Live: Roger Waters @ MVP Arena, 07/20/2022

ALBANY – Roger Waters brought his two-year-Covid-delayed This is Not a Drill tour to the MVP Arena Wednesday night. Much to the delight of the healthy crowd in attendance, he brought with him what you would expect – psychedelic visuals, disturbing animation, high-quality audio, a solid band, lasers, a floating pig, and (of course) nearly fifty years worth of just stunning and legendary songs.

Roger Waters

Waters, at 78, is a true top-tier classic rock legend the likes of which rather infrequently pass through our venues. Their shows are events by definition; they attract a crowd that literally grew up on their music. They are beloved before the first note rings out, and it takes a conscious effort to look at their performances objectively.

Against that backdrop, last night’s performance was impressive in a lot of ways. Unfailingly interesting. Frequently thought-provoking. Occasionally inspired. But still, at the end of the day, a little hit-or-miss, at least when measured against his own high bar. His last area performance, in 2017, was a different permutation of largely the same thing. And it was spellbinding, from start-to-finish. In contrast, while last night had its share of impressive (and sometimes unexpected) highs, they were interspersed with periods of waning intensity and a few stiff renditions.

The opening few songs kind of set the tone. Leading off with a completely reworked “Comfortably Numb”, against a visual backdrop of an apocalyptic hellscape, was undeniably interesting. Its deemphasis of the guitar part (in favor of organ) no longer has you awkwardly feeling the absence of ex-bandmate David Gilmour. But was it better? Probably not. This led into the always reliable “The Happiest Days of Our Lives”/”Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2″/”Another Brick in the Wall, Part 3” sequence. This is almost always electrifying. Last night it felt solid, and familiar. But not spectacular.

From here, it was time to hit a few solo numbers and to up the overtness of the politics. The last couple of tours (in particular) have generated a lot of press and conversation around Roger’s politics, the appropriateness of it in his shows, etc. I don’t really understand this. As a soloist, and as Pink Floyd’s lyricist, Waters has been in your face going back to the 70s. Animals, The Wall (especially as fleshed out in the movie), bashing on Reagan and Thatcher on The Final Cut…none of this is really new. The politics is part of his DNA and his art, and always has been. If you’re “surprised” at the politics of a Waters show then you just aren’t paying attention. I would say the same about, say, a Ted Nugent show.

If you’re one of those ‘I love Pink Floyd but I can’t stand Roger’s politics people,’ you might do well to fuck off to the bar right now.

Roger Waters, on the screen immediately before taking the stage

“The Powers That Be” was played against the visual backdrop of multiple victims from around the world who were killed for “being black”. “The Bravery of Being Out of Range” at one point cycled through visuals of each president (Republican and Democrat) since Reagan, labeling each a “war criminal” and listing the reasons why. The picture of Biden had the caption “just getting started”. A new song called “The Bar” would be played both here and at the end of the concert, evidently a current favorite of his. He explained it as an allegory for a place where “like minded people can get together to express an honest opinion”. Kind of like a Roger Waters’ concert…

So how was the music? It was at this point I realized how hard it was to zero in on individual musical performances. This concert was “in the round” (actually, in the shape of a cross). I am not a fan of this setup. While giving any given concertgoer a few opportunities of “up close” time with each band member, you can’t control when you can actually observe them, and when you’re seeing their back off in the distance. Case in point: “Have a Cigar” was the first song that really lit up musically for me, in particular the guitar part. But there were five people onstage that played guitar, i couldn’t tell who it was that was shredding. Whoever it was, it was awesome.

The first set closed out with a touching “Wish You Were Here” tribute to Syd Barrett, followed by “Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Pts 6-9”, which had the whole band really catching fire for the first time. I could have done with a lot fewer words being typed out over my head, and would have appreciated just taking in the musicality of this one. But a minor quibble. “Sheep” kept it (very) strong as the set closer, and had Waters connecting more viscerally with the crowd.

Roger Waters

Things only got better from here. The second set opened with Waters dressed as the fascist from The Wall, and leading the band through an exciting 1-2 punch of “In the Flesh” and “Run like Hell”. This was the peak of the concert from an excitement level, not only for the crowd but seemingly for Waters too. It’s a little unsettling seeing people feverishly giving the cross-arm and pseudo-Nazi salutes with such vigor…not really sure what to make of that.

