Story and Photos by Tom Collins
August is turning out to be the month of celestial events. The Perseid Meteor Shower, The Full Eclipse and yes, we even got to see The Dark Side of The Moon!!! Pink Floyd founder and creative genius, Roger Waters brought the psychedelia and flying pigs to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia for a 3 night run. Roger Waters ended his previous tour of The Wall at Citizens Bank Park on July 14, 2011. This current “Us and Them” tour was certainly scaled down in production from his previous tour, but outstanding none the less! This tour’s set list was a compilation of some of Pink Floyd and Roger’s most classic songs, mixed with a few new songs from his new album. A new album that has a lot of messages concerning today’s political climate. Particularly towards the President of The United States, Donald Trump. But we’ll get to that part.
So let’s set the scene. The lights go down on a packed house and the back of the stage is lit by a massive LED screen that stretches the entire width of the stage. Here we see what appears to be the back of a woman sitting on a beach, gazing out into an endless ocean. This actually goes on for about 10 or 15 minutes. The woman hardly moving and just the sound of the ocean and seagulls. Finally the band members start to take to the stage and then the legend himself, Roger Waters! Looking his years with white, lengthy hair and facial scruff, decked out in simply black pants and black t-shirt, Roger took the center of the stage and waved to the cheering crowd. The show opened with the great Pink Floyd classic, Breathe. The LED screen at the back of the stage showing many of the traditional “Floyd” imagery, instantly set the mood for the night. Images of clocks and watches swirled around and raced behind the band as they went into “Time”, followed by Breathe (Reprise).
Notably on stage with Roger were his long time guitarist, Dave Kilminster and 2 new unusual looking backup singers. Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius stood together in matching outfits including matching blonde cropped wigs. Their backing vocals were sounding pretty good but everyone knew the real test would come when they would try to tackle the soaring, haunting vocals on “The Great Gig in the Sky.” Slightly modified from the album vocals, they did a magnificent rendition together hitting mind-blowing notes in perfect harmony. It was truly beautifully done. The audience loudly showed their approval!!! Next was another old favorite, “Welcome to the Machine.” Again the screen showed classic Pink Floyd animation and images along with the song. Now it was time for Roger to slip in one of his new songs called “When We Were Young.” Along with the new song, Roger slipped in the first images and hints of what would soon become a very politically charged show. Black and white thermal type images rolled across the screen showing military air strikes on people and vehicles. This was followed by 3 more new songs, “Deja Vu”, “The Last Refugee” and “Picture That.” All of them projected imagery reflecting today’s volatile political climate. The lyrics and images were clearly meant to express Roger’s discontent, anger and fears. The audience largely accepted the new songs and messages. But this was only to be the appetizer for Roger’s political onslaught to Donald Trump coming very soon. After this stretch of new songs, Roger reeled everyone right back in with the fan favorites, “Wish You Were Here” and “Another Brick in The Wall, 2-3.” The screen turned into a giant brick wall and about a dozen children stood at the front of the stage, all dawning orange prison style jumpsuits. They quickly ripped them off while singing the chorus “We don’t need no education”, showing their shirts that all said “RESIST” on them. The children were all from a local choir and were chosen to have the honor of performing the 3 nights with Roger for that song. It was a pretty amazing moment in the show, after which it was time for a brief intermission before Set 2.
The second Set definitely was a more eye opening beginning than the first Set! From the ceiling of the arena, some sort of construction started lowering down towards the crowd with red flashing emergency lights and sirens blaring! Whatever it was coming down was huge and literally split the arena right down the center from the stage to the back of the arena. A loud rumbling like and earthquake shook the seats! Rising up out of this hanging construction rose the iconic factory smoke stacks and then the factory it self from the cover of Pink Floyd’s album, “Animals”. It was an absolutely incredible spectacle!!! A massive screen projecting images of the factory and other iconic images running the length of the arena. Certainly something I have never seen done before at any other concert. They played “Dogs” from the album and at one point the entire band and Roger, wore pig masks while sitting around a table drinking champagne! Truly the kind of imagery Pink Floyd is famous for! What Pink Floyd isn’t necessarily known for and the cause of some controversy came next in “Pigs (Three Different Ones).”
This is the part of the show that people attending had been warned about. It was a full-on bashing of President, Donald Trump. No sugar coating how Roger felt about him. Images of Trump as a pig and a baby, along with his pal Putin scrolled across all the massive video screens. Several of Trumps rants and tweets as well were projected. A large inflatable pig flew around the arena with political messages painted across it. This upset some people at many of his shows on the tour and people would walk out during it. The majority of the audience took it with a grain of salt and just tried to appreciate the music. Others who are not fond of Trump cheered his satire and remarks on the President.
These days, bands and artists making political statements during their concerts is very common place. This was definitely on the more extreme end and on a very grand scale. Anyone who knows and or follows Roger Waters should have known in advance what they were getting on this tour. Roger Waters is no fool though. His Set was well thought out and he won any agitated fans right back over by diving back into classic Pink Floyd with songs like “Money” and “Us and Them”. Only one more song “Smell the Roses” from his new album. This time the imagery was less political but still yet focused on the ravages of war. For the Floyd faithful, the rest of the concert was everything they had been waiting and hoping for! Showcasing the strange but genius mind of Roger, the next songs included “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” from the legendary Dark Side of the Moon album. In a truly stunning effect, a pyramid prism made up of white lasers appeared over the stage and front rows of the crowd! It was nothing short of magical when the rainbow of lasers streamed through it and all about the audience!!! It was like being inside that very iconic album cover and it gave everyone chills! The song ends and the crowd who remained fairly silent through some of the political moments, now roared with cheers and applause. Roger stood in the spotlight with a appreciative smile on his face and thanked everyone.
The show wrapped up with three more classics from The Wall, “Vera” and “Bring the Boys Back Home. Almost like you could have bet money on it, the final song of the night was a magnificent rendition of “Comfortably Numb”. During the final guitar solo of the song, Roger left the stage and came down into the front pit area and greeted everyone in the front row, shaking hands and fist bumps from one end of the stage to the other before returning to the stage. The arena was in a wash of colorful lights and lasers as Roger and his band took their final bows.
This was the kind of concert that if you have never had the chance to see Pink Floyd or Roger’s solo tours, it was worth the money to see this one! As our legends of music grow older, the chances to see them grow less and less. Take the time, save and spend the money to see them. Don’t wait until some tragic death or they quit touring to live in regret for not making that effort. In times like these, music is more powerful than ever. Use it to heal, feel happy. Let it speak to you and drift away in it.