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roger waters // hollywood bowl // 5 oct 2006

in the flesh
set the controls for the heart of the sun
shine on you crazy diamond
have a cigar
wish you were here
southampton dock
the fletcher memorial home
perfect sense
leaving beirut
speak to me
on the run
the great gig in the sky
us and them
any colour you like
brain damage
the happiest days of our lives
another brick in the wall (part 2)
bring the boys back home
comfortably numb

arm reaching for the radio knobs up on the screen. motherfucking fuck it's vera lynn. of course it is. i know we'll meet again some sunny day. heartbreak hotel. the arm is holding a cigarette and reaching for drinks. dancing que-- my funny valentine. lights down. roger in a spotlight. "eine zwei drei vier!" in the fucking flesh. red. black. abstract hammerheads. swirling. he's pointing. he's calling out. get 'em up against the wall. i cannot believe this is happening. there's one smoking a joint. everyone cheers, they're all fucking smoking, there's a cloud over us, making me sick. the speakers behind us erupt to life, a roar rushing from right to left, deafening, tearing me out of myself. fuck. yes.

mood calms, just acoustic guitar. mother. one of the back-up vocalists with the talk backs acting as her voice. how do i settle into this, it's too big, it's too surreal, it means too much. mother did it need to be so high?

pyschadelic. red and blue and white and bubbles floating upward, feel spinny, mezmorising. as the guitars were checked before the set started i heard a distinctive two octave pitch-shift whine. "the defining moment of the show will come when the digitech wah is used," i told susan. i stand by this statement. when the guitar solo comes, out of the saxophone, blending straight in, it takes with it the air from my lungs. he leans on the wah, pressing us upward with the octaves. my head is somewhere above and my body doesn't exist. set the controls for the heart of the sun. the heart of the sun.

at the first few notes, chimey, spiraling downward, i gasp a bit. "fuck!" stars, galaxies, relaxed and floaty. dissonant riff i know so well, that became such a part of me a year ago or more, whenever it was that i couldn't turn off the repeat button. backing vocals in so loud. the whole band, young, up on the screen. roger falling onto his back, deep into waist-high wheat. syd's face. his eyes. "like black holes in the sky." shine on, you crazy diamond.

have a cigar! can't fight my smile. dirty and spewing truth i can't help but connect to. guy in front of me waving his arms and standing, having to blurt it out with roger, unable to hold back: "BY THE WAY, WHICH ONE'S PINK?"

arm up to the radio again, tuning us in to.. wish you were here. reach for my phone. acoustic again, and i'm getting the themes, the way the songs are lumped together by album. guitarist playing the lead with a slide, no bends. is it david's voice i hear in my head so loudly, or is he singing along with the solo as well? can't tell. lots of voices, people swaying in the ailes. what have we found? the same old fears.

quiet. roger breathing out lines, one by one. southampton fucking dock. i didn't not expect this. i was not prepared. at the bottom of our hearts we felt the final cut. hold my breath. will he? will he?

.. no. we move backwards instead, and part of me is relieved, the rest strangely numbed. fletcher memorial home. this is still hard enough. images to tell the story, images to represent. ".. bathed in blood." pinochet. "i just want you to know that when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace - W" bush's face. reagan's. this is so clear, this is so wide. the fletcher memorial home for colonial wasters of life and limb.

transition thematically seamless, into a song i don't know but has me gripped from the first notes. piano - calming, beautiful, amazingly moving, nearly eno-esque. astronaut on the screen, astronaut floating down from underneath the top of the stage. just idly floating above the band. that's magic. that's magic, right there. "MY MIND IS GOING." mama, mama - the president's a fool. time is linear, memory's a stranger, history's for fools. roger's got no guitar on, no bass, he's moving back and forth across the stage with his long stride, he's throwing his arms wide, commanding all of us, even way back here. he's so thin and tall, his arms strech out for miles, but there's more to him than i expected. there's a sense that he could never be anywhere else, do anything else, be anyone else. there's an aura he possesses, positively larger than his this place. there's a calmness with this - it's not manic - there's acceptance yet a hell of a fight, there's intelligence, razor-sharp. and there's joy. hold on, hold on soldier.

and here come the players
as i speak to you now, the captain
has his cross hairs zeroed in on the oil rig
he's at periscope depth
it looks to me like he's going to attack

now back to the game... he fires one... yes
there goes two, both fish are running
the rig is going into a prevent defense
will they make it? i don't think so
look out! look at that baby burn!

we zero in down on a stadium, from the sky straight down. torpedo from a submarine, slow motion. this is all feeling, the message is clear but i can't think, i can only feel. explosion, everything erupts, and as we back up and out and out and out, what we see is earth. it all makes perfect sense.

suddenly he speaks and not only am i taken out of that place, i'm taken by surprise. this is such a production i actually didn't expect for him to so casually talk to us. funny, that. introduction to leaving beirut, new song written, among other things, about his memories of a trip there with a mate, age 17, the car breaking down and hitchiking home, taken in for a night by a kind family that fed him and generously gave up their bed. cartoon on the screen, drawings with words and lyrics in speech bubbles, clearly portraying his political viewpoint, as if it wasn't obvious already. "oh george! that texas education must've fucked you up when you were very small."

