Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Roger Waters – Manchester – 2002

22nd June 2002

Manchester MEN Arena

I sort of missed out on the Pink Floyd thing, having been born just a few years too late.  I had picked up on them around about 1975 or so, before Wish You Were Here, but after they had visited Scotland on their 1974 tour promoting Dark Side of the Moon.  And those Usher Hall gigs in the November of that year remain the last time the band visited Caledonia – to play music at least.  I am sure one or other of the guys would have dropped in for a round of golf or something since.  But performing?  No.

For thereafter Pink Floyd concert venues on these shores were either open-air festival jobs or stints at places like The Empire Pool, Wembley or Stafford Bingley Hall – locations as remote to me in my late teens as Peoria or Osaka. 

By the time of The Wall concerts at London’s Earls Court in the early Eighties, I could have made the journey, but my evolving musical tastes had moved me away from those Prog Big Beasts of my teenage years and into other areas.  Thus passed my last opportunity to see Waters, Mason, Wright and Gilmour in the flesh, as it were.

I remember following with detached amusement and bemusement the sue-you/sue-me lawyers’ pantomime which followed the Momentary Lapse of Reason tour across North America in 1987.  I listened to both this album and its follow-up The Division Bell, but neither really had much to say to me.  What sort of drew me back to the band’s music was, perhaps ironically, Roger Water’s solo album Amused to Death. 

This was a sprawling 72 minute set based upon American novelist Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death, which pondered the effect of TV upon western society.  Quite a weighty concept – musically it was equally so, with perhaps 40 minutes of quite entrancing tunes padded out with some thoroughly indigestible stuff, with Waters at times seemingly abandoning all attempts at melody and instead resorting to alternatively whispering and shouting at us.

I felt had Waters managed to keep Bob Ezrin on board, the producer may have been able to trim out some of the fat (those songs between Out of Range and Watching TV), and a really rather special single album could have ensued.  That being said, there was enough quality in the collection to entice me down the M6 to Manchester for this particular concert.

Well Mr Waters took us all on a chronologically random ramble through both his back catalogue and that of Pink Floyd, choosing to perform bits of each album in chunks.  The set opened with most of side 1 of The Wall, and pretty impressive it was too, and we were treated to footage of the pupil-mincing teacher etc. on the large screens on stage.

After a token nod in the direction of the final Pink Floyd album he had contributed to (The Final Cut), he moved into the short Pigs on the Wing.  I groaned inwardly as the opening bars to Dogs were then strummed in, for I had never been much of a fan of this one.  Whilst boasting one of Water’s most delightfully vituperative lyrics, musically the piece always struck me as pretty weak; 5 minutes worth of ideas stretched out to last 20 minutes.  Set The Controls…. followed - another prime example of Waters making a little go a long way.

The Wish You Were Here and Dark Side of the Moon segments were much better, although I think for myself the experience suffered perhaps from over-familiarity, me having played these things to death in my spotty youth.

The difficult Pros and Cons set gave up just one track before the highlight of the evening (for me anyway): the songs from the Amused album.  Perfect Sense had Waters dueting with P.P. Arnold, before rocking out grand style with The Bravery of Being Out of Range.    

It’s a Miracle and Amused to Death followed, with footage of the veteran tommy whose interview opens and closes the album being shown on the big screen.  And I am not ashamed to say it was one of the most moving things I have ever witnessed at a gig.  Utterly chilling.

It would have been a fitting place to close the main set, but Roger could not resist tagging on a brace from TDSOTM.  The first encore had Snowy White (I think) making a decent fist of Dave Gilmour’s classic Comfortably Numb guitar part, with the second a more downbeat affair: a new song entitled Flickering Flame.

Waters’ musical legacy is massive, and any criticism on my part is pretty much superfluous, but I would suggest (like the Amused to Death album itself), the show could probably have dropped a few of the tunes in the middle, and been no less an occasion for that.

But what do I know?

Set list

In The Flesh?
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)
Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert
Southampton Dock
Pigs on the Wing (Part 1)
Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun
Shine On You Crazy Diamond I–V
Welcome to the Machine
Wish You Were Here
Shine On You Crazy Diamond VI–VII
Speak To Me/Breathe
5:06 AM (Every Strangers Eyes)
Perfect Sense (parts 1&2)
The Bravery of Being Out of Range
It's a Miracle
Amused to Death
Brain Damage

Comfortably Numb
Flickering Flame

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