San Antonio, Texas June 13th, 2000 Roger Waters Alamodome Concert Review Texas in the summer time, is usually a heat festival. That is one of the reasons why I opted to see Roger in an air conditioned domed arena. The other reason being that it is only a fifty minute drive each way to get there. I am glad that I chose the Alamodome (home of the 1999 World Champion Basketball team the San Antonio Spurs), because it is my understanding that it was a very damp day on the previous Sunday where Roger played at one of his other Texas venues, the outdoor pavilion outside of Houston, called the Woodlands.
I picked this evening to take a very good friend of mine to the concert with me. A person who never listened to Pink Floyd very much (past the hits!), and had never heard any of Roger’s solo material. We arrived in a timely manner to seats that were on the floor, and fairly close to the stage. We were seated almost directly between all of the quad system sound speakers.
The dome was partitioned off, so about only one-half to two-thirds of the football field size arena was exposed. The floor was divided only by Roger’s stage and screen to which projections were shown. Waters had apparently worked in between the 1999 tour and the 2000 on the visual aspect of the show (including switching the set list around a tad ). Through out the show he would project lots of images onto a big screen behind the stage, but had no lighting truss over the stage.
The stage set the tone for a nifty night of subtle theatrics. Guitars and drums were at stage right, keyboards and 3 backup singers were stage left. The singers had two cheap hotel-style sofas (complete with lamps and end tables) to sit upon when they were not performing. Roger’s mic was front and center, and at the rear center of the stage was a dining room table and four chairs. Beside it was a TV and more lamps, continuing the cheap hotel theme. The TV was on throughout the show. During the first set it showed a black and white Kirk Douglas war film, and during the second set it broadcast “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
There is no introduction. The band simply walks on to the stage and takes its place. Without fanfare, Roger Waters ascends a stairway to an elevated stage behind the band. He wears his now trademark black attire (shades of Johnny Cash?). The members of the band (the ones which I recognized were: Waters (guitar, vocals, and bass), Andy Fairweather-Low (guitar), Snowy White (guitar), Doyle Bramhall II (guitar and vocals), Graham Broad (drums), Jon Carin (keyboards, vocals, guitar), Katie Kissoon (vocals) and Susannah Melvoin (vocals). There may have been another keyboardist and there definitely was another female vocalist but I do not know her name.) launched into “In the Flesh”.
The first song was not “In the Flesh?” which opens The Wall album, but “In the Flesh” (no question mark) that calls for all the “misfits” to be lined up against the wall. Roger spoke a few of the lines instead of singing them.
As the lyric “there’s one smoking a joint!” became audible, the entire venue roared with cheer, illustrating the fact that the “smoke-free venue” was NOT going to be smoke-free tonight! From the smell of things, it certainly wasn’t!
“Another Brick in the Wall part 2” was preceeded by “The Happiest Days of our Lives”( though I can see how previous reviewers may have considered them one song). One of the century’s most imitated guitar solos, was tackled first by Doyle, and then by Snowy White. Snowy White took to the stage very admirably and rocked the house! The days of having Syd Barrett tune Roger’s bass, are long gone. Now he has a tech to do it! ;–)
“Another Brick in the Wall (pt. 2),” got the crowd, on their feet and singing along! The back-up singers were excellent; along with the entire presentation for that matter. During this song, some really awesome animations were shown. A very wild looking metallic monster, and many hidden faces within the projection.
Roger picked up his acoustic guitar to give a stirring rendition of “Mother”. It was performed brilliantly with very familiar animations from the Wall, and some great new stuff!
The songs from the Final Cut (Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert and Southampton Dock) were good, with the projection screen ending with a shot of beautiful red roses.
Again Roger strapped on his acoustic for the best version of Pigs on the Wings part 1, that I believe I have ever heard. The only very slight complaint is that there were no pigs or any balloons flying over the audience. ;–)
“Dogs” had multi-colored shots of urban decay, and during the long drums/keyboard section of the song, Roger, the back-up singers and the guitar players went back to the table and played cards, while Jon Carin, played intro and outro to “Dogs” on acoustic, while kicking ass on keyboards, and singing! Dogs was very intense (playing cards during the war movie: pure Waters). The sound from the stage was sent to the audience via a fantastic quadraphonic speaker system, and the music literally SWIRLED around the crowd. The echoing “Stone…stone…stone” from “Dogs” seemed to creep up from all sides, and the “Floydian” sound effects all had their familiar “headphone power” intact. The dogs echoed around the Alamodome magically!
