Roger Waters Concert — Performance Review
Roger Waters Concert
Oracle Arena, Oakland, California
June 10, 2017
This was a very high quality, polished band in top form. It was more than a music concert, it was a visual effects display of dazzling technical prowess. The visual effects became more spectacular in the second half of the concert and took on the character of a running commentary on contemporary social and political events. The music became a backdrop to the visual show.
The visual display was impressive, but my feeling about it is: let the music speak for itself. If you want to put Donald Trump’s head on a pig, that’s fine. We can all support that, but turning “Money,” into a commentary on Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin takes the song out of its original context and grafts a meaning and a slant onto it that is foreign to its original impetus. I wouldn’t say that it didn’t work, I just think that at a music venue the audience should be given the leeway to make its own connections between the music and current events.
Now Pink Floyd has always made use of a visual component in its art. The Wall (1982), for example, was a powerful visual depiction of psychosis that is unequalled and which perfectly complemented the musical album of the same title. The visual representation was an integral extension of the music’s meaning and intent. In this case the visual commentary on the hideous Donald Trump, the pathetic conditions of abject poverty around the world, the miseries and trauma of the war in Syria, etc., are not elaborations of the original musical intent, but are rather anachronistic impositions on the music.
In other words, they are trying to do two things at once that are of a very different nature. If you want to ridicule and despise Donald Trump, or bemoan the living conditions of the wretched poor, or the hapless plight of war refugees, those are worthy topics for public presentation, but to combine them with a revue of music, most of which was composed and recorded in the 1970s, creates a cognitive clash that I am forced to question. It’s like you are using the music, which is the primary draw, to promote this secondary agenda that the audience may or may not have signed up for. I don’t think there were many people in the audience who were unsympathetic to the messages conveyed by the visual displays, but they were of a different character than the messages embodied in the music. They might have been consistent with the intent of the music, but they did not enhance the music. My opinion is: Let the audience make those connections themselves if they are so disposed.
The music was sensational. They did many of the Pink Floyd classics as well a number of later or maybe recent works that I had less familiarity with. “The Dark Side of the Moon” was a highlight, as well as “Another Brick in the Wall”, “Comfortably Numb”, “Wish You Were Here,” “Us and Them,” and many others. I didn’t keep track. The production quality and the sound were nearly equal to the commercial studio recordings. They have the art of public performance down.
There were two back-up singers, two blond girls, who were particularly good and I wanted to mention them, but unfortunately I didn’t get their names. I know the last name of one of them is ‘Wolf.’ Roger Waters introduced them at the end. I should have written them down, but I thought it would be easy to find them. However they are different from the band members listed on the website. I normally won’t mention something in a review if I can’t verify the information or be sure of names and facts, but the these two girls were so good that I wanted to make a note of them anyway. If I find out their names I will revise this.
This was a great concert and a spectacular display of visual pyrotechnics. Theater owners, the Ballet, and the Opera should take note.