Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Live In Concert - Roger Waters (KeyBank Arena - Buffalo, NY - September 9, 2017)

I am a lifelong Pink Floyd fan, but I have never been fond of Roger Waters. Yes, he wrote the lyrics that acted as part of the soundtrack to my entire life, but he is kind of a jerk. In order to be able to write the kinds of songs he writes, he has to be egotistical to a certain extent. But Waters, in my opinion, always took the ego part to an extreme. He went so far as to talk poorly about deceased former bandmate Rick Wright in an interview earlier this year. But when that jerk gets on stage, he knows exactly what he is doing.

Like any Floyd fan, I have been watching videos of the shows on this tour since the tour started, and I was a bit disappointed when I got to the arena and saw that the set-up was so sparse. It was the band on stage, and then a huge black screen behind them. As a musician, I could definitely appreciate the classic B3 Hammond organ and Leslie cabinet the keyboard player was using. Another thing I noticed right away is that Roger was not using the typical band set-up with the drummer in the middle and everyone placed at strategic points on the stage. At first, I thought it was something Roger was doing for the sound. But when the show started, I realized why Roger had the stage set up like that.

Before the band went on stage, there was a movie shown on the screen of a woman sitting on a beach. That was when I noticed that Roger was projecting from the front instead of the back. I had gotten so used to seeing Pink Floyd video performances where they projected from the back that I had never considered the possibility that Roger would change that. As I looked to find the projector, I immediately noticed the apparatus hanging over the audience. That was when I realized that we were in for a very interesting night.
Image courtesy http://ultimateclassicrock.com

Yes, a lot of this show is made up of political statements that might infuriate some people. For me, artists and politics just don't mix. I am not even talking about any resentment towards artists who are overly political. I mean that I really did not take into account any political statements when the show was going on. All of the images and words Roger projected all over the arena were just images and words to me. They had no impact, and that is probably one of the reasons I was able to enjoy the show.

Roger's voice was in great form, and his bass playing was surprisingly precise. Much to my excitement, Roger played a lot of bass during the show. I did not expect that. He played the bass very well. I did not expect that either. The band was just fantastic, and that is really what I think. I found it funny that the guitarist to Roger's left (Jonathan Wilson) looked an awful lot like a young David Gilmour. Wilson played relatively safe parts and looked to be there more for his vocals than his playing. The only complaint I had from the night was that Wilson's vocals were thin and unemotional. They did not fit the rest of the music.

Dave Kilminster is still Roger's lead guitar player, and it is easy to see why. I loved his tone and his style. He is not a replica of David Gilmour, but he does the music plenty of justice. I was hoping to see Snowy White, but Snowy is not on this tour. Long-time Pink Floyd keyboard player Jon Carin is part of Roger's current band, and Carin delivered his usual stellar performance.

Now let's talk about Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig - the female backing singers. Their looks were coordinated with similar Sandy Duncan style white hair and similar black dresses. Roger had them standing right next to him on stage, which I thought was odd. But they put in an amazing performance, especially on Great Gig in the Sky. One of the benefits of being Roger Waters is that he can re-imagine Pink Floyd songs anyway he wants and no one can argue with him. This version of Great Gig was unlike anything I had ever seen or heard, and it was absolutely amazing.

The show production was full of surprises. I won't give them all away (you have probably already seen the pictures and videos anyways), but I will say that Roger has once again raised the bar for live concert production. The Battersea Power Station rose up in the middle of the arena and probably blocked the view of every person sitting in the 100 section at the back of the arena. Roger brought his pig, and he even added a flying silver ball.

I have been listening to Roger Waters music my entire life, and I have seen countless tribute bands play Pink Floyd music live. I have been playing Pink Floyd music in my own tribute bands for years. But it was not until I saw Roger live that I felt the emotion I was supposed to feel with his music. I was brought almost to tears several times, and so was my wife. Friends I talked to who were at the show said they were emotional as well. That show proved to me that live music does matter a lot, and music is always best when presented by the people who put the emotion into it in the first place. What a show. I would recommend it to anyone.

George N Root III is a Pink Floyd fanatic who loves live music. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at georgenroot3@gmail.com.

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