Roger Waters Flies Down South

by Vernon Fitch


*** originally published in The Amazing Pudding, issue 11, 1985 ***

© copyright 1985


The Roger Waters 1985 North American tour is history. It began in Detroit Michigan on March 19th and continued through fourteen cities including Cleveland, Toronto, Buffalo, New York, Philadelphia, Worchester, Oakland, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta, Hollywood (Florida), and Lakeland. The tour was officially called "Pros and Cons Plus Some Old Pink Floyd Stuff-a multimedia extravaganza with quadraphonic sound." Roger has stated in interviews that he doesn't think people associate his name with Pink Floyd, and mentioning Pink Floyd in the name of the tour helped the association.

It was primarily Roger's idea for the tour since he felt the brief Pros and Cons tour of 1984 didn't accomplish everything he set out to do. He wanted more exposure as a solo artist so it was back out on the road. Unfortunately for Roger, his record company didn't agree that a tour was in order. After all, he had no new product out, so what was he promoting by going out on tour? When asked about this, Roger said "I never get on with corporations. I mean, CBS is a machine. They have no interest in music at all. They tried to dissuade me from touring. They just don't understand." Not exactly kind words for a company that's supposed to be promoting you. But Roger didn't let that stop him. He put together a fantastic show at no small expense. It took a crew of fifty using five semi trucks to move the equipment from gig to gig. The band he assembled were top notch musicians, primarily the musicians from the 1984 Pros and Cons tour, including: Michael Kamen, Mel Collins, Andy Newmark, Doreen Chanter and Katie Kissoon. Eric Clapton, who had been the guitarist on the 1984 tour was out on a tour of his own so a replacement had to be found. The new guitarists were Jay Stapley and Andy Fairweather Low. Snowy White, who had originally been scheduled for the tour didn't make it.

By the time I got to see the show, the tour was nearly over. Roger had saved Florida for the end, which was a reversal from the last time he was here. (The North American leg of the Animals tour began in Florida in April 1977, almost eight years to the day before this Pros and Cons concert). The concert for southern Florida was on April 13th at the Hollywood Sportatorium, a notorious place for bad acoustics. However, Roger had played there before with Pink Floyd (on June 28, 1973). He explained, "The Sportatorium is a real compromise. There's just no venue down there [in southern Florida]. I've played there before and I think it will be OK. It'll work out." He knew what he was doing.

The Hollywood Sportatorium

So it was off to the Hollywood Sportatorium. I hopped a plane to Ft. Lauderdale and was met at the airport by my associate Ed Morgan. Now, Ed realized that this was no ordinary concert since it's not every day that Roger makes a public appearance in Florida (or me, for that matter). So Ed, being the class guy that he is, set up a limousine to take us to the show. Needless to say, we arrived in style at the Sportatorium.

Once through the gate and into the lobby of the hall there were souvenir stands on both sides. There were a variety of items available for sale including a tour program, three different badges, a silver pin, a Reg poster, a Roger Waters scarf, a tour jersey and two different T-shirts. You could easily spend an entire paycheck here as all of these items were well worth having. So we satisfied our collector needs and proceeded to our seats.

The first thing I noticed upon seeing the stage was the one hundred foot wide projection screen hanging from the ceiling. It was so large that it had to be curved back on each side. This was due to the fact that the Sportatorium was not large enough inside to accommodate the screen stretched to its full length. The other thing different about this stage from a normal rock stage was the lack of P.A. speakers. The speakers were hanging in a cluster from the ceiling above the stage. Additionally, there were speaker clusters halfway back on the left side of the hall, halfway back on the right side of the hall, and directly opposite the stage in the back of the hall. Since our seats were in the middle on the floor, we were centered right in the middle of all four speaker clusters. It would be an interesting concert sitting in the the middle of a quadraphonic sound system.

Welcome to the Machine

The show began with the house lights being turned off. The projection screen then came to life with a rapidly growing silver ball on it. Machine sounds poured from all the speakers as the band made it's entrance onto the stage. The bass pulse started and the band began playing Welcome to the Machine. Roger was in a good mood, smiling as he welcomed the audience to the machine. And the band was in fine form. The animation on the screen continued throughout the song and had mechanical insects marching across a terrain, a head growing out of the ground and being severed at the neck only to lie on the ground with the skin rotting before our very eyes until only a skull remained, futuristic cities in which the buildings crack and bleed, the blood becoming a river in which the crests of the waves turn into hands groping towards the sky and, finally, as the river becomes a sea surrounding a spire, the spire ignites into a rocket which launches into space, only to reunite with the giant silver ball that appeared at the start of the film. Quite an impressive opening, bringing back memories of the 1977 Pink Floyd tour.