dogs barking behind us. so fucking loud. no fucking way. i never would've even bothered hoping for this. sheep is my favourite from animals. roger's voice blending into the synth just like it does on the album, stealing my breath as always. but more so. more so because this is here, this is now, this is live. on the screen there's battersea power station and the pig between the chimneys, and we're above it, around it, when then before us there's a fucking actual inflatable pig moving out over the crowd. it's on strings (carried by what susan later says were men in butchers uniforms), there's writing on it, i'm trying to read it, i'm trying to absorb. "don't be led to the slaughter." IMPEACH BUSH NOW. they're winding in and out of the aisles with the little guy, i'm hearing insane laughter in my head, confetti shoots out and the pig is dancing in it, the spotlight casting a pig-shaped shadow on the stage, my eyes darting trying to take it all in. with bright knives he releaseth my soul. the strings have been cut. free at last. my mouth is open in wonder and my heart feels as though my own strings have been cut, this is fantastically unimaginable and everything it should be. up he goes, over our heads, over the trees, straight toward the moon, followed in spotlight. with my eyes above i feel a blast of heat but don't know from what. focus back on the stage, don't want to miss this, not when the guitar comes in. YESSSS. larger than life, this riff, release me from myself. suddenly as well as the dozen giant flames rising from the stage there are fiery explosions, firebombs, mushroom clouds, one on each side, hot and breathtaking. that's what it was we felt without seeing. have you heard the news? the dogs are dead. the pig just keeps going, as if the full moon is magnetic.

"we're gonna have an intermission and we'll be back in 15 minutes to play dark side of the moon."

tiny white speck on the screen growing bigger as it moves closer and you can see it's the moon. match it to the one in the sky. stare at the hollywood sign. try not to freeze to death.

"alright, are you ready to do this?" giggle at him but this is epic. this album, this experience, this man, this moment. and nick mason, now him too behind the drums, making it so i have now seen the entirety of pink floyd (sans syd) on merely two occasions.

plane coming in front of the moon, red light pointing the way. in we go, the ominous feel, the sound effects, the voices, the speakers crackling with life behind us. cinematic, dark and thoughtful, heavy yet littered with light and insight. it's too much to take, really. the guitarist is eerily similar to david gilmour in looks (from here, anyway) and voice, but his playing has more force, more rough edges, more attitude. the tone itself is nearly spot on but the sound so different, which just goes to prove it's all in the fingers. the music alone is cinematic and on top of that we have rainbows and tunnels and tunnels of rainbows. the roto-toms, impeccable ("it goes on for ages"), close up of roger's hands, muting over the pickups and clicking his pick across the strings, ticktickticktick. i'm breathless as the clocks rush forward on the screen, erupting into the first lyric of time, the point of all of this, the struggles and realisations. and then one day you find ten years have got behind you.. no one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun. everything collides for me, seeing this song live back in april in the presence of mr gilmour himself, the theme, the truth, the reason this band wormed its way deeper into me this year than it ever had before. the keening that is great gig in the sky, unbelievable yet tinged with loud voices behind us. please be quiet. surprisingly, they shut up. off into the 7/4 time, moon turns to a record, green, ching of the cash register, unmistakable riff, all bass. sax solo, time change into 4/4, both guitars soloing together (bad idea, the bends don't match up). "i dunno i was really drunk at the time." good old henry mccullough. us and them pulling us deeper, the feet on the screens portraying the underwater feel, then changing with it to back what it is he's saying. soldiers, fighter planes, tanks, people collapsing, people crying. "and who denies that's what the fighting's all about." an oil pump coinciding perfectly. bush's face. nice and subtle, roger. any colour you like. the guitar speaking. it is the vocal, the call backs, the lyric. he's throwing the neck of the guitar up, transfixing me, leaving me gaping and hyper-aware. starts and stops, wails and moans, gliding into brain damage. lit triangle above the stage now, just a white outline. floating brains on the screen. pills. pills in brains. floating pills in floating brains. the lights flicker different colours on the pyramid and as the song breaks the lights pour out, rainbow from one end, white into the other, smoke and lights, smoke and mirrors, whatever, whatever, fucking incredible. the epitome of everything, the moment of truth, everything under the sun is in tune. the plane flies back around the moon and the prism keeps burning.

deep breath. i'd be ok with walking away now. except.. encore? i didn't expect an encore. but the lights are still down, just pinpricks of cell phones. then he's back, saying he's gonna introduce the band. oh yeah, he never did. the guitarist's name is dave. how ironic is that.

helicopters, louder than life. i gasp silently and mindlessly reach for my phone again. we're going back into the wall. STAND STILL, LADDY. we sing with the kids. crosses on the screen. smile at the Dm, oh psychic intuition.

vera, oh god. strings. how the fucking fuck do i stand this. does anybody else in here feel the way i do?

no stopping, snare, i can't believe we're going here, all the way through. explosions. bring the boys back home. fucking explosions.

i'm shaking and i can't seem to stop and it's partly from the cold but it's mostly cos of this and even worse now, comfortably numb. the arm on the screen belongs to a man, motionless and smoking. that was syd, that's where this was born. i know this is the end, this is how he'll leave us, just as with david. will this hit me like it did then? will this be all it was then? it's too important, it means too much, and nothing ever happens twice. it's different. i'm different. i go in the same way but come out the other end. resignation. you cannot reach me now. fireworks on the final chord, above the stage and high into the sky, glittery and bright and breathtaking. that's the way to go, yes. one more shout of thanks and he's gone, leaving the trails of lights in our eyes.
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