By intermission time at the Bell Centre Monday — the first of three nights at the arena on Waters’s politically heated Us + Them tour — the former Pink Floyd commander had aired a generous number of his old group’s staples and a handful of cuts from his first solo album in 25 years, played by an expansive, impeccable band in front of state-of-the-art widescreen visuals. But when he advised 14,350 acolytes “Do not miss the beginning of the second set,” it wasn’t an idle warning.
After half-heard police dispatches crackled through the arena during the mid-point beer run, the static gave way to intensifying riot sounds. A blaze of red sirens ignited on beams that were lowered just beyond reach of the floor seats, there was a rib-rattling rumble, and the iconic Animals power station rose from the rig along the length of the room, complete with smoking stacks and dwarfed airborne pig. Even by Waters’s high-tech standards, this was a spectacular magic trick, enough so to warrant the obstructed view that resulted for much of the crowd. (Also spectacular, at least on the lower levels: the sound design that worked to envelop and sometimes disorient the audience.)
The combination of the oppressive soundscape and unexpected visual was both paralyzing and thrilling — an effect heightened by the sleekly savage Dogs. When a virtual-reality sign reading “Please help we are trapped in a dystopian nightmare” was unfurled on the side of the power station, it spoke to the global climate of dread that made Monday’s show more contemporary than nostalgic — especially impressive considering the set list was drawn overwhelmingly from the ’70s.
The first half of the show had already addressed that dread, with recurring motifs of drone warfare and the refugee crisis. Waters initially played music director more than host, as guitarist Jonathan Wilson took lead vocals on the opening Breathe and dual basses throbbed through One of These Days. The latter was accompanied by what appeared to be horror-film foreshadowing on the backdrop; when a shockwave of drums was matched by fractured images, it seemed as if the entire arena was shuddering.
Waters finally took the mic after a spinning clock ushered in Time’s chorus of chimes, his leathery sneer proving surprisingly nimble. He received plenty of support from a nine-piece band that focused on ensemble playing rather than flash, although Wilson and Dave Kilminster were a formidable guitar tandem, and Lucius singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig’s wordless journey to The Great Gig in the Sky was remarkable for their pulled-together/torn-apart chemistry.
Sequencing three back-to-back numbers from Is This the Life We Really Want? was brave, but Waters could have been braver and included more than he did from the new album — a vital return that shares the tour’s preoccupations with the dispossessed and disenfranchised. Picture That was the most dynamic of the new songs, Waters prowling at the side of the stage but appearing centre screen, with creeping malevolence giving way to full-bore venom in the memorable couplet “Picture a s–thouse with no f—ing drains / Picture a leader with no f—ing brains.”
That was downright subtle compared to the second act’s Pigs (Three Different Ones). Waters was sometimes content to be a supporting player in his own show, but here he was a magnetic presence, seething as Trump was ridiculed in the pop-art projections on the power-station and backdrop screens. Trump labelled “charade,” Trump projectile vomiting, Trump driving a toy car, a naked Trump with microscopic manhood, Trump’s face on the giant drone pig that floated around the room — the relentless mockery has probably converted a grand total of zero ticketholders on this tour, but was priceless in terms of communal catharsis. (In case anyone was confused as to Waters’s thoughts on the president, the takedown ended with “Trump is a pig” in billboard-size lettering.)
The arena-length bank of screens contracted and expanded as Trump soundbites were superimposed over Money’s ka-chings, shortly before the upsetting wartime reel for Smell the Roses gave big-picture clarity to the ambiguous images from One of These Days. Waters could have gone even further into contemporary terror, resurrected Floyd’s nuclear-holocaust nightmare Two Suns in the Sunset and sent everyone home to their bomb shelters. Instead, he ended both halves of his show with something approaching hope.
The first set culminated with young recruits from the West Island’s H4L dance studio celebrating as they revealed “Resist” shirts under orange inmate jumpsuits during Another Brick in the Wall. In the evening’s climax, the lunatic laughter that bounced around the arena during an eerie Brain Damage faded as a stunning prism surrounded much of the room for Eclipse.
Wisely, Waters didn’t include any references to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. (His support of the movement has proved controversial enough for B’nai Brith Canada to present a Montreal screening of a documentary focused on his stance, Wish You Weren’t Here, at the same time as Monday’s concert.) Despite its title, the Us + Them tour is less about division, more about rebel communion. The sensational visuals and note-perfect band surely helped prompt the sustained ovation that left Waters visibly emotional before the closing redemption of Mother and Comfortably Numb, but his rallying rage was just as potent.
Review Courtesy Of Jordan Zivitz
Centre Bell (also referred to as the Bell Centre in English language media) is a sports and entertainment complex in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It opened on March 16, 1996 after nearly three years under construction. It is best known as the home of the National Hockey League’s Montreal Canadiens ice hockey team. It was previously called Centre Molson.
It is currently owned by a partnership group headed by Geoff Molson and his brothers, Andrew and Justin. The same ownership group also owns the Montreal Canadiens and Evenko, an entertainment event promoter. Since it opened in 1996, it has consistently been listed as one of the world’s busiest arenas, usually receiving the highest attendance of any arena in Canada. In 2012, it was the fifth-busiest arena in the world based on ticket sales for non-sporting events.
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