Honestly, you have to love London.
On Saturday – essentially a year to the day after the Live8 concert and the scene of Pink Floyd's first public reunion in 25 years – the first day of the Hyde Park Calling Festival was underway. Far less philanthropic in sentiment, and with only a fraction of the batting average of the previous concert, it still contained one important fixture that was of key interest to this particular nerd – Roger Waters performing Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety. Having already seen Dave Gilmour this year (who was accompanied by Richard Wright) it seemed sensible to in turn go to the Waters gig (supported on drums by Nick Mason). So it's a bit like seeing Pink Floyd again, albeit split across 2 gigs.
Though the gates for the gig opened at 2pm, there was little to inspire me to head in at that time – I was having a pretty chilled afternoon sharing a few Little Creatures with Craig & Kate. In any case, there was no point in hurrying along because the organisers had publicised the fact that they would be showing the England vs. Portugal game on a screen at the back of the park, and making it along would therefore mean actually having to watch some of the football; not a very interesting prospect really. Instead I wandered in at about 7pm (later it transpired that I'd missed a gem of a moment – Sharleen Spiteri, lead vocal of Texas, got tired of competing with the football for the crowd's attention and let fly with a volley of abuse. In return, one punter let fly with… a volley ! That's right – someone threw a shoe at her, causing a tanrtum and walk off, and general consensus was that nobody really cared. They were all there for Waters anyway. As, eventually, was I.
The guy's still a relentless egomaniac trading heavily on his former achievements, but what a show. There were moments where it threatened to go to far, such as at the end of “In The Flesh” when a chaser of fireworks popped in 4 or 5 laps around the stage & pro arch – it gave the song a “hey, look how amazing this is” quality that I don't really think it needed; the music was more than enough to speak for itself.
The first set was somewhat mixed – doubtless my opinion was heavily coloured from having seen the Dave Gilmour gig recently. Waters pulled out a few common songs to Gilmour, such as Shine On You Crazy Diamond and Wish You Were Here, which I couldn't help but feel a little iffy about. I know that Waters & Gilmour wrote the songs together, but it just felt a bit odd that Waters was performing them with someone else on the pivotal instrument in these things – lead guitar. The guitarist used was Dave Kilminster, probably an excellent guitarist in his own right, but he seemed like he'd be more suited to appearing in the reserve team for a Guns & Roses gig to me. It was capable – even good – but definitely no Gilmour.
Waters also pulled out Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, which again owing to my inability to enjoy a happening in isolation to past experiences, almost seemed like an attempt to answer back to Gilmour's gigs where he pulled out Arnold Layne from the back catalogue. Arnold Layne worked really well, but Set The Controls kind of left a lot of the crowd guessing I think. Definitely a plus for the Floyd enthusiasts, but hardly the right vibe for a festival audience. A nicer surprise was a more 12 bar bluesy take on Have A Cigar, which worked nicely. Sheep had all the forward inertia that you'd hope for, and was extremely smartly done.
Initially surprisingly he included Fletcher Memorial Home in the setlist, but as it went in and the visuals accomapnying the song developed it all made more sense as an opportunity for RW to air his political laundry, with the predictable inclusion of photos of Dubya and Blair and soforth – presumably fishing for a “yeah, makes you think!” moment from some of the punters. It's easy to be a cynic, and I suppose it's important for people to take positions on issues, but I got a little sick of reading about Waters' campaigning to remove the security fence in Bethlehem and saying “This one's going to be harder to bring down” (referring to the Berlin Wall, which as we all know was singlehandedly brought down by David Hasselhoff, not Roger Waters).
After a brief interval and with the sun now having set, Waters & Co. (joined now by Nick Mason and also Waters' son, Harry) embarked upon weaving the magic of Dark Side Of The Moon. What can I say about that but that every single song was nailed perfectly. Speaker stacks were deployed throughout the crowd in order to distribute the music, obviously, however what I hadn't noticed before were *other* speakers mounted on the back of the stacks, in effect facing forwards, and it became apparent during Speak To Me that we were in fact in the middle of a giant outdoor Quadrophonic rig. Amazing sound though. Great Gig In The Sky came off really well, with just the right mix of soul, passion and in this case made you feel almost voyeuristic… but superbly done.
One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how much Nick Mason looks like Mr Spock.
Following the last beats of Eclipse the crowd went, predictably, apeshit. After the requisite bows and exits, it was always inevitable that there would be an encore… little did I expect the encore to effectively be half of The Wall – what a way to finish a gig !! Comfortably Numb finished us off, with flame projectors firing 20 feet into the sky giving a bit of an Oooh Aaaah factor. Like we needed one by that point!
Analysing all that happened it's bizarre that the meat & two veg of the concert was so captivating and well executed, and the entree and dessert had some exquisite morsels, but at the end of it there remained the feeling that it just wasn't the full 3 courses you'd hoped for. I had to feel sorry for the day's earlier acts, as the crowd swelled by a factor of about 3 between the time I arrived (after the Texas tantrum) and when RW's set started. Even so, I'll be thinking for a few minutes before deciding to go to another one of his gigs.
Hmm, well that went on rather a lot longer than planned. Best stop there & write about the other gig later on.