jce, A Fleeting Glimpse’s long time senior UK correspondent, was fortunate enough to spend three days in Iceland finding out what it’s like backstage, and on tour with Roger Waters & the band. Exclusive to A Fleeting Glimpse, you can read his brilliant show review, and wonderful stories of 3 days in Iceland. All pictures (except where noted) thanks to jce
3 Days in Iceland – Show Review
The gig was held in a sports arena on the outskirts of Reykjavik, which isn’t that big a place. It’s on a peninsular which only has one road in or out and this resulted in problems for people getting there – the press said that 7,000 cars tried, and many were abandoned as the occupants walked to get to the show. This chaos meant that the show started 25 minutes late to ensure that all 15,000 people could get in for the show, and apparently that’s 5% of the population of Iceland! Leaving was also somewhat time consuming.
Starting with In The Flesh is still one of the best starts to a show that I’ve seen, and this one was perhaps one of the best, although this time I was rather closer than I have ever been and really felt the heat of the fire flashes at the beginning. The band seems very tight even with a the new members. Roger certainly is the showman and seems to relish the bombastic nature of In the Flesh – sometimes I wonder if not too much. Sitting down for Mother the show slowed and Carol Kenyon took centre stage. I like this new way of using the female voice for the Mother parts of the song and it works extremely well. Set the Controls sees Ian Ritchie’s first appearance and I think he’s the best sax player so far of all the 4 recent tours and tonight’s Set The Controls was perfect.
The sound, although VERY loud, was crisp and well balanced. No problem at all with it and the range was amazing. This being an indoor gig there were no wind problems and I’m always amazed that if Roger can get this kind of set up then why don’t other bands?
The crowd, which contained an amazing number of young kids were, in my opinion, just right – appreciative and loud in the right places but very quiet and attentive during the songs, especially the quiet ones. There was a lot of respect in the audience not just for the band but for each other. I saw no pushing, crushing or drunkenness and this was the best audience I’ve seen since the Sydney shows in 2002.
The Wish You Were Here section was again performed faultlessly although I didn’t think that Have a Cigar works that well with Rogers voice, but it’s a great opportunity for the guitar and keyboard sections to really show how good they are. Dave’s guitar work was especially well done. The girls voices really add to Shine On in a way that I cant really explain, but I thought it makes it sound much more of a lament that it is. The acoustic of Wish was met with loud applause then silence so that the words hung throughout the arena with a very quiet clap along at the end. This song produced the loudest applause so far and a huge smile from Roger.
One thing I did notice that this tour Roger has added in tracks from WYWH and Animals that he hasn’t done in the past few tours meaning that he has essentially played all of DSOTM, WYWH and Animals as a solo artist as well as The Wall in Berlin, and Pros and Cons in 84/85 – does this mean that we might get a full rendition of ATD or The Final Cut next time?
Soton Dock and Fletcher were done to almost silence and were very moving. Although I love these tracks I think that following Wish they take the show down just that too much which is why Gunners has been dropped – this down section was lasting too long. I thought that both songs were done in a less angry way than the album and its almost as if time has made them more of a sigh of hopelessness than an angry refrain against war. Dave’s guitar work in this is fantastic and overall I thought he more than handles Gilmour’s parts with aplomb.
Perfect Sense is really PP Arnold’s song with Roger taking more than a back seat. During the beginning section from the film 2001, the inflatable powered spaceman made his appearance at the back of the crowd over a black curtain that had been set up to stop the light coming in. He then did some aerobatics over the crowd spotlighted from both towers at the rear of the audience before Roger started singing and handing over to PP who as usual blew the crowd away with a PERFECT recital of the track. A change from the previous tours is that PP comes to the front of the stage to perform. As the audience went wild, Roger applauded her and then went over for a big hug, before Part 2 where he takes the singing role over again, but PP still steals this part as well through the backing vocals.