Roger had turned the Alamodome into a cyber-era cathedral, using heavy keyboard orchestration, panned around the venue in 3-d, making full use of the quad sound. The sound effects, the dogs for example, promoted an air of controversy as well, as people gazed behind them, freaked out, wondering what the ordeal was… It made me realize the many implications of a dog bark… Hell, even some of the cops were looking back there, as if chaos abounded.
Then Roger did something strange. He covered a Foo Fighters/Brian May song called: Welcome to The Machine. ;–) Which led into the trio of tracks from Wish You Were Here. “Wish You Were Here and Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” offered some classic shots of Syd Barrett and memories to the band, Pink Floyd! And shots of the MIR Space station, with the Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here music being played aboard. The band needs to work on “Wish You Were Here”, can’t seem to get the beginning down. But that’s the beauty of seein’ a live show. Ending was nice….. How I wish…. How I wish YOU were, heeere.
One of the more touching moments came when Roger dedicated “Shine on” to all the crazy diamonds out there, and Syd.
“Wish You Were Here” was highlighted by a heavy mist and a projected collage of shots of Syd Barrett. “The next song is dedicated to one of those whom we REALLY wish were here,” said Roger as an introduction to “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, which was accented with a psychedelic pulsating color light show that segued into more shots of Syd. The song ended with the ascension of a swirling, multi-surfaced flower-shaped mirror that reflected thousands of criss-crossing beams of light into the crowd. The “disco ball” during “Shine on” is more of a flat disc than a ball, with starlike spines radiating from the center, all covered with mirrors. It slowly spun down and stopped with one of the beams catching me right in the chest.
Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun was my favorite song of the evening. Set the Controls had been reworked with an uptempo feel, and a sax solo – IT WAS GREAT!!!! Roger used awesome visual stuff – acidic liquid slides. Set The Controls was performed perfectly. The whole of Pink Floyd could not have tackled it more perfectly. I was very amused to witness “Set the Controls” played before my very eyes, very intensly I might add.
Before going into the song, Roger said “…And now it’s time to go way back into the mists of time!!!” I was happy to hear this psychedelic arrangement in which eerie keyboard orchestration and dissonace began the piece, much like the arrangement on “Live at Pompeii”. I was not disappointed at all; the drum-pounding promoted an air of archaic barbarity, while the liquid light projections asserted that nothing this psychedelic was probably occurring anywhere else in this city, state, country, or even the world this night.
A VERY memorable occasion occured when (in light of the constant hassle from the cops and their Gustapo-like flashlight searches for dope), I looked up to the stage at one moment to notice a staged act in which a person jerked and wiggled a flashlight at the first several rows as if frantically searching the audience. The jerkiness of the flashlight caught many people’s attention, as if some ordeal was happening up front. The person may have been Fairweather-Low. The caricature of hassling was very exaggerated. This person went out with a bang, running back onto the stage to a loud roar of cheer, getting everyone’s attention!
Then came a trio of songs from The Dark Side of The Moon. Breathe opened the set. During parts of the show, a spotlight from behind the band projected a giant shadow of someone’s head on curtains to the side of the ‘dome. I noticed this person was constantly in motion, and tried to figure out who it was. Soon it became apparent that it was the drummer, and from all that moving around he must have been the hardest working member of the band. His skill was evident throughout except his drumming was a little off on “Time”, but still quite a treat. The audience sang along with many of the better known songs, especially those from Dark Side and The Wall. Money found Waters and company jamming with a local saxophone player, I believe the same person who performed sax with the band on Set The Controls.
Each song was punctuated by huge, very effective rear screen projections. Most of the projections were either variations of the album graphics of the songs, or were images from the old Floyd stage films from the Seventies.
Then came came the tracks from Amused to Death. “Every Strangers Eyes,” was absolutely lovely visually! Roger offered a tribute to the American Indian on the projection screen and pictured three American Indians on three horses! The song really made you feel like Roger cared, for his fans! “Perfect Sense” is one of Rog’s best solo accomplishments. Perfect Sense I and II, came off to me as very powerful, particularly because of the back-up singers incredibly crisp and virtually perfect part in the piece as well as Roger’s raising the ante to an anthem that seemed everybody was dying for. Rog joined the crowd for the ending, shaking hands with people in the audience.
