Roger Waters Us + Them
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
24 October 2017.
For $167, my friend Christian and I found tickets 16 rows back of the stage for the Roger Waters Us + Them show at Rogers Place in Edmonton. It is about as close as a person can get to seeing a Pink Floyd show that includes Roger Waters post-1981. There were nosebleed tickets available for about half of the price so we went all in. The top four concerts I have ever seen in my life are, in no specific order: Tool in 2005 in Calgary, Foo Fighters playing a secret gig in a bar in London with about 280 other people in 2011, Paul McCartney essentially playing in a Beatles cover band in 2011 in London, and Roger Waters preforming The Wall in London in 2011. Those are the best concerts I have ever seen!
Now you know!
The Roger Waters show I attended was six years ago. Roger Waters is 74 years old now, and it is hard to know if he will still be able to do this when he is 80 in another six years, so it is not a show that could be missed! This was not The Wall, which is the greatest artistic spectacle I have ever seen, but I knew it was still going to be of a similar standard.
We arrived at the show, went to the floor and started walking to our seats. It was incredible. 16 rows from the stage is ‘close’. Even when you look at the seats that are 40 rows from the stage, you think to yourself, ‘Wow. This seems close. We still have over 20 more rows to go forward! This is going to be nuts!’
There was no warm-up band. At 08:00, a video started playing on a screen that took up the entire stage. It was a woman sitting on the edge of a beach. The video was 20 minutes of that as we waited for everyone to take their seats and the show to begin, from 16 rows back!
The lights went dark! The band came out. Roger Waters was there in the middle with a bass strapped to him! Yeah! YEAH!
Let’s have a look at that setlist!
So, these are some observations I made while my brain melted to the music, I danced, and pinched my arms to make sure I was awake! Part of the struggle with the whole show as to focus on everything taking place. The imagery to go with the music was incredible. Like this…
Some songs really stood out. ‘Time’ was one of those songs. You know what? I am going to put that song right here so that you can play it as you read this. You might as well come along for the ride with the track from the record!
The drums in Time are so crazy and there is so much happening that drummer has to stand up to cover the ground he needs to get to. Then these lyrics happen right after a crazy drum intro rockets you into a space you did not know existed…
Personally, I am not able to sing those words in sequence. They actually come out of me at full volume, beginning somewhere in my stomach.
It is the sole reason I am unable to play the song in public while I listen to it through headphones. I might end up in a shopping mall and blast those words out of mouth at 220 decibels. Imagine the old ladies looking at two similar white blouses in a small store, trying to decide which one they want to buy. ‘Hmm, the one with the bow or the one with the button. They look quite similar but I just do not know which…’
“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day!!…”
Peed pants is probably the end result. And I try to be a good person. I do not want to be responsible for that happening. So, I never play Time through earphones…
There were two women on the stage to cover those backing vocals that you know from the records. All together there were ten people on the stage, including the Saxophone hand who would come strolling out when the Time was right. But those women, whooee, could they hit notes and harmonize together. Hair stood up in places on my body where I previously did not know I was hairy! I feel like I invented a new kind of goose-bumps…
Roger Waters played ‘Welcome to the Machine’ and I think it was just for my friend Christian and I. It is difficult to know for sure if anyone else was paying attention to the song. It seemed that by the way Roger Waters dragged us the two of us into the song with him that it was totally directed at us two who were screaming our lungs out. And to be honest, I have never liked that song before. It comes on when I am listening to the album, through speakers (not earphones …obviously), and I can usually not wait for it to end so that I can hear something better. Not this time. Not even close.
Live, the song ‘Welcome to the Machine’ was some kind of channel to my audio roots. There must be a space in my brain that is the size of a grain of sand that all of the music I care about touches. It is some kind of musical-emotion grain of sand. Welcome to the Machine found the pass-code and went directly to that grain, and stimulated it. Welcome to the Machine and I are now new best friends who feel like we have known each other since before either of us had our first memories!
Of course, there were some politics involved. This was Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. It seems as though Donald Trump should probably not attend the show. He may not like it as much as I did. I mean, it is always nice when people talk about you and put up photos of you, but sometimes they depict you in ways you would prefer they did not. I can say with certainty that 100% of the photos of Donald Trump followed this scenario. I enjoyed them though.
Donald and I are not best buds like ‘Welcome to the Machine’ and I are, so I did not have a personal connection to the sadness Trump might feel. And singing lyrics like in the song ‘Picture That’ and referencing ‘No Fucking Brains’ while showing Trumps face would be sure to make him feel like a heel if he was in attendance. So, it is probably for the best that Trump and I are not buddies and I did not get the chance to invite him to the show with me! Our non-friendship may have spared his feelings.
If you are ever in the need for a dueling guitar solo in a song, and Roger Waters is coming through town to play the ‘Us + Them’ show, you might want to attend. He will likely have ‘Pigs’ on the set-list and then your needs will be satisfied. On one side of the stage, you have a guy playing a crazy solo and then for call and response, there is another guy on the other side of a stage playing his own solos, but through a talk-box. It is incredible. If you were not at the show, I wish you were. Everyone needs to experience that once in their life! Call and response dueling guitar solos, one amazing, and the other one coming through a talk-box to make it that side of the solo just a little better than amazing! What kind of a world is this? How is my musical-emotion grain of sand in my brain supposed to handle all of that?
And get this…Roger Waters had a giant inflatable pig flying around the arena. Yes, I know that is cool, but get this: There were propellers on the pig. So, technically, it was an actual pig flying. Yes! Really! So, you know all of those things you said might happen ‘When pigs fly’? Well get ready. Things are about to get heavy in your life.
Lock the door if you need to…
So, that about wraps it up. There is much more! But, you are going to have to tackle it yourself. I can only take and hold your hand so far. I have got you here, but you are going to have to take the rest of the plunge yourself! Go and see this show…
This is Us + Them. Play this and follow the instructions below!
Make sure you know the lyrics to Us + Them. Those are going to come in handy when they song breaks down and you get to be a part of a 20,000 person Pink Floyd choir. Everyone else, like me, is going to be faking that they know the words, and mumbling something that tries to follow the audio melodies. But, you on the other hand…you… Now that you know the secret you can be singing the real lyrics and everyone around you is going to be thinking, ‘Holy crap, this guy is serious!’ Be that guy! Learn these powerful verses to Us + Them!
Learn those! Actually, learn the whole song, but be sure you learn at least those lyrics! Got them down? Great!
Now go to this show. Get ready for your mind to be melted.
Concerts are like sex…the only time as an adult that you can really lose yourself in the moment. You are not thinking about the shopping list, not about the person who owes you money, not about the bills you have to pay. You are just living in the moment, absorbing the emotion and producing your own. You really do not get anything from a concert long term, as once the show finishes you have a euphoric high that quickly fades and you probably take less than 5% of that emotion you were producing at the show with you when you leave. So, when you wake up with intertwined and frayed memories the following morning, you can not really explain how you felt at the moment of the show….you just know that something amazing happened to you the previous night. Humans do not live in the moment enough as we are always thinking about the future or reflecting on the past. Concerts and sex are almost the only times that adults are caught up in what is going on that exact moment in time.