Ever since I first read Bukowski’s review of the 1975 Stones show at The Forum, I’ve wanted to write a review in the same vein, something that so perfectly encapsulates the irrelevance of the whole thing, in the face of the mass adulation of what’s being presented to the audience. I’ve not done so, because I’ve always felt you should say something nice, or say nothing at all, but after witnessing last night’s show at Staples, I changed my mind.
Anyone who’s familiar with Pink Floyd’s canon of work knows that to really get into their music, you had to be on something, and maybe that’s my first problem; I went to the show completely straight. I’m pretty sure I was in the minority last night. If you’re a massive Pink Floyd fan and you can’t be objective, you probably shouldn’t read any further.
I’ll start with what the promoter emailed to all ticket holders: THE SHOW STARTS PROMPTLY AT 8PM, THERE IS NO OPENING ACT!!! Wow, that’s pretty firm. There must be some serious presentation going on at this show, and I don’t want to miss the beginning. So get there before showtime we did. Ten minutes before the big curtain, we were in our seats. Waiting, anticipating.
Promptly at eight PM, a video started. It was the back of Roger, faced away from us, sitting on the beach while seagulls could be heard. For twenty minutes. This was why they wanted everyone in their seats by 8:00? I guess I missed the memo because the place was half-empty at eight while we sat and stared at the video screen marvelling at how Waters sat and contemplated the sand.
Around 8:20 the band took the stage, with very little flourish, walking out and launching into “Speak To Me“, and continuing with the hits from Dark Side and Wish You Were Here. It was after three or four songs that I decided that the band sounded completely flat with a complete lack of tonality, and the show was starting to bore me. Well, there’s always the visuals, right? Not so much. For the most part, they ran the same videos we all watched with awe back in the 1970’s when that kind of thing was so impressive. Now, it just seems old and tired. I’m not complaining that they played all the hits, but it didn’t sound live, it sounded like Pink Floyd karaoke. In my book, a live show should sound live, with some jamming, stretching out the song, improvising. There was absolutely none of that last night. And then there’s Waters himself. He has to be the coldest performer ever, not acknowledging his audience, not speaking to them, and for the most part just glaring at them.
During “Another Brick In The Wall“, the stage was filled with the requisite kids chanting “we don’t need no education”, and I thought even that was lackluster. When I watched the Sandy Benefit and they did this, the kids had some life and some moves to them. Last night even the kids seemed tired and bored with the whole thing. They looked and danced like they would rather be at a Taylor Swift show.
During another of the deep meaningful songs, a table was brought onto the stage and a couple of the backup singers and Roger sat down, donned pig masks, and had a nice little dinner with champagne flutes. Shortly after their meal, Waters got up, pranced around the stage, raised his hands over his head in triumph with the pig mask in one hand, and the champagne glass in the other. Every time he hoisted that glass, the crowd roared in approval. Roger seemed very impressed with the fact that he had just drank an entire glass of champagne, and the audience went right along with him. I had a five-dollar bottle of water, but nobody was cheering me. The horror…
Then, there was the intermission. I thought to myself “Now would be a good time to get the heck out of here and beat the traffic”, but somehow I got engaged in conversation with a couple of guys seated behind me who were both wearing Pink Floyd shirts and could barely stand to make it to the restrooms. One of them had “overdosed” himself on edible THC candies “accidentally”, and it occurred to me that he was probably in just the right condition to enjoy what was obviously lost on me. Maybe I just can’t get behind a guy waving an empty champagne glass around? Maybe I’m too straight? My companion seemed OK with what was going on, so I figured we’d stay and see what happens. Maybe the show would get better. I’ve been to hundreds of concerts and I’m used to standing up, doing a little dancing, cheering, you know, fan interaction. I suppose the guy in the floor section that raised his fists in triumph every time Roger did was some sort of interaction, right? Last night the audience remained seated except for the floor-dwellers. And the guy behind me that was so catatonic from his medical marijuana edibles that getting up was just not in his future.
After the twenty-minute intermission, the band returned to the stage to deafening applause, and then it happened. Right down the center of the floor section, an apparatus that looked like two long rails with four black boxes on it started lowering itself, closer and closer to the cheers of the crowd. Suddenly, projection screens started lowering themselves while smokestacks rose from the black boxes. They had replicated the Battersea Power Station, that iconic building from Pink Floyd Animals, complete with vapour coming out of the smokestacks. Now that was fine for one number, but they acted like this projected building was some sort of shrine for the Floyd masses to worship at. Wow, a floating projection of a building. Oh, and there was the requisite pig floating over the top of it. The pig looked like he had lost a lot of weight since the 80’s.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I like to go to a concert to forget world politics for a couple of hours. I don’t like being force-fed political or environmental admonishment from entertainers. And what came next and what I have to say about it is not a reflection of my political views, but there it was. Larger than life. Images of Donald Trump in various humiliating poses flashing and floating by, while quotes of things he has said floated around. And if that wasn’t bad enough, one image of Trump completely naked kind of rose from the bottom up. Naked. Completely. As is if to emphasize what was discussed during the primaries, he was very small in one area (if you know what I mean). At that point I had to just turn away because I’d seen enough. You cannot unsee these images. Thanks Roger! During this debacle, a larger pig floated overhead with some other angry messages pasted to it. Can’t Roger just wear a T-shirt with his opinion on it and leave all this stuff at home?
The whole thing felt like some sort of neo-nazi rally when “Trump Is A Pig” flashed across the screens and the fake hovering building, and the crowd roared its approval. At that point I thought to myself he should have just had a Trump look-alike come on the stage and have some sort of mock-execution, or throw champagne at him, or something. I wondered how well this show played out in the red states. Maybe your average Floyd fan is either in agreeance or just too stoned at the show to care, I don’t know. But “fat chin” is a valid political statement? Swastikas briefly flashing alongside of Trump? Roger Waters needs to leave this sort of thing out of his act. This wasn’t a happy show, it was fear-mongering and an attempt to just roil the masses.
I left before the big ending and encore, having had enough of the spectacle. I know I’m in the minority, but honestly, if you’re going to play every single song by the numbers with a band that seems completely checked out, what’s the point? The most positive part of the evening for me was all sense of regret for not having attended Desert Trip in 2016 vanished.