Introducing the new song, Leaving Beirut is a great idea as it puts the song in context as being very personal and clearly an important element in his life. I wasn’t looking forward to this track live as I think the recorded version isn’t much more than a poor demo, but the live performance really impressed me and splitting the song into Roger singing and the narration being represented by storyboards on the screen is an inspired idea. The filling of the spaces by the musicians and girls voices adds depth and makes this one of the highlights of the show. The girls section is almost a revised Great Gig but somewhat sadder. The part with the comments about Bush was greeted by huge applause and cheering. Clearly Icelanders have a similar view as the rest of the world. Dave’s solo was sublime and could’ve gone on much longer for me. As I’ve said from being a track I disliked, this live version is the clear highlight of the first half (other than Perfect Sense of course)
The baaing echoed around the arena as that amazing keyboard riff kicked in for a stunning version of Sheep. A track I’ve long wanted to hear live and it didn’t disappoint. That 77 anger in the voice was there and showed in his closing comments as he was almost horse. I guess that’s why it’s at the end of the first set? I couldn’t find any fault in this version and it’s the best one I’ve heard of the live recordings from this tour. A full Animals show would just be amazing. During the revised Psalm the words are supposed to flash across the back of the stage but someone messed up and they were totally out of synch which was quiet funny as they’d speed up then slow down and back to too fast again LOL
And that was just the first half!
“Now before we do Dark Side Of The Moon I want to introduce to the stage a very old friend of mine and an ex-colleague of mine, please welcome Nick Mason” started the second half of a full playing of Dark Side of the Moon as the heart beats started resounding around the arena. Both Nick and Graham stayed on and the dual drumming certainly added to the piece with each having different playing styles. For me though I would’ve preferred just Nick as I think that Graham is a bit too harsh a player although he’s better on this tour than previously. No faults at all in the whole album – just amazing and coming in almost exactly the same length. Personally I detest Money being played outside the suite but within it, it works so well and is the only time that it should be played. Nice to hear it as it should be rather than the butchering its had over the years.
Throughout the piece new films are projected onto Mr Screen that has now appeared from behind the larger rectangular screen of recent years – these do add to the show and are almost constant and heavily feature the rainbow, but I was disappointed that the film for Us and Them has been changed as the slow procession over Westminster Bridge was very effective.
At the end for the curtain call, Roger was very appreciative of Nick and they performed some sort of surreal “thank you”, “no thank you”, “NO, thank you” routine
Nick came back on for the encore of excerpts from The Wall. At the start of Brick, Roger shouts “You” and points to his right but the spotlight lights up in the centre of the crowd where someone raised their hand to hear Roger turn and say laughingly “alright YOU, yes YOU, stand still laddie”. So that bit definitely isn’t a tape! Brick was well received and was to me was OK, but Roger’s voice was beginning to show the strain and it turned into the normal happy clappy crowd favourite, although the guitar solo was spot on, if not too much like Dave – I’ve always liked Doyle’s versions
The odd inclusion of Vera I think is merely to facilitate the right entry into Bring The Boys Back Home which reinforces Rogers anti war message even further and is a clear attempt to hammer home the point. I wonder how the show will go down in the US? Vera is a lovely song and works well and this performance was great, made by the keyboards and is very powerful especially at the words are flashed in red across the screen at the back, and as the song finishes Roger shouted “TOMORROW!”
The obligatory ending of Comfortably Numb follows well and just as on the album. Its fantastic to hear the tracks follow as they should without the usual disjointed starts of previous tours. Its always jarred on me taking certain songs out of context in the live environment.
Huge cheers and the crowd filtered out into the daylight that was streaming in through the cracks in the fire doors. A beautiful red sun sat low in the sky as the traffic jam to leave the area slowly moved back to the city.
So a show that ranks very highly in all the Roger shows I’ve seen especially as I didn’t go with the best view of what the show would be like. But I was so pleasantly pleased at the end as, for me it’s the best of all the recent 99,2000,02 tours. I’d come to understand and like Leaving Beirut and fallen back in love with Dark Side of the Moon and the Wall and finally got to hear Sheep live.
If you go to one show this year then this tour should be it. Don’t hesitate, it’s amazing. Take in the show and ignore any tattle about lip synching. There has always been tape effects – heart beats, cash registers, clocks, children singing, so what’s the difference?
The show is visually and aurally as perfect as Roger has ever got to, and finally I think he is beginning to put his message into a more coherent form.
