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When a giant comes to town

by Archives September 27, 2006

Every so often a gig comes to town that knows no age-defined boundary, one that ties generations together instead of separating them. Last Thursday, Roger Waters came to town and did just that.

Waters took the stage at the Bell Centre with 14,000 eager fans waiting to (re)live their Pink Floyd experiences, mixing the good oldies with the new tunes.

The experience did live up to a set of reasonable expectations. From the floating spaceman traveling above the audience’s head to the slow-paced “movie” leading up to the performance, it was clear this was a show not only about music.

However, anyone who saw Pink Floyd in their heyday must have felt a little sting of disappointment. Even though Waters is touted as “the creative genius behind Pink Floyd” the three missing members left a noticable void.

From the looks of it, there were plenty of veterans in the audience, sporting faded black t-shirts with imprints from shows dating at least 30 years back. With ticket prices starting at about $100, the crowd was definitely heavy on the boomer side, but there were enough young faces to bear testimony to Pink Floyd’s lasting appeal.

Waters and Co. played two full length sets for the packed venue. The first was a mix of Pink Floyd hits and Waters’ new material. With songs such as “Wish You Were Here” and “Mother” there were no big surprises from the old roster.

However, the definite highlight came after a short break in the program. As the first few notes of Dark side of the moon rang out, people huddled together and pushed their way back to their seats, eager not to miss a single note.

The album was played from start to finish, a natural choice for the 1973 concept album which should rarely (if ever) be played track by track.

Even though Waters must have played the album hundreds, if not thousands, of times, it still looked like he enjoyed himself, and although he can no longer do the more high-pitched songs, the set still sounded as good as gold.

The way he got around his changed voice was to have guitarist Dave Kilminster sing some of the tracks. Although not exactly like a youthful Waters, Kilminster did a fine job of it. All in all, it was like the rest of the experience: good enough to be excellent.

Political message

Waters’ political spark has definitely not diminished as he’s gotten older. He dedicated one of his new songs, “Leaving Beirut”, to an endearing Lebanese couple who took him in as a poor and hungry 17-year-old stranded in a foreign country.

On the widescreen he told the tale of a mono-pied and a hunchback living in a shack with their tiny (and disfigured) daughter, so poor that the wife had to sit without food so their starving young guest could get a bite before hitting the road again. “They were so kind to me that I never forgot,” said Waters before playing the songs, rhetorically asking if these people deserved the bombs that so mercilessly rained over their country this summer.

The tour, which has been traveling all across the U.S. before coming to Canada, also brought another message. Pink Floyd’s trademark pink pig floated across the room with a message to all Americans. “Don’t be led to the slaughterhouse,” it read across in black ink; “Vote the 7th of November.” On a similar note Waters sang about fascism while pictures of George W. Bush and Tony Blair flashed alongside those of Mao, Fidel Castro and Stalin.

But the audience did not seem to mind. At the end of his performance, Waters had the packed venue in the palm of his hand, receiving five minutes of standing ovation at the end of his performance. Even the four senior citizens sitting next to me got up to boogie at the end of the concert. And they walked in with canes.

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