The Bravery of Being Out of Range has always struck me as being a strong piece of music, it apparently (conceptually) means a lot to Waters…and I understand…the lyrics. He has added it to the set from last years tour. The surround sound and perfection of the performance was truly impressive. His presence was awesome…so tall, all in black and with those “wild staring eyes.” Roger made a lot of eye contact throughout the evening, and shook some hands during the next Amused to Death track, “Its a Miracle”.
A surprising highlight of the show was the second-set performance of “Amused To Death.” The song really came to life on-stage and proved to be as powerful as the studio version. During Amused to Death he squatted on stage looking at people right up front! Roger’s dedication to sonic perfection was evident throughout. It was a delight on so many of the songs to hear every note and inflection from the original recordings precisely replicated in a live performance. How many shows measure up to that? It was just like listening to the CD, except, as the guy in the next row said, “I play it louder than this in my van!”
Even though one got the impression that this crowd didn’t know Roger’s solo work as well, the Amused to Death songs were the highlight of the show in a way. They showed the pure power of music, and the excellent style of Roger to create music for the mind! Roger seemed to really enjoy the performance, and was very dynamic in the deliverance of these songs.
“Eclipse” & “Brain Damage” moved me. Maybe cause I knew the show was near end! The cuts from Dark Side of the Moon, were filled with awesome projections of the prism and colors! This was just the extreme of what Roger has written over the years. The moon was hanging in the sky on the projection screen, and you could actually see the dark-side of the moon, as the bright side was obscured in to a small fingernail shape! It was quiet fitting.
The set came to a close with Doyle Bramhall and Snowy White battling it out in a no holds barred guitarslinger version of Comfortably Numb. Both guitarist ascend the stairway to an elevated stage behind the rest of the band. It was interesting seeing that Doyle Bramhall, who is left handed, actually plays the guitar with the strings backwards, the high E on top and the low E on the bottom. He sang and played most of Gilmour’s parts throughout the show, including Comfortably Numb. The music was mixed and miked perfectly, and sounded magnificent. The drums were nice and bassy, and so was the bass. The full utilization of the quadrophonic sound system, and the moving panning of sound effects and keyboards was perfect.
After a set-closing “Comfortably Numb”, the band joined hands and bowed for the crowd. Roger said “Thanks for coming, and thanks for LISTENING. It does make a difference.”
The band left the stage and headed off, but the call of the crowd came, and Waters gave the details of the background to a new song: “Each Small Candle.” ‘”Each Small Candle,'” says Waters. “The chorus is that each small candle lights a corner of the dark. The idea is that we each have a flickering flame within us that we each individually light a corner of the dark .” The lyrics to “Each Small Candle”, projected onto the screen and slowly fading away after the verses, worked really well. Finally, at the end of “Each Small Candle”, Roger enacted a very stark, real gesture: he pulled a lighter out of his pocket, and lit it, shortly after the line, “each small candle lights a corner of the dark…”, after which thousands of people began to ignite their lighters, lighting up the entire “smoke-free” venue!
Roger was jovial, funny, in great form, shockingly animated, and seemed to be having a genuinely grand time.
Andy Fairweather-Low’s guitar solo in “Money” was REALLY intense and rippin’.
The animations really hit the spot. The liquid light projections looked beautiful inside that dark venue. They seemed to be poly-layered captivating the audience. The band was phenomenal. Jon Carin did a wonderful job on Dogs. As I recall, Snowy White was once a card carrying member of the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy. Thin Lizzy gained recognition worldwide, for their harmonizing on twin lead guitars. Doyle Bramhall and Snowy White did this on many times through out the night. The effect was spectacular to not only hear through the quad system, but to watch as well.
Bottom Line: The relative simplicity of the show, shows a maturity of a veteran rocker knowing that the pure strength, power and clarity of the music is enough. Minus a 20 minute intermission, it is a good three hours of solid Roger Waters classics and recent material.
Russ Blomstedt – Time is the hunter, and we are the prey.