Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney 02/02/2018
Review: Jez Ford | Photos: Britt Andrews (Facebook / Twitter / Patreon)
Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s Battersea Power Station in South-West London is an art deco masterpiece of industrial architecture, one of the largest brick buildings in the world. During school trips to London in the late 1970s, this correspondent and his friends would use their free time to ditch their classmates, hop the tube lines and visit what we considered three essential landmarks — Abbey Road Studios, the Marquee Club on Wardour Street, and Battersea Power Station, the last of these not so much through a youthful fascination with urban architecture, but because of its commanding presence, complete with poorly-tethered flying pig, on the album artwork of Pink Floyd’s Animals.
This nostalgic personal aside requires mention because at the beginning of the second half of his ‘Us & Them’ tour performances in Sydney, as elsewhere, Mr Waters and his team construct a replica of the Power Station which hovers above the entire length of the floor seating at Qudos Bank Arena, complete with steaming chimney stacks; it then serves as additional projection surfaces for much of the second half. This commences with the 30-minute combo of “Dogs” and “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” from said Animals LP, both being commentaries on elements of modern society as relevant today as in 1977, and with the latter now aimed no longer at three different pigs, but at just the one particularly large example of POTUS himself, Mr Trump, whose image and quotes are thrown up on the giant screens inincreasingly irreverent — nay, brutal — treatment.
So we needed to let you know that the combination of the Animals tracks together with anti-Trump imagery and Battersea Power Station too — well, there’s no hope of us delivering a detached and objective review here. We were gone, man.
Roger is 74, but only occasionally looks it, keeping himself fit enough to manage a tour of 2.5-hour performances delivered over two sets. He is fully supported by two guitarists, two keyboard players, two backing singers and a drummer (Joey Waronker, no less), and even has a back-up bass player who can take the strain when Roger wishes to stride the stage sans axe, engaging the crowd with his rock-star grandpa poses. Behind them all is a stadium-width projection screen in constant use for visuals that combine Floyd-era animations for the classics such as "Time" and "Welcome to the Machine" along with new graphics and live camera projection (which had just a slight lag in the delivery during the fast half, rather less in the second).
The sound was exceptional in clarity even when hitting impressive SPL heights, thanks partly to the clarity and directionality of today’s line arrays compared with old-school PA stacks, and partly thanks to the octaphonic installation here — there were eight line arrays in all, two on each side of the stadium, fully doubling up on the quadraphonic live sound pioneered by Floyd all those many years ago. These were used not only to extend the overall clarity but also to throw clips and effects around the auditorium — the opening interviews from The Dark Side of the Moon over the rising heartbeat and swell into “Breathe”, or the swirling winds that open “One of These Days”, this near-instrumental proving a highlight of the first set, a powerfully delivered bass showcase of ageless impact, and just one of many songs which survive the passing of decades to present today as powerfully as ever; what electronica band today delivers bass as phat or synths as fizzy as were surging through the stadium PA here during “Welcome To The Machine”?
Indeed despite the non-stop projection-a-thon, the first half felt more like a straightforward band-rocking-out-on-stage gig than any of Waters’s previous solo tours. No introverted-Roger Wall-building here; new-age Roger wishes to connect, waving his glass of on-stage champagne to salute the crowd, even though we were rather less well lubricated by the $10 plastic glasses of mid-strength beer waiting at the end of 20-minute bar queues.
Performances were (of course!) exemplary — the main lead Gilmour licks were covered impeccably by long-time Roger collaborator Dave Kilminster, who favoured a Telecaster-style Suhr (three pickups and tremelo, maple neck and swamp-ash body decorated with burnt rose-themed graphics), while second guitarist and “obligatory hippie” Jonathan Wilson delivered Gilmour’s vocal parts with a thrillingly rich tone and utter note-perfection (other than falling flat on the very last line of “Comfortably Numb”; forgiven). Jon Carin, who does a mean Gilmour vocal himself, covered the lap steel parts of “Breathe” with a tingling fluidity, in addition to his role on keyboards.
The set included four songs from the latest (and very Floydian) album Is This The Life We Really Want?, with all the rest coming from the Floyd back-catalogue, and remarkably not a single song from the rest of his solo canon: no Hitchhiking, noRadio KAOS, no Amused to Death. In order, then: “Breathe”, “One Of These Days”, “Time/Breathe Reprise”, “The Great Gig in the Sky”, “Welcome To The Machine”, “Deja Vu”, “The Last Refugee”, “Picture That”, “Wish You Were Here”, “The Happiest Days of Our Lives”, “Another Brick in the Wall Parts II and III”. Interval. Set two: “Dogs”, “Pigs (Three Different Ones)”, “Money” (saxophone by the great Ian Ritchie), “Us & Them” (we cried), “Smell the Roses”, “Brain Damage”, “Eclipse” (giant multicoloured laser prism). Encores: “Mother”, “Comfortably Numb”.
All followed by the quintessential Homebush gig experience — 90 minutes getting out of the car park. But we were so high, we didn’t care.
Check out our full gallery of shots from Roger Waters after the jump!