Roger Waters

Verizon Amphitheatre

All the acrimony that apparently holds Pink Floyd apart does nothing but fuel demand for the quartet’s somewhat sporadic offerings.  Most prolific of late has been Roger Waters, who has been touring the globe with understandably sold out shows.  It was Waters who seized the helm of the band in the 60s after the departure of the tortured genius Syd Barrett, peaking with the phenomenon known as Dark Side of the Moon. But Waters in turn had his leadership role usurped in the 1990s, and Pink Floyd attained commercial but far less critical success thereafter.

Although a Waters-less Pink Floyd, led by excellent guitarist David Gilmour, consistently filled stadia it has always been Roger Waters that purists relied on to deliver the prime slices of Pink Floyd.  This was confirmed at the show in Irvine, where an adoring crowd reveled in Waters’ calibrated sonic and visual overload. 

A huge screen dominated the stage’s backdrop, with a clarity that was stunning.  Alternating between themes of melancholy, loneliness and left wing angst, the several decades worth of music left the crowd enthralled. The accompanying visuals shifted between a cigarette smoking man alone in his room, reaching occasionally for an old radio to signal the change of songs on stage, to scenes of global horrors resulting from right wing expeditions.  The requisite smoke and flashpots mingled with the pot in the air for full effect.

But the music, through a powerful and crystal sharp sound system, was astounding.  From early tracks like “Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun” through a recent song about Lebanon (“Leaving Beirut”), the band was in fine form.  Classic tracks like “Wish You Were Here” and “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” paid homage to Barrett, and were extremely well-played. 

The infamous flying pig from Animals was marched through the audience, replete with leftist graffiti.  Tracked by the spotlights overhead, the pig was finally untethered.  As the porcine beast floated and disappeared into the night sky, one could not help but wonder where and when the pig would be found…deflated in the ocean, caught in a tree or a jet engine?

During the first half of the show, Waters alternated between acoustic guitar and electric bass.  After a brief intermission, however, Waters stayed on bass for the end-to-end performance of Dark Side of the Moon.  The album spent an unrivalled 700 plus weeks on the charts after its 1973 debut.  The long instrumental passages contributed to its global popularity, and the cosmic nature of the lyrics did little to deter international consumption. 

There was inevitably some prerecorded sound effects needed to replicate the album onstage, but the live guitar solos were both familiar and electrifying.  The vocals of the non-Waters tracks were handled with aplomb by various band members. The iconic prism of the album art was echoed in a mesmerizing rainbow laser that swung across the audience. “Us and Them” was particularly stirring, “Money” was the trite and inevitable crowd pleaser.  “Brain Damage” (another tribute to Barrett) and “Eclipse” brought the live album to a stirring close. 

An encore of several songs featured “Another Brick in the Wall.”  Waters seemed genuinely pleased with the evening’s performance, often prowling from his home base at center stage.  The development of live audio and video technology has allowed albums such as Dark Side to be performed superbly, in a manner unavailable when first released. The seemingly unending success of tours like this confirm the timeless nature of legacy music.

Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment and technology scene for many years. He has written for Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and once upon a time won a New York State College Journalism Award.