History is short
Roger Waters, Indianapolis, Indiana - September 30, 2006
Welcome back to school, readers! Class is now session. To commemorate our return to school, we'll be looking at Roger Waters' concert at the Verizon Wireless Music Center in Indianapolis, Indiana from September 30, 2006. I was at the show myself, so not only will I review the RoIO recording, but I will compare it to my experiences at the show. Like all of his recent tours, this show provides something of an overview of Waters' career... a history of Pink Floyd, if you will.
The first track on the RoIO contains the pre-show sound effects of a radio playing. On the background screen projection was a radio and a model plane. Occasionally during the various old songs being played, an arm could be seen on the screen reaching out to change the radio stations, put out the cigarette ashes, and drinking a small amount of liquor. Then at last, the same arm reached out to turn the dial, and an announcement was made. Soft music played while the band members walked on stage one by one, with Roger Waters coming last, pointing at the crowd as if he was saying hello to all of us.
Roger chanted the familiar German count-off to "In the Flesh". The music was plenty loud, but not as loud as the crowd, while the background screen was bright red with computer-generated images of marching hammers. As usual, none of the lyrics were changed, such as the digs towards the queers, Jews, and so on, unlike the instrumental version from Live Earth in July. I liked the ending when lights and sounds had a swooping bomber sound effect, heard as clearly on the RoIO as it was at the show.
I have always liked "Mother". In fact, this was the very song that got me into Pink Floyd in the first place, when I borrowed my brother's cassette of The Wall. Katie Kissoon provided good vocals as the mother, but the guitar solo was disappointing. None of Roger's guitarists will never equal David Gilmour, and though I will give kudos to Dave Kilminster's playing in other songs, I didn't like his solo in "Mother". I much prefer Doyle Bramhall's playing on this song during the 2000 tour. I also missed Jon Carin's strong keyboards from the 2000 tour during the "Mother, should I run for president" line. Let me just say that I was not really impressed with this performance. Next, please.
I got excited at the beginning of "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun". As the song played, the screen showed old photos and video clips of the 1967 "Arnold Layne" video, as well as a video of Roger in the crop field playing around. After a while, the song got a little tedious, and I was ready to move on. The crowd, however, seemed to maintain its enthusiasm, cheering and applauding when the song ended.
The next song was a bit emotional for me. "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", though substantially abridged, was a nice memorial to the late Roger "Syd" Barrett, who had passed away just a few months before the concert. From the 2000 tour, I liked Jon's keyboarding that was a bit far from the original as he doodled around before the first guitar solo came in. For this tour they shortened it, leaving little time for Jon's improvisation. In fact, they skipped right to the familiar four-note guitar solo instead of the first batch. My favorite section was between the 0:19- and 0:27-second marks with a good, quick, adlib keyboard chords. The best would be the chord right at the 0:25-second mark. I'm not a trained musician so I will not be able to describe the particular sound or the actual chord structure. At the show, I remember being caught up in a tide of emotion. Even now, a year later, the emotion is still strong. As I listened to this section many times during the September 11 anniversary, I cannot help but think of that awful day and the fact that it changed civilization as we knew it. Though brief, in my opinion this is the best moment of the entire show! Nice work, Jon!
What can I say about "Have a Cigar"? I was never really a fan of the song to begin with. On top of that, the background screen shows a tacky video of two music label executives smoking cigars waving papers trying to get the viewer--an aspiring rock star--to sign the papers. I actually liked Roy Harper's singing on the album version, although Roger Waters later regretted letting Harper do it. I think it fit the concept of Wish You Were Here because Roy's voice was the voice of the label executive. Alas, Roger nowadays sings it and I didn't really like it. I mean, come on, I could have sung better than that. Again, I'm not a musician so I probably wouldn't sing it on perfect pitch, but I would have at least did the proper voice cracking during "everybody else is just green", like the original Roy vocal, instead of the quick "green" as Roger did. Although I was unimpressed by the performance in general, I will give props to Dave Kilminster's perfect note-for-note Gilmour-style guitar solo at the end.
I've always liked "Wish You Were Here"; not the original version but the post-Waters Pink Floyd version of it with David Gilmour's elaborate scatting, most notably during the Division Bell tour. I also liked Waters' 2000 tour version, which this closely resembles, including Waters' acoustic playing. The problem again is that Roger chose to sing this song himself instead of letting someone else handle the vocals. He does sing it with emotion, but the repetition of "how I wish you were here" again and again is tacky. Overall, I'd rate this song a 3.5 out of 5. Judging from the crowd's exuberant cheering, however, they might disagree.
Next up were two songs off of The Final Cut, released in 1983. "Southampton Dock" was beautifully played, with background keyboarding adding emotion to the song. Roger's vocals added awe as well, especially during the line 'and bravely waved the boys goodbye again'. The audience seemed to like this song. I think one of the best songs on The Final Cut would have to be "The Fletcher Memorial Home", which was next. Roger's vocals matched the original. Even Dave Kilminster played the guitar solo exactly like the original, but on the RoIO, the other instruments were slightly louder than the solo, making it harder to hear. The background screen showed pictures of President Bush, Ronald Reagan, Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and Joseph Stalin.
Then I heard a voice, a voice telling Dave to stop. The dialogue from 2001: A Space Odyssey signaled the beginning of "Perfect Sense (Part 1)". At the show, I could see an inflatable astronaut floating over the stage, with the background screen showing pictures of space. And as usual, P.P. Arnold sang her parts perfectly, earning applause from both Roger and the audience. I really liked "Perfect Sense (Part 2)", in which the theatrical piece came alive. During the Marv Albert sportscaster bit, the screen showed a huge sports arena with an oil rig on one side of the watery field and the nuclear submarine on the other. Roger pantomimed using the submarine's periscope to pinpoint his target. "The rig is going into a prevent defense... will they make it? I don't think so!" As the explosion rang out through the venue, a photograph of the exploding oil rig was shown on the screen. The audience, including myself, was very impressed with the audio-visual demonstration.
