The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

My Argument with the Pig


I attended a Roger Waters concert last year; I even persuaded my wife to come along. I had a cold at the time, but it turns out that beer is an excellent cough suppressant.

The Man

Mr. Waters, whom we remember as the tall, horse-faced fellow looming in the back of old Pink Floyd group photos, is now startlingly muscled. His demeanor has also changed; no longer a poet of gloom and angst, he is now clearly a man of the world, visibly enjoying his stardom.


A trio of black women supplied the wailing background vocals for such songs as "Great Gig in the Sky" [which, despite cleaving faithfully to the album version, somehow seemed even longer than usual]. One also sang the part of "Mother" -- a weirdly naturalistic touch, given how accustomed we are to David Gilmour's puissant ersatz Mother. The effect was a less dramatic, more ordinary sound; it was not helped by the singer's inability to reach the lowest notes of the song.

Mama's gonna make all of your nightmares come true
Mama's gonna put all of her fears into you


David Kilminster played an excellent lead guitar. He also showed a physical resemblance to Mr. Gilmour, even to the point of showing the same jowliness.

The Pig Wins

The reputedly terrifying Pink Floyd Pig has been replaced by a relative of the helium-filled indoor blimps sold at hobby shops. Presumably under remote control, it drifted slowly out of the shadows in stage left. It appeared to be about twelve feet long.

As the pig emerged into the stage lights, it became apparent that it had been vandalized: various anti-war and anti-American slogans were crudely daubed onto its pink hide. It bobbed gently near the front of the stage for some time, not looking like a formidable debating opponent. But after fifteen minutes or so, it turned to moon the audience and showed one haunch saying "Habeas Corpus Matters". And the pig was right.

Leaving Something, Anyway

Mr. Waters performed only two solo songs, but one of them was the album-length Leaving Beirut. The song is long but not varied: this is not "Atom Heart Mother Suite". I believe it is subtitled "This would be a good time to get a beer". Those willing to read the linked lyrics will recall the apostrophe used so powerfully in The Final Cut:

What have we done? Maggie, what have we done?
Here the trick is repeated, but the effect is quite different. I could not resist some malicious good cheer at the thought of earnest leftists, predisposed to agree with the song's political points, trying against all odds to enjoy the song itself. This cannot be accomplished. It makes "The Fletcher Memorial Home" sound like "Comfortably Numb".


Nick Mason arrived on stage, to fanfare, after the intermission. Weirdly, when "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" was played as an encore, he sat passively through its climax, as if drums were not needed for that bit.

"Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" was a nice nod to back-catalog fanatics, though the elegiac video displays of the middle-class English youngsters at play were a distraction; presumably they have some personal resonance for Mr. Waters.

To my amazement, the set included "Southampton Dock", the best antiwar song ever.

[Other Tales from Reality.]