at Rio de Janeiro:
First of all I should mention
that Pink Floyd has always been my #1 band of all times, since the release
of Meddle in '71. At that time I was so impressed by its concept/sounds
that I felt I had to listen all other earlier albums, Ummagumma being my
favorite from that era. After that, I was simply astonished like everyone
else by The Dark Side of The Moon in '73, the biggie, Alan Parsons' masterpiece
of sound engineering, and the rest is history.
Cut the scene , and we fast-forward
to almost 30 years later...
Here we are, watching the
DVD release of Roger Waters - In The Flesh Live. Oh, the secret pleasure
of hearing it all in 5:1 surround in a big flat 48" screen, the joys of
Yes, I must confess that
being a guitar player, Gilmour´s playing style, with elegant and
melodic solos, impressive guitar tone, slow hand no-nonsense finger techniques,
is already part of my genetic imprint, and it certainly is one of the things
that sets PF apart from the other bands, not to mention his distinctive
vocals. By the time of the Gilmour/Waters split I must have thought something
like " there goes the rings but at least we've kept the fingers..." . I´m
aware that there´s a line drawn here among some floydians, the Waters
X Gilmour controversy, which I won´t delve into. I´d rather
think positively that we´ve ended getting some more PF studio and
live albums, and that Waters had a chance to vent his brand of musical
poetry which otherwise might not actually get recorded by the Floyd line-up.
In private conversations I have never ending discussions over this matter
with my bandmate Soren Lemche, who´s a hardcore Waters' camp follower
but it all ends up in amiable jokes, even though neither of us budge a
millimeter from our inner convictions...
But the Waters´ DVD
release brought inevitably the comparison between both line-ups. After
all we have two different bands performing the same songs, an unusual fact
in the prog rock history, maybe comparable to the situation that ocurred
in YES, but I can´t remember of this happening to other prog rock
The first immediate question
is : who´ll be filling in for Gilmour in the Waters band ? There
they are, none less than 3 guitar players : Doyle Bramhal II on guitar
and vocals, master Snowy White , Gilmour´s own sideman, and rock
legend Andy Fairweather Low on rhytm guitar, a participant in all Waters'
Bramhall II does a good impression.
He´s not a note-by-note carbon copy of Gilmour, and brings in a kind
of raw energy to the Floyd material, giving it a slightly harder edge and
unexpected twists at otherwise familiar places. And that puts you the listener
in the position of hearing different nuances and new angles in all-too-familiar
songs. Also, being he a left-handed guitar player, it´s fun to watch
him play a right-handed regular guitar literally upside down, meaning he
can pick up anyone´s guitar and play it right away without the need
of re-stringing it. It also means that he bends his strings down instead
of up, and that his barre chords take a different geometry, quite fascinating
and intriguing to watch and try to figure out what he´s really doing
in his fretboard . A refreshing breath of air I should say... But, on the
other hand, he´s not in the same league of guitar playing and perfection
as David Gilmour. About his vocals, they sound ok, but a bit contrived.
As for Snowy White it´s no wonder that Gilmour rarely concedes him
a solo on stage, that could prove to be dangerous indeed... SW is a refined
player embeded in the Floyd tradition, knows his solos by heart, and can
combine technical dexterity with bluesy emotion. Andy Fairweather-Low kind
of melts in the background playing for the team, and emerges only to stage
a memorable chord solo in Money.
Other key performers in the
DVD are Jon Carin on keyboards, acoustic guitar, lap steel guitar and vocals.
He´s a gifted and versatile
musician and does an amazing job on Dogs - the acoustic guitar intro and
lead vocal - and also his lap steel playing on classics such as Breathe
are perfectly handled. But Carin is also present in the Gilmour/Wright/Mason
Pink Floyd studio and live line-up, so he´s a certified Floyd player
with a stamped seal of approval and officially endorsed by the masters.
The DVD material, recorded
2 years ago in the USA, includes 6 songs taken from Waters' solo albums
and 18 Pink Floyd songs. Buy it and you won´t regret it, trust me....
The second question is :
why PF hasn´t yet released a DVD ? There is enough high quality material
in VHS to justify at least a couple of DVD releases. It would be necessary
to do a 5:1 remix of the sound, and it certainly would do justice to PF´s
body of video work, with improved sound and digital image.
Another cut in the scene
to March 9/2002...
