Sometimes a guy can restore faith in something you thought was lost. Roger Waters did that last year with his album Is This the Life We Really Want?, his first studio release since 1992. In a world where new rock artists only seem to imitate gimmicks of the past and legends either flirt with new trends or provides cheap nostalgia, Waters proved that he could still make timeless music in the exact same tradition as he did on his latest album all those years ago without sounding nostalgic, and also proving he didn’t give a fuck wether or not his sound was dated, up to date or whatever. He just made the music from his heart and captured the soul his music always consisted of, and that I have felt being sadly missed in rock music in recent years. Is this the Life We Really Want? restored my faith in rock music, and its ability to remain timeless.
So when Roger Waters entered the stage on Friends Arena in Stockholm on the 18th of august 2018, I was probably among the few to long for his new songs more than the classic Pink Floyd-standards. But of course, Waters kicked off the show as the crowd wanted it to, with Speak to Me and Breathe, the opening tracks of Dark Side of the Moon. It may have been safe, but it was also very effective, and the right mood was spreading across the hall as the great band played these eternal tunes.
This smoothly moved into the instrumental classic One of These Days, cleverly taking the place of On the Run in the Dark Side 1-suite, before Time and The Great Gig in the Sky followed. It did sound great most of the time, but still I wasn’t as overwhelmed as I’d hoped. Perhaps it was the stiff audience dragging the overall experience down, just sitting there watching rather than dancing in their chairs and singing along to every tune. Also, the two choir girls didn’t give near the power I’d exepected out of the vocals in The Great Gig in the Sky, it was much to safe and smooth, and (I never thought I’d say this) way too less wailing.
After the great Welcome to the Machine, it was finally time for what I’d originally hoped to be the opening of the show: the new songs. The crowd was still playing hard to get, but Waters and his band delivered the opening trio Déjà Vu, The Last Refugee and Picture That with strenght and warmth, whilst the anger and sadness of our political world was all over the gigantic screens behind the stage. Moving into Picture That, I started to wonder if he was gonna do the entire album. I sort of wished he would, at least to show us faith in his new music rather than leaning towards his old classics, but sadly/happily (depends on how you see it), he didn’t give the impression to really have that faith. But how can you complain when the next song is the eternally beautiful Wish You Were Here?
What the last performance before a 20 minute break was going to be was obvious as soon as the sound of a helicopter swept through the arena. The power of The Happiest Days of Our Lives smashed the audience out of their chairs, and then hurled them all into the inferno of Another Brick in the Wall Part 2, and later on Part 3. On stage, school kids from Stockholm appeared to sing the eternal “We don’t need no education”-choirs, dressed in orange uniforms from Guantanamo Bay. So brilliant. And so powerful.
Still, the second half of the show was where it for me became really magical. Through great scenery and projections, the Battersea Power Station from the cover of Animals (1977) appeared in the middle of the audience. Dogs followed, giving me goosebumps with its melancholic darkness and beauty, and in Pigs (Three Different Ones), Donald Trump was given his rightful position in the crossfires. Waters held up a sign to the audience saying “Pigs rule the world”. He then flipped it around, “Fuck the pigs!”, and the audience went wild! After the great pig balloon had made its flight across the hall and absolute magic finally was upon us, the familiar sounds of a cash machine was heard and it was time for the second half of Dark Side of the Moon.
Money focused on the negatives, with greedy and power hungry leaders, and Us and Them focused on the positives, the humanity of the oppressed and the starving and above all the rebels that won’t take it anymore. It dit fit terribly well with the themes of Waters new songs and elegantly, new song Smell the Roses took the place of Any Color You Like in this suite, before Brain Damage wrapped it all up. As the whole thing reached its closure with the epilogue Eclipse, a large prism was created with the light work. The whole audience gasped for air, trembling and close to tears. It was sheer beauty.
The main show was now over and Waters turned to us to introduce the band. He took his time and felt upliftingly relaxed and improvising, before it was time for a short encore, which turned out to be a couple of short The Wall-tracks, leading us into the grande finale: Comfortably Numb. Parts of the audience stood up for this last performance, and the beauty of the music reached out to every corner of the hall. It was the end of the show, and even though I very much had liked to hear Broken Bones, my favourite song of Is This the Life We Really Want?, I left the show with a great smile on my face and warmth in my heart.
Summoning the whole experience, I felt very satisfied, despite a somewhat slow start and a stiff audience. In the end, the magic was all over the place and I was in heaven. Seeing how Waters had restored my faith in the power of rock music, he now also opened my eyes for other things. All these pictures of humanity projected on the screens, people standing up for peace and enviroment in these times… It made me feel that even though the pigs might rule the world, I found myself in the midst of a crowd of thousands applauding a 74 old british guy saying “fuck the pigs”! Roger Waters may not be a political genious and he may be a complete tinhat at some points, but he knows where his heart is, and he stands up for what he believes in. And this night he showed us that he still believe in humanity. And so, one year after he restored my faith in rock music, he sort of restored my faith in humanity. I love him eternally for that.
Who: Roger Waters
Where: Friends Arena, Stockholm
Stand out track: Dogs