Us + Them
I didn’t think I ever needed to hear another Roger Waters solo album – and then, in 2017, he released Is This The Life We Really Want? And I got all gushy, and sentimental – and Roger sorta did too; though of course he was also spiky and wound-up and sounding off about refugees and the ugliness of the Trump regime. And though I can go months without listening to any Floyd and years (“fucking years”) without hearing any of Waters’ solo material I realised on first listen to that new set of songs the indelible mark of his legacy – the impact of his words and the way he frames them musically. It’s a spell I fall back under.
He then took the new songs out for a stroll, merging them with the herd of all those old classics – forever battling Gilmour as the separate frontmen of Floyd doing their own jukebox versions of the hits to stadiums in equal awe of the tunes and the lazer light shows.
So for his umpteenth live concert recording Waters goes for the gold in the hills. And mostly delivers. I watched the concert film recently and liked it. A lot. Didn’t expect to at all but there was something rather emotional about those dark, anti-capitalist anthems under the thumb of Trump; something about songs of alienation in a Covid landscape. Yes, yes, I know that it’s easy to call Waters a hypocrite or to run the other direction from either his politics or just his way of expressing his viewpoint, but to me the pageantry of Pink Floyd catches me childlike – hearing a great version of a Floyd song reminds me as much of the music as it does of standing out in my backyard trying to catch a glimpse of Halley’s Comet. It’s a similar kind of magic for me – and bound to a similar time. The shape of my life then.
So, the soundtrack album of the concert film is available now – and I love it.
The key songs from Is This The Life still feel very emotional and prescient. Particularly The Last Refugee. And they’re perfectly placed in the middle of a set that starts with what feels like a Dark Side medley, hit after hit – and somehow One Of These Days feels like it’s been made to fit right into that album. Then it’s to some new songs – and Welcome To The Machine and Wish You Were Here, ahead of a short “Wall medley” which is actually just Happiest days segueing into Brick In The Wall Parts 2 and 3. The other huge highlight is the material from 1977’s Animals, to me it’s the shining gem from the Stadium Years of Floyd. It’s the darkest piece. And back to back Dogs and Pigs lose nothing of their bite (if you’ll pardon that pun).
Then it’s back to Dark Side to cap the second half of the album’s run and end the show with towering anthems. At this point Roger seems to have given Shine On You Crazy Diamond to David Gilmour, he’s letting him win that one small argument, if no others.
And so, yeah, you can take sides all you want, you can hate the idea of Roger Waters all you want – I sometimes still do – but the songs, those glorious songs, they still shine out strong for me. And though I won’t be playing this loads I found far more to like here than I ever could have expected. That’s all.