The experience of seeing a member of Pink Floyd is one I wasn’t sure I’d ever have; I remember telling myself when I saw ‘Easy Stars All Stars, does, Dub Side of The Moon’ live in Boomtown 2014, that this is the closest I would ever be to seeing the album performed live. Yet on Friday the 6th July I found myself standing among a sea of sixty-five thousand bearded hippies at Hyde Park for the Great British Summer Time sold out event featuring Roger Waters on his politically charged ‘Us+Them’ tour. We had already confirmed that the set list would packed full of Floyd classics.
The event itself also featured Richard Ashcroft, who I must say, as no major fan of indie rock, I wasn’t most excited about, but lo and behold as certain ‘The Verve’ classics rippled through the audience, I found myself just as jubilant as the side-burned rockers surrounding me. As well as this, comic disco duo ‘The Cuban Brothers’ gave me reason to dance and laugh hysterically whilst they delivered a top notch performance, MC-ing, DJ-ing, with some rather impressive dancing in between the main stage acts. It was clear to see around the 7:30 mark, when the smaller stages switched acts, that there wasn’t a single person in the arena who hadn’t been really anticipating this event, and this moment. Perhaps since they brought their tickets, or perhaps since they first brought Floyd’s first album ‘A Saucerful of Secrets’ in 1968. A side note on the stalls: as you were only allowed to bring in one 500ml of unopened water into the arena, I can comment on the drinks available: the shining star was the Bacardi rum cocktail truck. They kept me hydrated, happy and they tasted like a summer party.
The main stage had two larger than life plastic trees that blended into natural back drop of the Hyde Park trees, creating the illusion the stage was emerging from nature. Also an pyrotechnical impressive screen that stretched the entire width of the stage making for some really cool projections. I couldn’t think of a better song to open the show, immediately connecting everyone in the experience together for moment of history as Roger Waters comes out, the audience hear ‘Breathe’, and reply in the thousands ‘breathe in the air’.
What proceeded was a musical orgy for any Floyd fan, with classic after classic bellowing from the stage in almost original perfection. Including the stunning vocals of Waters backing singers on the ‘The Great Gig In the Sky’, the epic ‘Welcome To The Machine’, then a trio of Roger originals: ‘Déjà Vu’, ‘The Last Refugee’ and ‘Picture That’. To finish set one, we had a selection from ‘The Wall’ album: ‘The Happiest Days of Our Lives’ and closing the set: ‘Another Brick in the Wall part 1&2’ during which, Waters really hiked up the political activism in the show by being accompanied by a choir of children from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, clad in orange prison-like jumpsuits resonating with the story from Guantanamo, and the incarceration of many young black teens in America. My mind had already began to race at the imagery and iconography being used, then Waters wore a jumpsuit also with a hood over his head pretending to be tied up with his hands above his head like a torture victim, an incredibly arresting image. There was no going back from this roaring statement.
During the interval, Waters showed politically riveting slogans urging the audience to see the truth of our political state today. Particularly taking aim at the Conservatives and Republicans. He made no secret his aim was to tackle Trump and May.
The second act was incredible. Whilst the opening clatters of ‘Dogs’ echoed through the stunning surround sound, the famous pillars of Battersea Power Station arose from behind the stage, smoke and all, and to match, the epically large screen resembled the body of the station… complete with the iconic pig hanging from one chimney to the other as in the famous ‘Animals’ cover. The audience went crazy. I went crazy, it was almost too cool. As well as this, in the second set, a huge inflatable pig flew over the crowd plastered with anti-Trump slogans and with the words ‘Stay Human /or Die’ as they began to play ‘Pigs (Three Different Ones)’. While immaculate Floyd songs satisfied each Floyd fan, flashing images of Donald Trump wearing a Klu Klux Klan mask and Theresa May took residence on the screen with a selection of their most haunting quotes.
The message was becoming as clear as a punch in the face, and if this wasn’t enough, Waters himself andt his band members, during ‘Dogs’, turned around wearing rather scary pig masks and climaxing with Waters himself holding a sign that read ‘PIGS RULE THE WORLD!’. This he then turned to show ‘FUCK THE PIGS!’. It really was astonishing. I wondered how many people might have tried to stop Waters plans in the making of this show, and I admired his spirit, soul and bravery. I also greatly cherished the political education he must be giving some people, plus the outright audacity to which he presented the points. It was simply enthralling, gobsmacking, and damn right BRILLIANT.
"Resistance through together-ness” was the theme and I felt as though Roger Waters was speaking so loudly through the muted voice of thousands of people, whilst ensuring he resonated with their ideologies. Needless to say the execution of the songs were note-perfect, if not larger than life, due to the excellence in sound engineering with surround sound echoing around Hyde Park: the sounds of helicopters and roaring crowds bustled from one side of the park to the other creating a supper immersive experience. Set two reads like an activists ‘to do’ list in sign making: Dogs, Pigs, Money, Us + Them, Smell the Roses, Brain Damage and Eclipse. Before treating us to the finale (appropriately chosen ‘Comfortably Numb’, a sound reflection of the audience), Waters left the stage and came back with keffiyeh scarf. Here he said perhaps the most pertinent political statement of the show…
“I don’t know about you, but if you believe in the declaration of Human Rights 1948…void of age, nationality, race or colour, then I believe that this extends to ALL humans, and most certainly to our brothers and sisters in Palestine”. He then took the scarf and told the audience it was made by Palestinian refugees and he wore it proudly throughout the finale. It was an almost shocking statement to hear in central London, where by the powers-that-be would seemingly prefer to create an illusion that nothing is happening to the Palestinians.
It was nearly easy to forget the stunning show that was simultaniously unfolding: a feat of pyrotechnics as the 'Dark Side' prisom shone through the air in a fabulous light display potruding from the stage, and of course, a finale of fireworks erupting from Battersea, a spectacle indeed.
I felt stunned, shocked and completely in love with Roger Waters performance. I could never ever have guessed that he would combine his philanthropy so intensely with his music. Not only that, he challenged an ever-growing and scary ideal that seems to spreading like wildfire, especially in Republican, far right America. All the while public figures are shying away from political subjects in order to keep the calm. However Waters preached humanity, civility and equality for around three hours to 65,000 ecstatic Floyd fans. I for one commend his character, his show and his priorities.
Pink Floyd, who I had previously already thought to be among the best music there can be, got infinitely better, and a performance I had been longing for ever since I first heard ‘Wish You Were Here’ absolutely smashed my expectations musically, socially, politically and emotionally. Not only for a Roger Waters as ‘Pink Floyd’ performance, but actually as one of the best performances by ANYONE I have ever seen.
HATS OFF SIR, thank-you for using your voice when so many do not.
PEACE to ALL.