ROGER WATERS
Olimpiysky Sports Hall, Moscow
May 29, 2002

Back in 1989, the news of Pink Floyd coming to play in Moscow made a sensation, and the shows were highlights of the year for many rock fans that were lucky enough to attend them. Yours truly unfortunately failed to show up there due to going down with a flu, so visiting a concert of the band's ex-mainman after 13 years of wait was something like a dream come true. I of course knew Roger Waters has not released new albums for as long as 10 years and his set is mostly filled with tried and tested Pink Floyd material, but that's just what I wanted to hear, and I guess most of the 15,000 people who came to Olimpiysky that night had the same expectations. And for most of them, their dream came true.

The day before the gig, Roger gave a news conference at one of Moscow's most prestigious hotels. The small room was literally crowded with reporters and photographers of all kind, who needed no second invitation to ask a question or two. However, most of the questions were more philosophical than musical. It turned out that Roger sees the greatest danger to the world in the rise of religious dogmas that politicians use as a smoke screen to cover their unwillingness to cope with present-day problems of the people. Asked what advice he could give to a beginning musician, he said something like "follow your heart, but that's the advice I would give to any person, not only musicians." And when someone wanted to know whether he is still hoping to get the name Pink Floyd back, he said he never wanted to get this name, he only wanted to forbid others to use it. Speaking about Pink Floyd, Roger said that he had had a dinner with Nick Mason recently, and that Rick Wright had come to see his show in the United States. However he hasn't seen David Gilmour for a very long time, he said.

The question presented by yours truly resulted in Roger's longest monologue of the entire news conference. Being a great fan of the "Radio KAOS" album, I wanted to know why he didn't perform anything from that record on the current tour and whether it was because he thought the hope that the album embodied had been in vain. To this Roger replied that he still had the hope embodied in the album, especially in its last song "The Tide Is Turning." He said he still believed that the technocratic civilization would collapse one day because of an excessive amount of information making politicians unable to hide their infamous deeds. He admitted, however, that for the 17 years since the Live Aid, about which the song was written, not much had changed.

In general, Mr. Waters made an impression of a very wise man who knew the answers to nearly every question that he had ever addressed to himself. He obviously enjoyed speaking to people, but what he didn't enjoy was being constantly in front of no less than 30 cameras. The only question that puzzled him was what he needed to be happy in addition to creating and performing music. He thought for a while and said that he needed an ability to talk to people he loved and get his message through, which was the hardest thing of all, according to him.

Making other people understand what you want to say turned indeed difficult the following night. I cannot but mention here that I had to battle with the police for about one hour to gain access to the floor. Even though I passed the outer controls easily, I was stopped at the last gate and denied entrance because of not having a reporter's ID. Which is stupid by definition, for I don't know any representative of an electronic media who has such a paper. Describing my way in would be too long and boring, there is nothing I want to say about this than another "f**k you" to the stupid Moscow police. Apparently the trip to Wacken made me used to proper treatment, which is nowhere to be found in the country where I am unfortunate to come from.

When I finally found myself in front of the stage, Mr. Waters was playing the fourth song of the set, which was "Mother" from the legendary "The Wall" album. It took some time for me to calm down and start feeling the magic of the performance, but when I got it, it was there until the end of that evening. The first thing I have to mention is the incredibly powerful sound coming from four huge sets of speakers, two of them suspended in front of the audience and the other two somewhere in the back, which created a quadrophonic effect, something I had never experienced before. I can't say the sound was particularly clear, for lead guitars and vocals were sometimes too loud and painful for my ears, but the power of the sound waves was just enormous. Second, Roger is supported by an incredible band featuring two lead guitarists, the legendary Andy Fairweather-Low on bass and rhythm guitar, a drummer, a saxophone player, two keboardists including Roger's son Harry and three female backing vocalists. All of them are extremely competent and the quality of the performance can easily match that of Pink Floyd's most ambitious tours of the 1980s and 1990s.

In addition to music, Waters used various psychedelic projections depicted on a huge screen behind the musicians. These projections are an integral part of the show, they help the listener to catch the mood of the songs or rather help put him in a psychedelic trance during epics such as "Dogs", that was performed in full and lasted for about 17 minutes, or "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun", the oldest tune in the set, with the trademark 1960s mood but present-day sound.