Up next was a 'new' song called "Leaving Beirut", in which Roger told the story of being 17 and driving a car in Beirut. When it broke down, an Arab family let him stay with them, and he said the song is how the journey took place. Back in 2004, Roger released two songs on the Internet: "To Kill the Child" and "Leaving Beirut", the latter having both spoken narration and sung views of the war in Iraq. For this live performance, however, the spoken parts have been replaced with instrumentals, comprised of Ian Ritchie's saxophone and bluesy guitar played by Snowy White. The spoken parts are now just words on a cartoon strip displayed on the screen so that the audience members can read how the story was taking place. Dave Kilminster played bass on this song, while Roger sang about his views of United States and United Kingdom's policy towards the Iraq war. The lines mentioning 'Oh, George/Oh, George/That Texas education must have fucked you up when you were small" and later "Don't let the might/Of the Christian right/Fuck it all up for you and the rest of the world" gathered many responses from the shows of his 2006 and 2007 tours. Some shows had the audience booing, and some shows had the audience cheering. On this particular date, the audience cheered in support of Roger's views as these lines were sung. I liked the musical aspects of this song as it sounds peaceful with the saxophone and bluesy guitar, but I thought the political comments were a little too strong.
The last song of the first half would be the legendary "Sheep" from Pink Floyd's 1977 Animals album. The way the song was performed sounded a lot like the original studio version. Another theatrical piece was played during the instrumental section before the Bible Psalm scripture was spoken. At this section, a few guys brought out a huge inflatable pink pig, where the pig 'floated' through the audience. The messages spray-painted on the pig varied from show to show. On this particular date, "KAFKA Rules OK", "Keep Habeus Corpus", "Don't be taken to the slaughter house", and "Impeach Bush" were sprayed on the pig's rear end. The pig was still being floated through the stands while the voice spoke the Psalm scripture. Through the rest of the song, the screen showed visions of original pig flying over Battersea. And at the end, Roger thanked the fans and asked, "Anyone seen my pig?". He then explained that there would be a shot intermission before Dark Side of the Moon.
On the few shows that Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason would perform with Roger's band during the second half, Roger would come out at the beginning of the second half. He would explain about an old friend being back stage before welcoming Nick on stage. Having seen David Gilmour's On an Island tour with Richard Wright earlier that year in Chicago, I was hoping to see Nick perform at this concert with Roger so that I could see the two halves of Pink Floyd in one year. I thought for sure Nick would be there because Indianapolis has the Indy 500 race track and has a very good automotive museum, and the fact that Nick is an automotive enthusiast is very well-known. However, the lights dimmed and the heartbeat started being played as the band members got back on stage. So I knew that Nick wouldn't be at this show. By the way, all screen videos are now round, as with the original round videos during the original Dark Side tours.
The crowd went nuts with the opening heartbeats. "Speak To Me" was a little extended with more of the laughter in between the "...mad for fucking years... " and "I know I've been mad... I've always been mad..." Listening to this RoIO with headphones, laughter was all over the surround system. I liked Jon Carin's slide guitar during the beginning of "Breathe" as well as Harry Waters' Hammond organ performance during the line "run, rabbit, run." Otherwise, both of these songs sounded close to the originals. If I thought the surround sound was great during the laughter, "On the Run" is up there as the best song in terms of sound quality. The running footsteps, machine noises, and the sounds accompanying the projections (fast video scenes of the NASCAR races--I could swear that the race car that was shown was the #24 Jeff Gordon car--and a photograph getting shot up by a machine gun) all sounded brilliant.
After a myriad of alarm clocks going off, "Time" started, followed by "Breathe (reprise)." "Time" featured an excellent guitar solo, and both songs were close to the originals. The same goes for "The Great Gig in the Sky", with Carol Kenyon providing excellent vocals. The screen showed the original films, which had ocean waves as seen from right under the crest of the wave. "Money" didn't provide as much room for improvisation as on the 2000 and 2002 tours, but Dave Kilminster got my thumbs up as his vocals and guitar playing sounded like the original. Graham Broad had a few drumming errors during the end of the saxophone solo and the beginning of the guitar solo in which he was off by a few beats. This made me cringe when hearing it.
I am a huge fan of "Us and Them", my favorite song from Dark Side. However, I have never heard one single live performance that was as good as the original. I liked David Gilmour's singing on the original but not the live versions. Though, this live version sounded almost like the original, I wasn't impressed. I almost fell asleep. David's vocals on the original had emotion--especially during the line "it can't be helped, but there's a lot of it about." This live version sounded dull and a bit rushed. So far, I only like the original. The last three songs off the album, "Any Colour You Like", "Brain Damage", and "Eclipse", were almost original-clones. The crowd cheered at the end of the suite, and Roger introduced the band members one at a time.
After the band introductions, helicopters can be heard through the surround speakers. Of course, "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" has begun, followed by "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)", both of which the crowd loved. Roger's vocals were excellent. The next two songs, "Vera" and "Bring The Boys Back Home", were okay but I thought the latter song went on a little too long for me. The show-ender "Comfortably Numb" was really great and I could tell the crowd liked the song, too, as it is one of many people's favorites off The Wall. The show came to an end with the crowd on their feet. Roger thanked the crowd and his band left the stage.
So there you have it, students. The study of RoIOs (RoIO-ology?) provides an invaluable insight into the history of Pink Floyd's live performances, with fans' concert memories adding details about the visual presentation and the atmosphere of the concert. Thanks for reading... class dismissed!