehow I felt like I was sticking it to the man despite spending big bucks on a bit of decor at a stadium venue. There are certain events that are so memorable and awe-inspiring that they deserve to be memorialized.
When Waters and co. returned, the lights lowered – literally, from the ceiling – and expanded into a large screen that hung above the ground floor seats. As much as I’d have loved to have been closer to the stage and on the floor, I was more pleased with my luck for being sat in the stands. Roger Waters shows require a bit of room in order to fully appreciate the scope of the things, and the visual show on the low-hanging center screen added caustic immediacy to the words that Waters sang. During “Pigs (Three Different Ones),” images of President Trump that were photoshopped into various psychologically motivated poses and frames flashed across the screen, with certain words like ‘charade’, ‘joker’, and ‘pig’ superimposed across his face in stencil or freehand graffiti writing. This theme continued and was explored with other world leaders and political figures through “Money,” “Us and Them,” and “Smell the Roses,”. The band closed out the set with a couple of songs from “Dark Side” and then proceeded to play a two song encore consisting of “Mother” and “Comfortably Numb,” during which Waters roamed the stage, waving, singing and thanking the crowd silently. We thanked him and the band, in return, with an ovation. It grew out of a hum which had persisted throughout the whole show and crescendoed into a cheerful buzz, and that buzz continued on until long after Waters was backstage, cooling off after yet another energetic, thought-provoking, sentimental, incredibly well-executed and simply brilliant performance.
1. Speak to Me (Pink Floyd)
2. Breathe (Pink Floyd)
3. One of These Days (Pink Floyd)
4. Breathe (Reprise) (Pink Floyd)
5. The Great Gig in the Sky (Pink Floyd)
6. Welcome to the Machine (Pink Floyd)
7. Deja Vu
8. The Last Refugee
9. Picture That
10. Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
11. The Happiest Days of Our Lives (Pink Floyd)
12. Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 (Pink Floyd)
13. Another Brick in the Wall Part 3 (Pink Floyd)
14. Dogs (Pink Floyd)
15. Pigs (Three Different Ones) (Pink Floyd)
16. Money (Pink Floyd)
17. Us and Them (Pink Floyd)
18. Smell the Roses
19. Brain Damage (Pink Floyd)
20. Eclipse (Pink Floyd)
21. Mother (Pink Floyd)
22. Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd)
Roger Waters Photos © Jamie Taylor//Cryptic Photography