By John Curley
It can be argued that Roger Waters’ current tour, billed as the US + THEM Tour, is his most adventurous yet. The tour, in support of his latest album, which is titled “Is This The Life We Really Want?,” is a mind-blowing, audio-visual extravaganza that mixes Pink Floyd classics with new material and is backed by stunning visuals on a multitude of screens that are both behind the band and above the audience on the floor. And the flying pig makes a very memorable appearance as well.
Waters, who turned 74 on September 6th, one day before his show at Newark’s Prudential Center, is backed by an extremely talented band on this tour. In addition to Waters on vocals, bass, and guitar, the band includes Dave Kilminster (guitars), Jon Carin (keyboards and guitars), Jonathan Wilson (guitars and vocals), Joey Waronker (drums), Gus Seyffert (guitars and bass), Bo Koster (keyboards), Holly Laessig (vocals), Jessica Wolfe (vocals), and Ian Ritchie (saxophone). Koster, from the band My Morning Jacket, joined the band at the Newark show to replace injured keyboardist Drew Erickson.
Before the band took the stage, a film played on the large screen behind the band of a woman sitting on the beach with crashing waves providing the soundtrack. Following a musical intro of a recording of Pink Floyd’s “Speak To Me,” the band took the stage and began the mellow “Breathe” to a massive roar from the crowd. The band sounded fantastic, and Waters was in very good voice. Waters and company then shifted gears and tore into the considerably more intense “One Of These Days.” Waters’ bass thundered, and he appeared to be having a blast.
Clanking clock sound effects rang through Prudential Center and trippy video images played on the screens as the band began “Time,” which was greeted by a very enthusiastic roar from the crowd. Waters and the band then did a nice version of “Breathe (Reprise)” that received a terrific response from the crowd. A showcase for vocalists Holly Laessig and Jessica Wolfe. “The Great Gig In The Sky” was one of the highlights of the first set and received a big hand from the audience. During “Welcome To The Machine,” Waters exhorted the crowd to get up from their seats. Many of them did. The film on the screen behind the band backing the song was of animations of Gerald Scarfe cartoons.
A section of four songs from the Waters’ latest album followed, and the crowd responded enthusiastically. Of these songs, the best was the intense and very Pink Floyd-like “Picture That.”
The acoustic guitar intro to “Wish You Were Here” got a massive cheer from the audience, and the crowd proceeded to sing along with the song in a full-throated roar. “The Happiest Days Of Our Lives” featured Waters’ pounding bass as well as him pointing at the crowd and commanding, “YOU! Yes, you! Stand still, laddie!” The first set came to a memorable conclusion with the performances of “Another Brick In The Wall Part 2” and “Another Brick In The Wall Part 3.” Local youths from the Newark area were recruited to dance in front of the band during the songs while clad in numbered prison jumpsuits. Toward the end of the set, the dancers removed the jumpsuits to reveal T-shirts bearing the word “RESIST.” They then marched in place flanked by Laessig and Wolfe as the set came to an end.
Following a 20-minute intermission, the second set began with helicopter and siren sounds as a number of huge video screens above the audience seated on the floor were lowered from the rafters. When the screens were completely unfurled, images of London’s Battersea Power Station, which was featured on the cover of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album “Animals,” were projected onto them. Atop the screens were four smokestacks that were spewing smoke, to give the impression that the power station was in operation. For the performance of “Dogs” that followed, guitarist Jonathan Wilson sang some of the lead on the song as Waters donned a pig mask, took a glass of wine from a table that had been set up onstage, and proceeded to toast the crowd. And the audience responded with huge cheers.
Waters left nothing to the imagination regarding where he stands on President Trump during the performance of “Pigs (Three Different Ones).” At the start of the song, the giant pig made its appearance over the crowd, and it proceeded to circle menacingly above the audience as the song was performed. Grotesque images of Trump were projected onto the screens as well as a close-up of Trump’s face along with the word “CHARADE.” The song and the video images got a huge cheer from the crowd. In addition, the intro to “Money” featured recordings of Trump making comments about winning the election.
“Us And Them” had Waters standing at one end of the stage acknowledging the roar of the crowd with a raised fist, which had the desired effect of raising the volume and enthusiasm of the cheers. “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” featured one of the most impressive images of the night as a huge, multi-dimensional laser triangle was projected over the crowd. Following the end of “Eclipse,” Waters then spoke to the crowd at length, thanking them for their enthusiasm and discussing the love that he has seen in America while he has been on this tour.
The encore began with performances of “Vera” and “Bring The Boys Back Home” from “The Wall” album. Laessig and Wolfe ended “Bring The Boys Back Home” with a powerhouse and quite moving vocal performance that drew a massive response from the crowd. The show came to a conclusion with a really gripping performance of “Comfortably Numb” that had the audience roaring and singing along. Waters left the stage near the end of the song to shake hands with members of the crowd along the barrier at the front. He then returned to the stage to take his bows with the band as the crowd cheered. As the band filed off of the stage, the film of the woman on the beach that had started the show played again on the video screen. At one point, a little girl joined her.
Waters’ show is quite epic, without question one of the must-see tours of the year. The tour has additional shows in the New York City metro area at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on September 11th and 12th and at The New Coliseum in Uniondale, NY on September 15th and 16th. The North American tour concludes with two shows in Vancouver, BC on October 28th and 29th. After several months off, tour resumes in Australia in February 2018.
The set list was as follows:
Breathe (Pink Floyd song)
One Of These Days (Pink Floyd song)
Time (Pink Floyd song)
Breathe (Reprise) (Pink Floyd song)
The Great Gig In The Sky (Pink Floyd song)
Welcome To The Machine (Pink Floyd song)
When We Were Young
The Last Refugee
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd song)
The Happiest Days Of Our Lives (Pink Floyd song)
Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 (Pink Floyd song)
Another Brick In The Wall Part 3 (Pink Floyd song)
Dogs (Pink Floyd song)
Pigs (Three Different Ones) (Pink Floyd song)
Money (Pink Floyd song)
Us And Them (Pink Floyd song)
Smell The Roses
Brain Damage (Pink Floyd song)
Eclipse (Pink Floyd song)
Vera (Pink Floyd song)
Bring The Boys Back Home (Pink Floyd song)
Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd song)