Following Welcome to the Machine, the band went straight into Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun. During this song there was no film so we were able to concentrate fully on the musicians. Roger played some nice acoustic guitar and Mel Collins played some interesting sax. The next song was Money, and as the sounds of cash registers rang out the projection screen lit up with pictures of coins and the various items money can buy: records, sex, lear jets, politicians, football teams, etc. Roger played some nice harmonic leads on the bass during this song, as the main bass riff for this song was either on tape or being played by another member of the band. Mel Collins played a nice sax solo and Jay Stapley a guitar lead. It was interesting to note that since this was a song David Gilmour originally sang with Pink Floyd, Roger did not attempt to sing it but let another member of the band take Dave's part.

After Money, the music stopped and Roger spoke to the audience for the first time, saying "Thank you. Nice little place you have here. Did you make it yourselves? Anyway... This is much quieter. I bet you wish some of those people would sit down. Noooo. This is called (raising his voice into a scream) This is called IF." Roger was obviously in a good mood. He proceeded to play the song If on acoustic guitar while the female vocalists Doreen Chanter and Katie Kissoon added some excellent high vocal harmonies to Roger's ballad.

Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here followed, which began with a very nice piano segment before the guitar came in. As the band broke into the piece, a movie began on the screen showing small towns and ordinary people doing ordinary things. I wasn't sure how this related to the words of the song (I would have preferred to see pictures of Syd) but it did seem to fit the laid back atmosphere. The arrangement of Wish You Were Here was changed considerably from the version done by Pink Floyd and the crowd received it well.

When Wish You Were Here ended, Roger once again addressed the masses by saying "OK. Does anybody here remember my pig? Here pig, pig, pig, pig, pig" at which point he began playing Pigs On the Wing on acoustic guitar. During the song, a film of the pig flying over London was shown. (I couldn't tell if it was Battersea Power Station as on the Animals LP). It showed the ground from the pigs point of view and was quite amusing. Roger enjoyed the crowds reaction to the proceedings.

The Final Cut

Staying on acoustic guitar, Roger went directly into Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert, Southampton Dock and The Gunners Dream. During The Gunners Dream, a film showing war, poppy fields and bombs floating down through the clouds appeared on the screen. I really enjoyed hearing these songs performed live since there never was a Final Cut tour and the album is one of my favorites. The band really came together during The Gunners Dream with sax and guitar again taking the solos.

Immediately following The Gunners Dream the Sportatorium went black before the sounds of The Wall came over the speakers. The projection screen lit up with the animation from The Wall, showing a flag waving in the breeze, and Roger, who had climbed up on a platform above the stage, was silhouetted on the screen. Roger began raving at the audience as the band broke into In The Flesh. From the platform, Roger glared down at us, reciting the words to the song and pointing out people from the audience who were " in the spotlight, he don't look right to me, get him, yes you sir, up against the Wall!" As the hammers in the movie marched across the screen, Roger marched along with them. The song concluded with a crash as the stage once again went black.

Nobody Home

Roger reappeared sitting in a chair with a light next to him and a TV on in front of him to sing Nobody Home. He seemed to sink into the chair as he switched channels on the TV, finally settling on an old Kung-Fu movie. He played the part of Pink from The Wall movie very well and it made me wonder what the movie would have been like with Roger as Pink.

After Nobody Home finished, a rhythmic drum beat began and the whole band followed into Have A Cigar, which in turn led into Another Brick In The Wall. The band really jammed out on these two songs, which brought the first set to a conclusion. Roger explained "We haven't finished. We're just going to take a twenty minute break and then come back and do another set. See you in twenty minutes."

