Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Roger Waters, Live

There's always a debate amongst Pink Floyd fans regarding who was the more influential band member -- Roger Waters or David Gilmour. Personally, I've always been a Syd Barrett man myself, but one has to give credit where credit is due. And it was the Waters-Gilmour era that produced the band's most memorable music.

Of the two, Gilmour, surely, was the more talented musician. It was Gilmour who gave the band its signature progressive sound (with a little help from Messrs. Wright and Mason), and architected some of the most famous guitar leads of the era. But it was Waters that lent the band its soul. With his plaintive lyrics and surreal imagery, Waters taught an entire generation of music lovers what it's like to feel pain without suffering.

When I heard that Waters was coming to Washington DC then, it was no surprise that I booked myself front row tickets. I had missed his show in Bangalore by a matter of weeks. There was no way I was going to miss this one.

Of course, when I say Washington DC, I really mean Nissan pavilion in Bristow, Virginia. Also known as middle of nowhere. Why they can't hold concerts in DC or Columbia, I could never understand.

So it was. On a balmy Saturday afternoon, I headed for the Nissan pavilion for the second time in two years. With me this time were Sundar, Naresh, Pratik and Sneha, friends from NC State. We braved through two hours of mind-numbingly slow traffic, cursing sundry vehicles on the road, made a frantic pit-stop to tackle an 'emergency situation' behind an abandoned warehouse, and finally reached Nissan pavilion just in time to hear Waters break into a rendition of Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.

By the time we made it to our seats, the band was already in the middle of the epic Shine on You Crazy Diamond. It was followed by Have a Cigar and the ever popular Wish You Were Here, as the tributes to Syd kept flowing. There were no towering screens or flashy laser shows one associates with latter-day Floyd concerts, but a modest, circular screen at the back flashing vague, desperate images that somehow managed to capture the essence of the songs perfectly.

As Wish You Were Here faded, the lights dimmed, and pictures from The Final Cut album sleeve came on the screen. "Time for some mellow songs", I thought to myself. Was I ever wrong. First with Southampton Dock and then The Fletcher Memorial Home, Waters came into his own. The songs were plaintive, yes, but spell-binding. The Fletcher Memorial Home in my opinion was the high point of the evening, starting off as a requiem for lost dreams, and ending in a diatribe against the 'incurable tyrants'. The images on the screen followed the theme beautifully, leading us into an old-age home with wistful-eyed generals gazing into the sunset, panning out to the wall to reveal the insatiable hunger of the tyrants, and ending with postcards on the table with the smiling faces of George Bush and Bin Laden. Very stirring. Very anti-establishment. Very much Roger Waters.

The next couple of songs, Perfect Sense and Leaving Beirut continued the anti-war theme, with the latter openly accused Bush of war-mongering. A bit too political for my taste, but a beautiful song nevertheless. Needless to say, it was a raging hit with the mostly-liberal Washington crowd.

As the applause died down, I heard gentle strains against the faint bleating of Sheep. Immediately I leapt to my feet. In my excitement, I turned to the nearest bloke next to me. "This is my favourite Floyd song" I gushed. The bloke smiled toothingly and gave me a thumbs up sign. It was then that I noticed that this bloke was not just a bloke, but a hippie. A rather old hippie at that. He was wearing an old psychedelic shirt, a purple headband and the look of one who had been there, done all, much before I was even born. The smile was as much as that of approval, as it was of concurrence. "Yes son, I know. 'Tis one of my favourites too" it seemed to say. A beer-bellied teen somewhere behind me shouted "We want Dark Side". He didn't really get this at all. I've never wanted to be a hippie as much as I did at that moment. The song played on. I found myself singing along

What do you get for pretending the danger's not real
Meek and obedient you follow the leader
Down well trodden corridors into the valley of steel

After a short break, the band returned for the main attraction of the evening. A live performance of The Dark Side of the Moon. Sure, everybody's heard the album scores of times, but trust me, listening to it live is quite something else. I won't even try to put it in words, for mere words cannot describe the experience. Suffice it to say that it was as close to a religious experience as I could ever have, standing there spell-bound and misty-eyed through it all.

By the time Dark Side ended, I was emotionally spent. But knew there was more to come. You can't have a Waters concert without songs from The Wall, could you. Sure enough, the band returned, and for the encore played Another Brick in the Wall, Vera and Comfortably Numb. It couldn't quite match the euphoria of Dark Side, but who was I to complain? I just sat there soaking it all in, and applauding the genius of one of the greatest songwriters and poets of our time.

All that was left to do now was to make the long trip back home. I for one, however, did not mind. Not after that performance. What a concert. What a show. And I finally got to watch Roger Waters in the flesh.


At October 9, 2006 at 5:49 AM, Blogger Sujith said...

Nice, dude...nice :)
I was at the Bangalore leg of Roger Waters In The Flesh tour...but they did not play my fav Pink Floyd number: Wots...uh the Deal

At October 9, 2006 at 2:17 PM, Blogger brijwhiz said...

Kewl ... I am so jealous!!! :(

At October 11, 2006 at 3:12 PM, Blogger Venky said...


At October 26, 2006 at 6:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember Parikrama ? is Roger Water better when it comes to Brick in the wall ? just kidding. lucky you - Puneet tiwari

At October 29, 2006 at 11:46 PM, Blogger Raoul said...

I concur, Puneet. I think Parikrama's version of Another Brick is one of the best I've ever heard.

At November 26, 2006 at 11:36 PM, Blogger Javier said...

What an excellent, well written chronicle!!!

I live in Bogotá, Colombia, and I am pretty excited because Waters is coming for the first time to Colombia March next year.

Your text has made my dreams even livelier.

Thank you and greetings.

At November 27, 2006 at 10:40 PM, Blogger Raoul said...

Thanks, javier. Hope you enjoy the concert as much as I did.


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