Thursday, February 22, 2007

Roger Waters Review

You'll be pleased to know I've almost recovered from the spectacular hangover that I woke up with this morning. And I can remember a fair amount of last night's events.

My plan yesterday was to get a taxi and arrive at Media City for the Roger Waters gig by about 6pm. The gig was scheduled to start at 8.30, and I had little doubt that it would do so. There was a slight problem with BetterArf - she had to be at a photo-shoot for the Dubai Drama Group's upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet. This was at the Mall of the Emirates and was due to finish at 8pm. So, just about enough time for the several cast members who were also attending the concert to get down to the venue.

However, during the afternoon, BetterArf called me to say she wasn't feeling great and was going to give the gig a miss. But she had arranged an alternative wife to accompany me for the night, as long as I promised to behave myself. Alternative wife was then put onto the phone. Sounded a lot like DubaiBilly to me! Hah.

As the day went on, our plans to meet up changed several times, and eventually he arrived at my house at 7pm. I ordered a taxi, we drank a beer or two and waited. Taxis normally arrive in about ten minutes, but by 7.30 there was no sign. So we decided to walk down to Ibn Battuta Mall - there are always stacks of taxis there, but they never ever respond to calls for bookings. I guess we arrived at Media City a bit before 8pm. Plenty of time to get in and get a few beers and then enter the arena where we found a nice place to stand near the back of the huge crowd. I'm told there were 15,000 people there: this is big for Dubai, but it is actually the smallest venue that Waters is playing on this tour.

I have to say at this point that I'm always a bit wary when attending gigs in Dubai - the organisational skills, or lack thereof, of the promoters can make or break the experience, no matter how good the performers are. Fortunately this one was organised by Richard Coram's 'The Talent Brokers', and they certainly know what they are doing. Service at the bar was rapid, the toilets were clean and plentiful, the queue to get in was rapidly processed. Actually the bar was amazing. As is normal at these kind of events, you have to buy vouchers for your drinks first. Then you queue again to actually get the stuff. But at this bar there was no queueing - there were about twenty Filipina girls, each standing behind a Fosters font. We were spoilt for choice of which one would fulfil our order! Marvellous.

In the arena itself, the stage was set. At the back of the screen there was a huge LED screen showing an image of a table top with an old-fashioned radio, an ashtray, and a whiskey bottle and glass. At 8.30 on the dot, a hand appeared on the screen, twiddled the tuning dial (soundtrack: white noise, a snatch of Abba, a bit of a news broadcast, and then: Pink Floyd). The lights came up, the band were there, and off we went! The stage was flanked by two massive video screens showing close-ups of the action.

The small print on the tickets said that photography was not allowed and cameras would be confiscated, so I left my camera at home. Actually I might have got away with bringing it - security at the entrance was fairly lax, and within the arena it was either very discrete or non-existent. But everyone and his dog was recording the show on their phones. I took a few totally terrible photos with my phone: here's one of them...

The first song concluded with a kind of Mexican wave of fireworks in front of the back screen - left to right at the top, then right to left from the bottom, and repeat.

Here's the set list (stolen from somewhere else - I was too entranced to take notes myself).

In the Flesh?
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
Shine on You Crazy Diamond
Have a Cigar
Wish You Were Here
Southampton Dock
The Fletcher Memorial Home
Perfect Sense 1 & 2
Leaving Beirut


Dark Side of the Moon:
Speak to Me/Breathe
On the Run
The Great Gig in the Sky
Us and Them
Any Colour You Like
Brain Damage

Another Brick in the Wall (part 2)
Bring the Boys Back Home
Comfortably Numb

Highlights for me were 'Leaving Beirut' and 'Perfect Sense 1 & 2'. 'Leaving Beirut' was very cleverly done. In the recorded version Roger does a voiceover that explains the story. On this tour, he doesn't do that, but there is a wonderful cartoon-style video on the big screen that explains the story and highlights some of the lyrics. The line 'not in my name Tony, you great war leader you' got the biggest cheer of the evening. 'Perfect Sense', from 'Amused to Death', is one of my absolute favourite pieces of music, especially the verse that is sung by P.P. Arnold:

When you add it all up
The tears and the marrowbone
There's an ounce of gold
And an ounce of pride in each ledger
And the Germans kill the Jews
And the Jews kill the Arabs
And the Arabs kill the hostages
And that is the news
And is it any wonder that the monkey's confused
He said Mama Mama, the President's a fool
Why do I have to keep reading these technical manuals
And the joint chiefs of staff

And the brokers on Wall Street said
Don't make us laugh, you're a smart kid
Time is linear
Memory's a stranger
History is for fools
Man is a tool in the hands

Of the great God Almighty
And they gave him command of a nuclear submarine
Sent him back in search of the Garden of Eden

All I can say is Wow. The performers were faultless, the sound, light, special effects and pyrotechnics were all stunning. I might quibble that the man himself did not connect with audience in any way, but you can't have everything. In fact, come on Keefie, it was the best gig you've ever been to right? Well, yes, says Keefie, it really was. Sensational.

Getting home was slightly problematic. I'd lost DubaiBilly near the end when I went to the loo and couldn't find him again, but we were heading off in different directions anyway and the alternative wife thing was going nowhere. I had expected to see a fleet of several thousand taxis outside the venue, but guess what? Another cock-up by Dubai Transport: not a single taxi to be had. So I started trekking over some fairly rough ground in the direction of the Hard Rock Café - there's usually a few taxis there. In my tired and emotional state I tripped over something, grazed my knee quite badly and acquired a massive bruise on my thigh. But I was feeling no pain: the phrase 'Comfortably Numb' springs to mind. I did eventually get a cab, and I suspect that Ahmad from Pakistan got a gigantic tip.

BetterArf said I was very relaxed when I got home. And I was happy too: not only have I just seen the best gig of my life, but she's bought me a crocodile*.

*I'll explain that tomorrow.

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