At 9:00 pm Waters is about
to begin his set at Apoteose, an open-air venue in Rio de Janeiro. A starry
night, and in the hot summer weather 35.000 people are eager to listen
to the other half of the PF story, at U$ 30 a ticket. The mood is peaceful,
the crowd is receptive, no sign of disturbances or violence, and in a major
event like this we see it all as a good omen. This is the second show in
the South American leg of his tour, he played two nights ago in Chile,
has three more dates in other states of Brazil and another in Argentina.
We were surprised by one
crucial change in the band : off goes Doyle Bramhall II and in comes Chester
Kamen on lead vocal and guitar... what are the possible implications of
this single fact ?
This is a no-frills affair.
No laser lightshows or fancy lighting rigs. There´s one main screen
behind the stage, two side screens for detailed vision of the musicians,
and besides the two main PA columns there are 5 other surround towers :
3 behind the audience, left/middle/right, another one in the middle-left
of the audience and other in the middle right. A huge area is set apart
for the FOH mixers and outboards. It´s clear the main concern here
is sound precision and not distracting visuals. In fact throughout the
night the sound is loud enough and clear, no distortion allowed even in
the bass spectrum, which is a blessing for this kind of music. FOH engineers
deserves special praise for not falling in the common trap of raising levels
to unsustainable heights or overdriving the bass cabinets. These guys know
what they are doing and probably the longevity of this tour plays an important
part in this well oiled sound machine.
There was one single important
sound misshap in the evening though, not in the FOH system, but in the
stage part of it. Some stage tech should get the pink slip after the show...More
on that later. Waters
was incredibly competent in
his choice of the set list. The show is quite long with almost 3 hours
of duration, including a 20 min. intermission. So basically we have two
sets of approx. 1:20 of music and no openning act. He made the wisest choice
possible : in the first set he played only Floyd material. Proven crown
jewels of the floydian vast legacy. In the opening of the second set another
devastating blow in the crowd : more Floyd classics, maybe even better
than in the first set. Crowd reaction was immediate again. It´s mathematical
like adding 2+2 : by playing these songs straight away he could never go
wrong. Getting that out of the way, Waters got a firm grasp on the audience´s
collective mind, that was left in an even more sympathetic and receptive
mood, and he could calmly play 6 slow tempo songs from his solo albums
: poetical and reflexive in nature, with no riffs and no well-known easy
choruses, anchored in long winded chord changes with no particular hot
solo spots, but all displaying his trade-mark mind-boggling lyrics. All
were well received by the audience, Mr. Waters was visibly pleased. Wrapping
it all up with a shattering version of Comfortably Numb , following it
with an encore featuring another of his own compositions, Each Small Candle,
which, by the way, has a very smart intro groove with Fender Rhodes elec.
piano and guitars doing ad-libs solos over it.
Now that you have the general
idea, let´s delve into the actual set. It´s almost exactly
the same set list as on the DVD. It would be tempting for a solo artist
to impose on the audience his own songs, to enhance sales of his work,
and treat his former band material as "oldies" to be dutifully performed.
But quite contrarily, his choice of the set list shows a kind of self-imposed
restraint that would prove to be a smart move to win the audience over,
as it´s clear that material from his solo albums is uncharted territory
for the vast majority of the people present. So he choses to please the
audience, and, at the same time, to prove by his performance that Floyd´s
legacy is as his as Gilmour/Wright/Mason´s.
Waters enters stage wearing
black clothes as expected, with a white light cannon silhouetting his lone
figure against the backdrop, perched in the uppermost part of the stage,
he starts to sing In The Flesh against the heavy riffing of the guitars,
a suitable opening drawing instant crowd reaction. Followed by The Happiest
Days of Our Lives and Another Brick in the Wall, I was quite pleased to
see the crowd being driven to a frenzy, jumping, dancing and singing the
lyrics along with Waters. Surround effects were brought in the ouverture
of the song, panning sounds around the audience, elevating the level of
expectation and setting the mood for the explosion of energy moments later.
Even Waters was surprised by this spontaneous combustion of the audience
and left it to them to sing the second verse of the song and the choruses,
limiting himself to play his bass with a smile of complicity on his lips....
And if we´re only into the third song of a 2:40 hours set, there
maybe a lot more surprises in store for us...
From that moment on, the
show was an easy ride for Waters, he felt well at ease and took his acoustic
guitar for an emotional rendition of Mother, with PP Arnold singing Gilmour´s
vocal part and the rest of the back-up singers Katie Kissoon and Susannah
Melvoin reinforcing the verse lines. And The Wall phase was put at rest.