Anybody who treated the next “solo numbers” as a bathroom break missed out. Both “Deja Vu” and “Is This the Life We Really Want” were highlights of the night, in no small part because Roger seemed to be really into playing them. These were followed by a five-song sequence from The Dark Side of the Moon, starting off with “Money”. Through this fan favorite, and into “Us and Them” and especially “Any Colour You Like”, Waters stepped back and let the band be a band. Content not even to have to sing, the very capable 9-piece band finally got some much-deserved sunlight (they would not be introduced until they were walking off the stage). I get it – everybody in the room is here to see Roger. But this selfless interlude really brought something to the concert; it was suddenly (solely) about the music again. I could have taken more of that.

Special kudos for choosing the “really, really fucking gloomy” “Two Suns in the Sunset” as a very-late-set closer. This cut from the seriously underrated The Final Cut was the de facto bookend for the concert – tying the apocalyptic imagery that began with “Comfortably Numb” with exactly how that might come about. It is indeed gloomy, supremely so. But so is Roger, and for this listener, that bold choice was perfect.

Roger Waters

Waters did follow that with a low-key reprise of “The Bar”. It’s a fine enough song, though I don’t think it’s quite as good as Waters seems to think it is. The actual concert closer was “Outside the Wall”, played with accordion, marching drum, and other portable instruments as the entire band slowly marched off the stage (and got introduced).

I’ve seen Roger Waters multiple times over the years, and he remains a vibrant, larger-than-life figure. At 78, he can still excite on the stage and shows no sign of mellowing out or any other such nonsense. Was this the best concert he’s ever put on? No. But he’s still excited by his newest material, and he’s still rearranging much-beloved classics he could instead phone it in for. He’s still angry, and he’s still going to tell you about it. Those are the hallmarks of a very relevant musician. And 57 years into a legendary musical career, that is something to behold.

THE BAND

  • Dave Kilminster – guitars
  • Jon Carin – keyboards and guitars
  • Jonathan Wilson – guitars & vocals
  • Joey Waronker – drums
  • Gus Seyffert – guitars & bass
  • Robert Walter – keyboards
  • Amanda Belair – vocals
  • Shanay Johnson – vocals
  • Seamus Blake – saxophone

Photo Gallery by Jim Gilbert

16 Comments
  1. WIlliam says

    “I could have done with a lot fewer words being typed out over my head, and would have appreciated just taking in the musicality”

    This is teh best summary of the entire concert. Honestly it was hard to even see the band much of the time, as the stage was kept dark and the huge video screens loomed over it. Noone comes to a Roger Waters concert to watch video for heaven’s sake

  2. John says

    You’re leaving out the part where he was 35 minutes late to start, butchered Comfortably Numb because he left out the band and with it, no solos, and had no encore. The video screen was very distracting as well. As much as I wanted to focus on him and the band, my attention was pulled back onto the damn screen the whole time. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. And I know waters is political. I knew that going in. But last night seemed a little overkill. Even songs that we all know weren’t written in a political fashion, like Us & Them and Money, were politicized. I don’t mind the politics, but it seemed to overshadow the music.

  3. Bert says

    I’m late to the game – first Waters show, but I was floored by the staging, sound, and performance. I totally agree the band could have been featured more with some video presence to overcome the enormity of the video production but rarely does a concert leave me thinking the way Waters’ production did last night.

  4. Mark Hudson says

    Thoughtful, articulate and well balanced review. And going to a Roger Waters show and complaining about the politics is like going to a hockey game and getting upset when a fight breaks out ….

  5. Javide says

    In England Waters would be characterized as a “dodgy old crank” for his dystopian ramblings. However his music conveys them in a palatable form. The production levels comprising the stage and visual displays were much to be admired. Waters’ work has always conveyed a potent combination of conceptual and visual images to present his vision of the world he (we?) occupies. The music helps the medicine go down and Waters is quite adept at composing each songs arrangement, utilizing the extended group of instrumentalists and vocalists, to extract maximum emotional impact.
    As for his politics, we know what he passionately dislikes, but he offers no remedy other than implied incitement to riot. Hence, a dodgy old crank.

