Touted as possibly the final time he would undertake a tour of this magnitude (we’ve heard those sorts of stories before of course), ‘Us + Them’ was the enormous string of dates undertaken by Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters in 2017-18.

Spanning 157 shows, calling the gigs a mere tour feels like selling the event short, as ‘production’ would be more accurate to convey such a vast enterprise. A group legendary for their visionary, immersive live spectacles that reached its zenith with the Waters’ conceived 1980-81 tour of ‘The Wall’, the singer/bassist’s post Floyd live activity has been similarly ambitious.

Filmed across four nights at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, ‘Us + Them’ was staged in support of Waters’ recent LP, ‘Is This The Life We Really Want?’, drawing inspiration from the Middle Eastern refugee crisis and the yawning gap between the super-rich (the One Percent) and the rest of the population.

Opening with the image of a refugee stranded on a beach, a recurrent theme throughout the evening, the sound collage of ‘Speak to Me’ that heralds the start of ‘Dark Side Of the Moon’ begins proceedings. Developing into a poised version of ‘Breathe’, a welcome curveball comes with the space rock classic ‘One of These Days’ from frequently overlooked 1971 LP ‘Meddle’.

An uninterrupted run through the remainder of the first half of ‘Dark Side’ showcases the crack squad of players assembled for Waters’ current backing band. R.E.M./Beck sticksman Joey Waronker supplies rhythmic support while Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig from NYC indie pop group are superlative vocal foils, recreating the wordless vocals from ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’ to wondrous effect. The proto industrial thrum of ‘Welcome to the Machine’ gives way to a score of tracks from Waters’ new LP, rated as one of his best solo effects, due in large part to the presence of Radiohead cohort Nigel Godrich as producer.

A tribute to the Floyd’s former leader Syd Barrett, ‘Wish You Were Here’ provides an excellent showcase for revered Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter Jonathan Wilson. Stepping into Dave Gilmour’s shoes, Wilson recreates his vocals and crystalline guitar parts with exacting precision. A group of local school children in Guantanamo Bay style prison uniforms and T-shirts emblazoned with ‘Resist’ arrive onstage to assist on the chorus of the most incongruous UK Christmas Number One ever, ‘Another Brick in the Wall’.

Whereas 'The Wall' tour gradually assembled the titular structure between the performer and the audience to emphasise the distance between both parties, the current shows sees the crowd dissected by a scale model of Battersea Power Station.

The second half of the concert begins with Waters returning to the Floyd’s angriest album, 1977 LP ‘Animals’ which drew a line between George Orwell’s ageless satire ‘Animal Farm’ and the grimness of life in late 1970s Britain. Effectively the heart of the show, the section takes aim at the current occupant of the White House. Far from an easy target, Waters’ vociferous denunciation of the present leader saw American Express sever their ties to the tour as corporate sponsors early in its run.

Enormous, embittered seventeen-minute opus ‘Dogs’ is played with the fiery conviction one of Dave Gilmour’s finest moments deserves, while ‘Pigs (Three Different Ones)’, whose last verse took aim at the clean-up TV campaigner Mary Whitehouse (something that seems quaint in the current age) has the double meaning of ‘White House’ amplified. The current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue comes in for a gleeful, merciless bashing, as ‘Monty Python’ style animations and verbatim, have-to-be-seen-to-be-believed quotes from the “leader of the free world” are beamed on to the arena’s screens.

A champagne party for the band, decked out in pig masks to resemble the one percent, occurs part way through the song, as Waters holds up a succession of cue cards, conducing with “Pigs Rule The World”/“Fuck The Pigs” to an appreciate roar from the crowd.

Returning to ‘Dark Side’, almost all of the second side is played, with the original music video from ‘Money’ interspersed with footage of current world leaders. Hitting the final stretch a moon floats around the arena as ‘Brain Damage’ and ‘Eclipse’, the final cuts from ‘Dark Side’ are played. Crossing a prism of light formed on at the arena floor, the sphere forms an eclipse as the music reaches its crescendo, in a beautifully realized piece of theatre. A slight disappointment on the digital version of the tour film is the absence of ‘Comfortably Numb’ (available on the Blu-Ray and DVD), which made for a moving, elegiac encore.

A vivid demonstration that Waters’ imagination, not to mention his fiery passion for railing against the world’s injustices hasn’t dimmed, ‘Us + Them’ proves worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Pink Floyd’s legendary mega tours.


'Us + Them' is available digitally now and will be released on CD, DVD and vinyl on the 2nd October.







Related Links:

https://rogerwaters.com/
https://twitter.com/rogerwaters
https://www.facebook.com/rogerwaters/


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