Roger Waters wrapped up his two-night stand at Barclays Center (review, setlist)
Roger Waters wrapped up his two-night Brooklyn residency at Barclays Center with a nearly three-hour long set on Tuesday night (9/12) that was as career-spanning and politically scathing as it was utterly instagrammable. This current tour, titled Us + Them, has been winding its way around North America since May like a screaming laser and LED soaked freight train, leaving in its wake tens of thousands of spectators reeling in a cloud of fog and “RESIST” confetti.
As a greatest hits type gig, the setlist is a fantastic survey of Roger’s career with the Floyd and only lightly peppered with tracks from his latest (great) solo release Is This The Life We Really Want. As any Floyd maniac will tell ya, when it comes to Pink Floyd’s music, song flow is very important. Often times albums follow a common narrative with one song flowing effortlessly into the next. On paper, however, the order of some of the tour’s song choices might seem a bit funky. For example, to go from Dark Side of the Moon‘s “Breathe” to Meddle‘s “One of These Days” to Dark Side‘s “Time” and then into Dark Side‘s “Breathe (Reprise)” might seem a bit odd and maybe even a little jarring. But that’s how they do it, and the result is brilliant. I loved the flow of the setlist as a whole; classics stacked against classics creating a momentum that was both fresh, unique, and easily digestible to the fans. There was also a great moment in the first part of the set where they tackled four stunners from his incredible new solo work: “When We Were Young,” “Déjà Vu,” and “The Last Refugee,” sounded gorgeous and were followed by the bombast that is “Picture That.” From there, they cozied into crowd favorite “Wish You Were Here.” “The Great Gig in the Sky,” “Welcome to the Machine,” “The Happiest Days of Our Lives”, “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2″, and “Another Brick in the Wall Part 3″ all made the final cut of the first half of the gig and they sounded tremendous. His inclusion of local school children belting out “We don’t need no education” for “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2″ brought so much life and contemporary relevance to a tune that has been all but beaten to death by a lifetime of radio play.
The second half of the show is when Waters and Co. really kicked things into sensory and editorial overload. While the first half of the set was accompanied with the biggest LED screen I have ever seen and tons of pretty lights, the second half of the set was supplemented with even more AV as the room was bisected length-wise by a series of roll-down screens that were illuminated by several super-bright video projectors. Projections of Trump (many of which superimposed his putty-like head onto stuff like infant bodies), Putin, brick walls that mimicked the famous Battersea power station from the Animals album cover (complete with mechanically extending smokestacks), as well as paragraphs worth of political and Trumpian quotes accentuated the narratives being expounded through songs like the 30-minute opus that is 1977’s “Dogs” and “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” from Animals, “Money”, “Us and Them”, “Smell the Roses”, “Brain Damage”, and finally “Eclipse.” And of course there was the floating pig. It ain’t over till the fat pig flies. Set two crescendoed with a gorgeous laser-formed pyramid that powerfully hung over the front orchestra section of the audience which resulted in an unbelievable roar from the crowd and a galaxy’s worth of twinkling cell phone screens.
When I caught Roger and co’s full-band, full-tech dress rehearsal on May 20 at the Izod Center in New Jersey, I was immediately struck by how tight his newly assembled band was in their undertaking of classic Pink Floyd tunes and new Roger Waters solo material. In a sentiment I have mentioned ad nauseam at this point, his current musicians are by and large much younger than his usual gaggle of players. (His band also now includes a member of My Morning Jacket.) They also employ a far simpler, less flamboyant approach to playing. The result is that Roger’s rapid fire and profound lyrics and phrasing are buoyed by more sharply accentuated beats that I find drive the songs much harder and more dramatically. For example, former Waters drummer Graham Broad is an absolute powerhouse, but his relentless use of grace notes, fills, and his tendency to overcomplicate simple 1-2 patterns sort of bury the simplicity that makes classic Floyd so great. Drummer Joey Waronker completely rectifies this. He is a fantastic drummer, but he keeps it simple, stupid. Classics like 1977’s “Dogs” and “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” from Animals probably haven’t sounded this good live since the late 70s. One of the true highlights of the evening was Lucius’ Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig‘s treatment of the vocal duties of the “The Great Gig in the Sky” from Dark Side of the Moon. It was leaps and bounds superior to their rendition from the rehearsal show I caught. It was a jaw-dropping moment in the show that resulted in a deafening peal of applause from the audience. If this is in fact his final tour, Waters will go out sounding better than ever.
One thing that constantly grouses at my fanboy mind is that Roger’s past several tours have been more a celebration of his work with Pink Floyd and have largely ignored his immense output as a solo artist. This nagging problem is even more apparent in my mind at the moment because he is touring on the heels of one of the greatest solo albums he has ever conceived. I would absolutely kill to see him perform this album in its entirety. Heck, I’d kill to see a set that leans exclusively on The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking, Amused to Death and ITTLWRW?, ditching Floyd completely. I mean, I realize this might not have the commercial potential of a tour like Us + Them, but I do feel he should at least once celebrate his solo career live. And write an autobiography. And do something about getting Alan Parker’s The Wall remastered and released on Blu-ray. Regardless, if all that I touch and all that I see is all my life will ever be, as Dark Side of the Moon posits, then last night’s show enriched mine exponentially.
Check out the 9/12 Barclays setlist, along with a gallery of pics from his 9/11 Barclays show, below.
SETLIST: Roger Waters @ Barclays Center 9/12/2017
One of These Days
The Great Gig in the Sky
Welcome to the Machine
When We Were Young
The Last Refugee
Wish You Were Here
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2
Another Brick in the Wall Part 3
Pigs (Three Different Ones)
Us and Them
Smell the Roses
Bring the Boys Back Home