Next two songs, from The
Final Cut, Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert and Southhampton Dock, more
atmospheric and dense, leave a space for the audience settle in and and
recompose from the metheoric start.
Animals is an album of dark
sound textures and ominous overtones, and that sets it apart in PF's discography.
There´s something in the sound of that album that strikes me as un-Floydian,
the overall eq in the recording is not so clean and I find its dryness
a bit uncomcortable to the ear in the heaviest passages when all the band
plays togheter.Even Mason´s characteristic drumkit doesn´t
sound like him at all. So we had no great expectations for the live performance
of any of those songs. Waters presented renditions of Pigs on the Wing
Part I and Dogs. I haven´t heard Dogs in awhile, at 17 min this one
is long enough to saturate your ears if you don´t really appreciate
the way it was recorded in the studio, although it´s a good song.
To my surprise the live rendition of Dogs was far more effective than the
original studio recording, and again Chester Kamen scored points for his
vocal performance. Specially the intro, with that acoustic guitar uptempo
rhytm played by Andy Fairweather-Low, and the middle solo section with
twin guitars by Snowy White and Chester were rewarding and put it all under
a new perspective. Thanks Roger, for showing what it was really all about.
But I don´t blame the engineer ( Brian Humphries ) for that album´s
sound, after all he´s the same guy that engineered Wish You Were
Here that sounds quite perfect, it was clearly a producer´s choice
to do Animals differently, and the production hat was on PF´s own
head, sorry guys, you missed that one... Another noteworthy fact about
Dogs is that the long middle atmospheric synth break is played by Harry
Waters , the other keyboard player in the evening, yes, Roger Waters' blond
long-haired son, while the boys sit on a poker table set onstage, drinking
Jack Daniels while Waters deals a hand to Kamen, Graham Broad ( the drummer
) and Snowy White, with a sly grin on his face, flanked by the three back-up
singers in languid poses... What the hell ??
And then we are envolved
by the surround industrial intro of Welcome to the Machine, followed by
the broken chords on acoustic guitar , and the difference is that the ac.
gtr is more proeminent in the mix, turning it more musical and melodious
and less machine-like.
Wish You Were here was next,
undoubtedly a crowd pleaser, well fit for sing-alongs around campfires,
you just can´t go wrong with that one. Jumping to Shine on You Crazy
Diamond Parts 1-9, featuring the dramatic opening solo by Chester Kamen
and a second guitar solo by Snowy White, I began to realize what a big
contribution Chester Kamen brought to this line-up : stability and a brilliant
focus on stage that Waters could play against, rolling the ball back and
forth. This guy handles Gilmour vocal parts with ease and certainty. Second
, his playing is very focused, he´s "on" all the time, no strange
notes were played in his fretboard and no deviations from the original
formula were employed. His guitar tone is different from Gilmour´s,
but yet it blends seamlessly with the material, sounding very familiar.
could sense that he wasn´t playing exactly a not-by-note rendition
of recorded material, but it felt right, Gilmour could have played those
lines like this as he always does introduce subtle variations when playing
live. So Kamen made quite an impression : if this guy can sing beautifully
the vocal parts AND play with a deep feeling those monumental Gilmour solos,
seeming very comfortable with the task, he must be at least 10 times better
as a player than he´s showing on stage, I mean, he must have a wide
safety margin to do things at that technical level so effortlessly... For
a guitar player, to sub for David Gilmour is no easy task, since everybody
in the audience knows all Gilmour's lines by heart, and any badly chosen
variations would be frowned upon. Another wise choice from bandleader Waters...
Well, the sax break in Shine
On was provided by Norbert Stachel. This guy travelled thousands of miles
to Rio to play only three sax solos, one in Shine On, other in Money, and
another in one of Waters' own songs, Amused to Death. But the Shine On
solo is the hottest solo spot for the sax, the one everybody was waiting
for. What happened is that some faulty cable line split on stage, or wireless
mic failure, led to disaster : his solo was cut off from the PA, a few
notes were heard here and there, the big screen showed his red contorted
face blowing the horn, his fingers moving deftly through the sax body,
the band playing on the rhytm, and the few notes that were heard left the
impression of being completely out of context. We felt frustrated, and
the song ended sadly, with Stachel leaving the stage without the proper
recognition for his efforts. It´s clear that there´ll be hell
to pay for some stage hand, I mean, wasn´t it all tested beforehand
? However, this was to be the only sound failure in this evening. In the
DVD version of this show there´s no sax break, this part of Shine
On was not performed.