The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking

I knew that the second set would be The Pros And Cons OF Hitch Hiking, but I wasn't expecting the unusual way it began. Roger explained a bit about the second set on a radio show earlier that day. He stated, "The beginning of The Pros And Cons is actually, we lower the scenery in front of the back projection screen which is one hundred feet by thirty feet. By the time the scenery is in front of it, you're looking at something that's one hundred and twenty feet wide, and forty-five feet high. So it's big. And it's meant to create a kind of theatrical illusion in that the stage is the bedroom within which the story of The Pros And Cons OF Hitch Hiking takes place. So that the huge TV set is what we let the audience watch. What we do is just let the audience sit and watch an old cowboy movie for about ten minutes before we come back on stage." What Roger left out was that the "old cowboy movie" is Welcome To Blood City, a Canadian psychological thriller in which scientists go about the job of picking assassins by first inducing fantasies and then watching the reactions in the victims to determine who would be the best killers. This is not exactly your everyday cowboy movie!

So as the lights dimmed, a segment of Welcome To Blood City appeared on the screen in which cowboys were blowing each other away. After about ten minutes of this, a comet appeared on the left side of the screen and appeared to crash into the stage, at which time the band appeared playing The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking.

The second set lasted about an hour with the band playing the complete story, non-stop. The entire rear projection screen was used to full effect during the story, with three different movies being shown at once. There were scenes of extreme violence (during the song Arabs With Knives And West German Skies there was a masked intruder breaking into a room with a chain saw and using the chain saw to cut flesh apart), scenes of sexual fantasy (a woman undressing in a field from three different angles), scenes of contentment (a peaceful sunset) and, of course, scenes of Hitch Hiking. Roger's explained earlier what was going on during one of the scenes at the beginning. "About three or four minutes into the program, there's a part of the dream which goes `soles of my running shoes gripping the tarmac' and we use all three screens then. It's like the window of a gambling machine, a one-armed bandit. And the movie is synched to the music so on stage we are playing to a click track to keep in time with the movie." The gambling machine would spin words (SEX) or fruits or different scenes.

During The Pros And Cons OF Hitch Hiking, the use of quadraphonic sound was more evident than in the first set, as many of the different taped parts were channeled to different parts of the hall. At one point there was even a rain storm created with the lights on stage and holophonic sound throughout the hall that was very realistic. Interestingly enough, it was raining outside the Sportatorium at this time and the roof leaked on us at precisely the time the rainstorm was happening on stage. Talk about realism!

Brain Damage

After The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking finished, the band was introduced and then left the stage only to be brought back on for the encore. Roger introduced the encore by saying "Don't harm yourself. Try not to push forward. People will be crushed. Some of them might fall over. And they might bang their heads. And the might suffer BRAIN DAMAGE." They then proceeded to play Brain Damage and Eclipse complete with Pink Floyd's Dark Side of The Moon film, which consisted of scenes in a hospital from the patients point of view. The patient was wheeled down a corridor past doctors and hospital rooms into an operating room, at which point the patient is hooked to a brain machine and the machine explodes. This is followed by scenes of other things blowing up, such as a turntable with Dark Side of The Moon playing on it, and various world leaders. Then the sun comes into view with the moon moving slowly towards it for the final moment of eclipse. As the song Eclipse comes to an end, the moon eclipses the sun and the band crashes to an apparent ending. However, the band did not stop at this point, but continued by repeating the last part of Eclipse again, and then finally crashing to an end. I was stunned by the incredible force of the music combined with the fantastic video. Although we had been in the Sportatorium for over three hours, I found myself wishing for more.

After the show I went behind the screen and saw the scaffolding that had been erected to support the three 35mm film projectors. The crew had already begun the task of dismantling it as I proceeded backstage. Roger autographed a couple of records for me before I left to fly to Lakeland for the show the following day.

Lakeland

The Lakeland show on April 14, 1985, was the final gig of the tour. It was very similar to the Sportatorium show, with the band playing the same songs. Although Roger didn't seem to be in as good a mood as he was in Hollywood. Since the Lakeland Civic Center is larger than the Sportatorium, the crew was able to set up the screen full length across the stage. In addition, scenery was lowered in front of the screen at different times during The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking, which gave the illusion of watching a TV set, looking out a window, and seeing a table in a room with a flower on it. This scenery was not able to be used in the Sportatorium the night before. The sound for both concerts was excellent due to the P.A. speakers hanging from the ceiling. When the Lakeland show ended, Roger left the hall to fly back to England. There are rumors that he will be making a video of the show in England. One can only hope.

Everyone who attended the concerts seemed to enjoy the shows. And it was an experience I will never forget. Thanks, Roger. I hope you will return again soon.