In The Flesh, Mother, Set The Controls For the Heart Of The Sun, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Have A Cigar, Wish You Were Here, Southampton Dock, The Fletcher Memorial Home, Perfect Sense parts 1 and 2, Leaving Beirut, Sheep.
SECOND HALF: Dark Side of the Moon.
ENCORE: The Happiest Days Of Our Lives, Another Brick In The Wall (Pt 2), Vera, Bring the Boys back Home, Comfortably Numb.
3 Days in Iceland – Behind The Scenes
Have you ever wondered what happens behind the scenes? What do the band do between shows? What happens on show days?
Well I was lucky enough to find out about a small part of this tour and be there for some of these moments.
The inclusion of Reykjavik on the itinerary and the only indoor show (for very good reasons – it doesn’t get dark at this time of the year that far north) intrigued me, so I thought I’d head off and go to the show and meet up with a friend.
If you look at the show schedule there was a big gap between the Arrow Festival show and the Oslo show only filled by the gig in Iceland. This gave some nice rest time for the band and allowed Roger to do some fishing in Iceland, which he’s already visited a few times.
Sunday 11 June
The band fly from Holland, via Aberdeen, to Reykjavik in their private plane arriving in time for Roger to do a TV interview and head off for some fishing. Assembling back at the hotel in the evening for a band dinner hosted by the local promoters, Fin and Fin – so called cause no one can pronounce their real names! Iceland is famous for its fish but also the local’s tendency to eat as much of the local wildlife as possible! A surprise for some, but perfect comedy material for others.
Monday 12 June – Show Day
The day free until the mid afternoon when all have to be back and ready at the hotel for the trip to the venue. Some went exploring in the Hummer that was at their disposal, others went shopping, whilst some just stayed in the hotel bar and watched the football including Roger. A military operation starts the moment all are assembled and the atmosphere changes to professionalism as the vans and cars plus support vehicle (The Hummer!) leave the hotel for the 20 minute drive to the venue. Unusually I didn’t see any fans at the hotel or autograph hunters.
As the vehicles approach the venue the route is cleared and they are ushered behind the gates to the rear and rushed into the building into a very efficient operation that clearly is the same at each venue.
Backstage there are a number of changing rooms all given amusing names reflecting their occupants – for instance The Honey Lounge for the backing singers, a management office and a catering room, which was in fact a basketball court ;-). The entire band comes together for a small meal before heading out for the soundcheck. By this time there are quite a few people already waiting outside in the rain.
Every where in the venue are local security staff checking passes and ensuring that only those invited to be in certain parts of the venue are where they should be. There are a whole range of passes, each with specific areas of access and no exceptions are made to these rules.
The soundcheck is the time to cover either new songs, changes to the previous shows performance or different ways of performing the tracks. Here with Nick joining the tour for the first time the stage set up is different as there are two drum kits on stage – Nick’s in the centre and Graham’s stage right. I was interested to see that some big changes are decided at this late stage, so soon before the show. At one point the inflatable powered spaceman is being tested and with the show being indoors the operators are trying more technical maneuvers. Noticing this Roger asks if they can’t have the spaceman appear from behind the blackout screen at the back of the audience during its normal appearance in Perfect Sense, rather than from behind the band as had happened at the previous shows. Also Roger suggested a run through of Bring The Boys Back Home in order for Nick not to be surprised by it in the encore – it is after all 26 years since he last played it in public 😉
A few moments before the doors open the band head off to get changed before appearing in front of a packed arena – in this case 25 minutes late.
Immediately after the show, whilst the crowd are still cheering, the band are off the stage, in the vehicles and out of the venue and back to their hotel. So before a lot of the crowd are in their cars the band are back at the hotel for a band get together with some food and a few bottles of red wine.
Whilst some head off for an early night, others remain until the early hours of the morning laughing, joking and reminiscing, interspersed with talk about the show and options for changes at future shows, and all still amazed at the daylight outside.
Tuesday 13 June – The Day After
The band had a completely free day and again some did their own thing – Roger went fishing again, whilst a lot went on a tour of the island including a visit to the famous Blue Lagoon. Whilst the band aren’t due to leave until the following day, Nick catches his flight back to London.