For me the first part of the set reached its highest point with the breathtaking performance of almost the entire album "Wish You Were Here", with only one song of the record omitted. During parts 1-5 of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" projections depicted the face of Syd Barrett which was split into small pieces towards the end of the song. The follow up, "Welcome To The Machine", was the best song in the set, in my opinion, with cartoon projections bringing it to an even higher level. "Wish You Were Here" sounded great as usual - it is very difficult to spoil such a simple and touching song. After that the band returned to "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and pieces of Syd's face were put back together on the screen.

A 20-minute break announced after that was badmouthed by many as spoiling the mood of the performance. But I guess it was necessary for the band to take a rest before returning with another 75 minutes of music. Part two started with the most memorable tunes off the legendary "Dark Side Of The Moon", I mean, "Breathe", "Time" and "Money". The latter was especially spectacular by solos of all three guitarists, including the only solo in the entire set performed by Andy Fairweather-Low which was simply fantastic. By the way, Waters did not sing the song, he left the role to guitarist Chester Kamen who also did some singing on "Dogs" and "Time". Chester has a very nice voice that is higher than Roger's and David Gilmour's, but it fits the music nicely.

The next to be performed were tracks from Waters' solo releases "The Pros And Cons Of Hitch-Hiking" and "Amused To Death". These songs are quite different from Pink Floyd for they shift the main stress from music to lyrics, which most of the people in the hall had no idea about. And even though I heard people saying after the show that these five tracks were the highlights performed by Waters and the band much more enthusiastically than the rest of the set, my own preference is still older Floyd classics. Nevertheless, I cannot but admit that the tunes were extremely emotional and very deep, especially "Amused To Death", an anti-television anthem complete with the projected picture of a monkey in front of a TV screen.

Towards the end of the set Roger delivered three more classic Floyd tunes - "Brain Damage", "Eclipse" and "Comfortably Numb". Maybe I'm not the one to judge, but from the point of view of a man in the audience I got an impression that Waters indeed enjoyed the show and the response he was getting from the crowd. Indeed, I have no idea how anyone can bang his head, shout out loud and go crazy in any other way to this kind of music, which is said to be typical for American shows of the artist. In Moscow, the people were listening and only making noise (very much noise!) in between the songs and after recognizing some tune by the beginning. So it was natural that after performing "Comfortably Numb" and leaving the stage, Roger returned for an encore. I was expecting him to play "Each Small Candle", like he did on the live CD, but he opted for an even newer song called "Flickering Flame" that is taken off his greatest-hits package released in April 2002. Unfortunately, this was the least impressive song of the night, just a typical rock ballad, nothing special. It did not spoil the impression of the show, but I am now much less eager to hear Roger's next solo album (if he has one someday).

To sum it all up, this was more than a concert, it was a cultural event of the scale that by far exceeds the limits of rock music. You need not be a Pink Floyd fan or a rock fan to enjoy the show, what you need is a taste for good music, and Roger's songs will find the way to your heart. For me it could have been one of the best shows I have seen this year, if not for the stupid idiots in the police that once again succeeded in ruining a major part of my impressions of the gig.

Set list:

1.In The Flesh?
2.The Happiset Days Of Our Lives
3.Another Brick In The Wall Part 2
4.Mother
5.Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert
6.Southampton Dock
7.Pigs On The Wing 1
8.Dogs
9.Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun
10.Shine On Your Crazy Diamond Parts 1-5 (1975)
11.Welcome To The Machine
12.Wish You Were Here
13.Shine On Your Crazy Diamond Parts 6-8
14.Speak To Me
15.Breathe (In The Air)
16.Time
17.Money
18.The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking Part 11 (AKA 5:06 AM - Every Stranger's Eyes)
19.Perfect Sense
20.The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range
21.It's A Miracle
22.Amused To Death
23.Brain Damage
24. Eclipse
25.Comfortably Numb
26.Flickering Flame

Roman The Maniac
MetalKings.com

Special thanks to Margarita Nekrasova (SAV Entertainment) for accreditation at the gig and news conference

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