Published on June 28th, 2018 | by Justin McDaid0
Roger Waters @ 3Arena, Dublin
A lone figure sits on a sand dune on the domineering backdrop screen, facing the waves as the ambient clamour of seascape sounds permeate the chatter and hum of 3arena; oh so gradually intensifying. “Come ye in from the bar”, it almost whispers, and crashes, until the air vibrates that bit more and a thrum of bass is joined by choir-like vocals. “Get in, ye bastards”, they seem to beckon in their serene siren voices. And the people come, pints in hand. He knows how to build an air of subtle expectation, does Roger Waters. Always did.
There can’t be many here who haven’t assimilated Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon to the point of indelibility, and as that distinctive heartbeat of ‘Breathe’ breaks through there’s a muted euphoria to the sweep of guitar strings that cue the vocal. Dark Side Of The Moon dominates the set, almost as much as that mammoth visual screen that looms behind the band. As Waters takes his first true vocal turn of the night on ‘Welcome To The Machine’, Gerald Scarfe’s striking animated music video plays behind him, as it did for the Floyd on their 1977 ‘In The Flesh’ tour. When Waters, arms outstretched, incites the crowd to chant in unison, a multitude of blood red arms reach upwards on the screen behind him, pleading and ecstatic in equal measure – it’s laboured, maybe, but on this scale and with that band, it’s a spine-tingler.
Waters uses the arena space to its fullest advantage, even if 3Arena is a modest venue by his standards. The sound of chopper blades echo off the walls and a searchlight cuts the crowd, while a row of hooded figures in orange Guantanamo Bay jumpsuits lines the stage. ‘The Happiest Days of Our Lives’ then segues into ‘Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2’, and the suits are torn off to reveal local kids in black shirts with ‘Resist’ emblazoned on them. It all goes a bit Billie Barry Kids from here into the intermission but Waters’ anti-fascist message is to the fore; here, onscreen throughout the twenty-minute break, and in full force for the show’s second half.
Sirens, clangs and crashes, and disembodied voices come over the PA in a way that’s somehow more violent than the earlier introductory wind-up. It all makes sense with the selection that follows. At the coda of ‘Dogs’, Waters and the band down instruments and don pig masks, to be served champagne at a table by another masked beast. The message? Pigs rule the world. Waters’ rebuke, held aloft on a placard as the mask comes off? “FUCK THE PIGS”. And you better believe the now-infamous Pink Floyd inflatable pig gets an outing, floating benignly around the venue with a serenity that’s at odds with the force and vitriol onstage.
Waters is at his most heavy-handed through a POTUS-baiting ‘Pigs (Three Different Ones)’, where the message is sustained and blunt (‘TRUMP IS A PIG’) before it rolls, predictably, into ‘Money’. Similarly, earlier in the set Waters’ acoustic guitar turn on staid new track ‘Déjà Vu’ is accompanied by aerial footage of missile attacks, although enough goodwill has been built up at this point to quell a mass exodus to the bar (conversely, a more muscular ‘Picture That’ wouldn’t seem out of place on Wish You Were Here).
When the lyrical themes and visuals are on point, though, it’s incredibly effective. The venue is coated in red and green light to stunning effect at a change in chord or tempo on ‘One Of These Days’, as backing vocalists Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe (of indie rock band Lucius) march in tandem like militia on the opening track from 1971’s Meddle. The many crescendos of ‘Us & Them’ are illustrated by images of war, poverty and segregation, the emotional punch of one augmenting the other. The climax of ‘Eclipse’, after all that, is simply breathtaking. A giant silver orb moves through the air over the audience’s heads, and suddenly white lasers fire off, creating a huge 3D pyramid in front of the stage. Coloured beams descend from the ceiling, all coalescing to give the illusion of a solid form as the orb weaves through them all; a spectacle that’s as bloated and ridiculous as it is elegant and dazzling.
There’s no following this. Except with a minor boo-boo. Waters speaks about Senator Frances Black’s forthcoming Occupied Territories Bill that would see the banning of goods from illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine (“I might even meet him later tonight”). Oops! A rendition of ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Comfortably Numb’ round things off, with Waters accentuating the lyrics of the latter with so much zeal that you almost forget the backdrop. And that’s it, a final blast of lasers, a shower of confetti… job done.
If you don’t walk away from this one with Roger Waters’ polemic ringing in your ears as much as the music, then his show has failed. Waters has always pursued perfection – artistically and technically, with the Floyd and beyond, but the art is simply a vehicle for the message at the end of it all. Tonight that message is hammered home with Orwellian force, via the Floyd and through his recent solo socio-political invective. The songs and the audio-visual execution – created alone or in collaboration – serve an overarching purpose. As good as they are, as spectacular as they are, still you get the sense that Waters believes that no matter how elaborate the sensory onslaught, the delivery of the simple core concept is paramount. He believes that music can change lives for the better. Always did. Justin McDaid
Photos by Peter O’Hanlon