Roger Waters
In São Paulo

By Martin Longley

Roger Waters and Dave Gilmour are now on 'friendly' terms, although they still aren't exactly sleeping together. Ties with Richard Wright have been renewed. The Pink Floyd actually played a gig together at Live 8, in 2005, fully bonding for the first time since 1981. Even if a complete reunion tour appears to be a fifty-fifty prospect, one consequence of this one-off is that conceptual controller Waters has renewed his adoration of the old catalogue, easing off on his solo ambitions, even if only for a few years.

Waters left the other three band members in 1985, attempting to prevent them from using the trademarked name. He failed, even though Roger had gradually ended up as the combo's chief conceptual strategist and sole word-scriber. The Wall album was virtually a solo opus, and that's precisely what riled-up Gilmore, Wright and Mason.

Almost inevitably, Waters has struggled to attain the cultural significance of that peak 1960s/70s period of deep resonance. Now, he's expanding on the touring concept that began last year, performing The Dark Side Of The Moon in its entirety, preceded by a first-half set that's almost completely Floydian.

Launching down in Australia, Waters has now traversed the entire South American continent, gearing up for Europe and the USA in May. On Saturday nite, he sold out São Paulo's gigantic Morumbi togger stadium, creating havoc on the surrounding streets.

Needless to say, a sense of occasion hangs in the atmosphere, bordered by a questioning sensation over whether this event will live up to expectations. The opening is suitably spectacular, complete with old-fashioned pyrotechnics, looming backdrop screen and a crystal-clear, perfectly-mixed sonic-spread, complete with surround-sound trimmings.

Waters has the appearance of a classical musician, draped in sober black suit, his trousers going for the high-waistband effect preferred by the older man. Somehow, as the decades roll by, the belt keeps getting higher, until it settles just under the armpits, at around eighty years of age. Roger is also a slightly uncomfortable front-man, only at home when he's thumbing bass or strumming acoustic guitar. On the few numbers where he just sings, he holds the microphone with an uncertain grasp. When he's not vocalising, Waters covers the extremes of stage left and stage right, but hardly in the Mick Jagger manner. Nevertheless, he's sincere in his respect for the audience, and in his perpetual seeking of the street level, with a political stance that could be considered extreme within the realms of the superstar artist.

If Dark Side is promised for the second half, then the first set feels like it's virtually dedicated to Wish You Were Here, with inspirational readings of that 1975 album's title track and the epic Shine On You Crazy Diamond. This last was always thought to be a Syd Barrett dedication, and Waters certainly underlines this strong possibility by performing it in front of looming images of the recently departed original Floyd leader.

Two guitarists are onstage to inhabit the Dave Gilmour hole, three if we count Andy Fairweather-Low, who fills in on acoustic as well as thickening out Roger's basslines. Dave Kilminster and Snowy White (for it is they!) are equally impressive, following the master template, yet still delivering solos with a serrated edge, making it sound as if they were discovering these licks for the first time. Together, they're playing the harmony parts that Gilmour would spend hours overdubbing.

When Waters slowly rises up into Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, we know that this is going to be a beautifully specialised re-creation. It's a big band: PP Arnold, Katie Kissoon and Carol Kenyon are the backing singers, whilst Kilminster and keyboardist Jon Carin handle the Gilmour vocals with convincing prowess.

Unfortunately, the Waters songwriting vision is not so strong nowadays, as his download-only release from 2004 is lyrically well-intentioned, but ill-judged in its tone. Leaving Beirut tells a tale of Roger's youth, when a Lebanese family took him into their home, Waters attempting to make a strong pro-Arabic statement, but with his words failing him in the poignancy stakes.

By comparison, Sheep, from the 1977 Animals album, retains a thundering momentum, dominated by its savage bassline. Look up yonder, and there's an enormous inflatable pig, covered in polemical slogans, rising up, then circling the stadium before finally being untethered, spiralling heavenwards. "Where's my pig?," he asks. Does Roger release this porcine trophy every single night, or was this a mishap? If he does, where do they go? And what does this mean for the environment? Where will it land, eventually?

These things we can ponder during the interval, girding our loins for the Dark Side...

Firstly, Waters and band succeed in an accurate re-creation, without losing their edge. A spontaneous excitement remains intact, particularly within the realms of the repeatedly transcendental guitar solos. Roger's voice is also an instrument of desperate expression, high and specially-effected, possessed of that peculiarly unique Floydian sound.

On the one hand, it's surprising how much of the Floyd's work sounds, with benefit of hindsight, to be influenced by Bob Dylan. On the other mitten, we can gasp at the pulsating repetitions of On The Run, remembering that this was the dawning of techno.

After the ticking progress of Time, Carol Kenyon sings the ever-escalating gospel crescendos of The Great Gig In The Sky, Money illustrates how a classic song has become completely embedded in the consciousness, whilst Brain Damage and Eclipse provide a poignant finale.

Another Brick In The Wall has never been one of this scribe's favourites, but it's hard to argue with its anthemic release when in the stadium rock encore frame of mind. When it's followed by Comfortably Numb, Kilminster and White make sure that their swapped phrases attain a suitably climactic ecstasy.
Contributors retain the copyright to their own contributions. Everything else is copyright © Spannered 2015.
Please do not copy whole articles: instead, copy a bit and link to the rest. Thanks!