  6. James Ryan says

    Cogent and insightful review…

  7. Mark Rohrer says

    I will be in attendance at Roger Waters show on July 30. In my lifetime, I have been to two Pink Floyd concerts, and attended Roger Waters ‘The Wall’ tour. ALL were superb! Looking forward to the show! And, in October, I will be attending Nick Mason’s ‘A Saucerful of Secrets’ show. I LOVE Pink Floyd!!

  8. Douglas says

    Very nice analysis. Lol, the comment about, Us and Them and Money not being political made me actually laugh out loud… Ummm, have you listened to the lyrics or ever heard an interview with Roger? The show started “late” because the vast majority of the crowd was still trying to get into the arena. The on the venue, not the performer. I get the solos of Comfortably Numb are the highlights. Dave’s not on the tour. I thought it was brilliant to start the show with it, and to change the arrangement to address the fact that Dave’s not on the tour. We all know the solos note for note. Stream the song if you need to hear the guitar solos.

  9. Paul M says

    Thanks for your review and photos. Some bigger cities no longer seem to want to publish concert reviews, which is a shame. Society is too engrossed with stupid viral content instead of real life – contributing to visceral experiences, real jobs and tourism in your own backyard.

  10. Elyse Gilbert says

    I haven’t seen Roger perform live yet. About a week ago, I called the MVP Arena and asked if I could speak to someone who would give me the approval to set up a small table with free booklets to support Julian Assange. I was transferred to a voicemail and left a message that was never returned. Roger is a personal friend and huge supporter of Assange and would’ve given his approval of a support table in the hall…
    A little history, I grew up listening to Pink Floyd but never got the chance to go to one of their concerts. Now, being older and also a political activist, I see how important someone with both the name recognition and finances means to the unheard voices especially with the dangerous times globally that we all are faced with.
    I am, however, going to get a COMP ticket to see Roger at the NYC show the end of August and have been told by the large group of Assange supporters in NYC that he will give a shout out about the Assange table in the hall we will be at during intermission. I know facing the sorry state of politics is disturbing to many people as some just cannot digest these facts but here we all are.
    Point of information, while at the People’s Forum for another Assange event, Roger had just received an email from Mark Zuckerberg CEO of FB offering him a very large amount of money to buy the rights to, “Another Brick in the Wall”, Roger ripped it up in front of this audience and mentioned that Zuckerberg can go fuck off. To which he got a standing ovation. It was a small venue and Waters was there to speak, not perform.
    In closing, we all know there are plenty of people who have made a name for themselves and with it a lot of money too. But, at 78 years old, Roger Waters chooses to express, educate, inform and gather people into the reality of what should matter most as a human race not just a flashy show. I applaud his efforts greatly.

  11. Jorge Barraza says

    Excellent review makes me crave Floyd

  12. Jessie Cantor says

    Politics aside, I knew some old friends who years ago met Mr. Roger Waters at a meet and greet after the show. They said he was, “the most unfriendliest asshole” they ever met in their lives. It was a very sad and regrettable experience as the Floyd was one of their most favorite bands of all time. It’s important to note that, politically speaking, they think just like Roger too.
    I wouldn’t pay a dime to see this old communist cuck.

  13. Peter Chios says

    Saw both shows in Toronto 23rd time seeing Roger since 1984 Pros and Cons.The Epitome of live Shows…Pink Floyd the Epitome of Music..☮️👊🎼

  14. Toast says

    Interesting how criticism of mass murders and criticism of taking a woman’s rights are viewed as “un-American”.
    But anti-Biden chants are viewed as OK?
    “We salute the rank.”
    #hypocrites

  15. Bruce C Long says

    I went to see classic music, not an anti-American political rally. It really stunk, never again. If you ask me Pink Floyd are the true pigs on a wing.

  16. Richard says

    Thanks for the honest assessment of the show. It wasn’t Water’s best but was worthy. The “in the round” set was disappointing not only because the band was often out of view, but also because the projection screens had to be above the band rather than behind them, thus often drawing your attention away from the stage in order to read the many written messages above. Although the rendition of Comfortably Numb was pleasantly eerie, without the iconic guitar solo it was not his best performance. Did Water’s ego lead him to take out Gilmour’s glorious solo? And was it his ego causing him to double down on the extent of political messages as backlash from criticism during the last tour? Granted, he wrote some fantastic, thought-provoking lyrics, but most people go to concerts for the music, not for a recital.

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