The tightly packed front
stage area dispersed a bit during the 20 min. intermission announced by
Mr. Waters, a well deserved break for the musicians, the weather is far
too hot and under those stage lights the temperature maybe several degrees
Roger comes back and the
surround system comes alive again in the dark with the eerie intro of Set
the Controls For the Heart of The Sun, and that song also sounds better
than the live recording in Ummagumma. Again Waters is showing old material
under a new perspective, scoring more points.
What can we possibly say
about the next devastating sequence ? Speak to Me / Breathe / Time / Money
Hearing the intro heartbeats,
lunatic giggling and female screaming in glorious surround anticipating
the heavenly phased rhytm guitar arpeggios and lap steel solo lines are
worth double the ticket price... Kamen again performs the lead vocal and
main solos brilliantly, Waters plays his bass up in the mix dramatically
enhancing each chord change by stepping heavily around the stage, lifting
his right arm up after each note, he clearly knows this is a royal straight-flush
sequence, can´t lose it...
Money is a disguised rhytm
and blues, and in the middle section there´s a slight variation not
unlike Gilmour´s PF version in PULSE, but not quite so long, and
there happens some r&b solo exchanges beteween Kamen and White with
the band backing off a bit to resume the climax moments later. Stachel
now steps in with his sax and plays a superb solo leaving the stage with
the audience cheering in incentive, the sound problem was solved, finally.
Fairweather-Low, wearing a gray suite, appears frontstage playing a well
thought out chord solo sequence, P.Townshend-like, right arm like a windmill,
strangling viciously his guitar with his left hand, that´s attitude
with capital "A"...
Needless to say that at the
end of all this the audience is speechless and breathless, and we could
all have gone home having satisfied all our desires...
I find it a bit odd that
Waters avoided performing The Great Gig in the Sky, would it be because
only Richard Wright is credited in this composition ? I would like to have
seen the back-up vocal trio put to the final test...
But there´s still more
to come : Every Stranger´s Eyes, Perfect Sense Parts I&II, The
Bravery of Being Out of Range, The Ballad of Bill Hubbard, It´s a
Miracle and Amused to Death.
Soren, my danish bandmate,
was thrown into immediate ecstasy, like it was Christmas/birthday party/honeymoon/
holding a winning lottery ticket/taking mind-expanding chemicals , all
rolled into one...Among 35,000 people Soren must be among the few that
really knows this stuff in and out and approves enthusiastically all songs
of this sequence. And the crowd goes along, taking it all in, in good faith,
after all Mr. Waters has paved his way for this. Indeed, like we´ve
already said, his lyrics are outstanding and effective, Soren and I agree
to that. But imho, it´s very hard for Waters to surpass musically
the floydian legacy that stood the test of time and is organically embedded
in our subconscious minds. His efforts are worthy and valiant, and clearly
the creative flame is still burning within his probing mind, and he has
not compromised by taking the easy road of tested and approved formulas,
instead he chose to ride his own creative wave, he deserves respect for
Brain Damage / Eclipse /
Comfortably Numb are next... Kamen and White trade lines in the second
solo break of Comfortably Numb, in the upper stage area, taking this show
into another climax. The echoed intro vocal lines by Waters are well followed
by the urgent choruses sang by Kamen, this song sounds even better live
than in the studio. Roger´s grave, mind-sedating voice in the verses
has more impact in this live version, and I think that the second chorus
lyrics are particularly inspired, addressing somehow those strange deja-vu
sensations most of us have had in the forgotten childhood past.
For the encore Waters produces
one of his jewels, Each Small Candle, with inspired lyrics, a floydian
intro groove by a Fender Rhodes elec. piano, guitars ad-libs, a well structured
song with strong choruses, truly a remarkable ending for this event. Mission
What we foresee/ speculate
is that at the end of this Waters' tour cycle there may be a reunion with
Gilmour´s PF again, that´s the logical next step : on one side
there´s Waters with his powerful mind brimming with ideas, on the
other side there´s the Firm, Gilmour´s Floyd with the musical
competence to complement and enhance Waters' drive. Both Waters and Gilmour's
PF have already proved their points : they can successfully lead their
carreers and the floydian jewels belong to both of them. Why not reunite
and produce some more classic Floyd stuff togheter ? Or, at least , play
one mammoth concert in a suitable location for a DVD release with the classic
line-up ? Let´s wait and see...