To tell about the performance of a legend – one I’ve been chasing for years without any luck – instills a certain degree of awe and reverence, because of which even the best words possible don’t seem to do justice to the whole thing. The magnificent evening with Roger Waters and his bandmates is a perfect example: the gig at the Arena Zagreb, in the Croatian capital, follows the huge success that the Us + Them tour has had literally everywhere, also thanks to an almost unrivaled visual compartment. The place is packed (maybe a hundred free spots with a total capacity of around twenty thousand people) and our seats are just perfect, given what Pink Floyd’s former bassist is proposing nowadays: we just have to sit down and enjoy the show, and what a show it was.
The anticipation is huge, with the pretty modern Arena Zagreb getting filled quickly until when, at 8PM sharp, everything begins with a long and almost still video: ten minutes later, all the tension melts like snow under the sun when the “Speak To Me” heartbeat starts and the band goes on stage for the subsequent “Breathe (In The Air)“. It’s an ongoing series of heart attacks: the earth-shaking “One Of These Days” brings us back to the greatest Floyd album with “Time” and “The Great Gig In The Sky“: this is one of the pivotal points in the set, with the great (and pretty much discussed by the die-hard fans) performance of the platinum-blonde duo Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig. Luckily enough, the crowd is aware of the fact that an attempt of recreating the unique Clare Torry’s recording would be pointless and probably disastrous, so the two singers get their well deserved cascade of cheers and applause for a pretty intense performance which conveys all the emotions expected with a song like this. The heavy and oppressive “Welcome To The Machine” ends this first batch of great classics, along with an original video from the ’70s and an overall anguish pervading the listeners. All of this just flew without a moment of pause, with Waters almost not speaking at all but in great shape (considering he turns 75 this year!), bringing back to life his huge artistic heritage: for this, he (and we) must thank those who find themselves filling David Gilmour’s pretty big shoes: Dave Kilminster on lead guitar (by now a kinda big name, playing the original solos with extreme accuracy) and Jonathan Wilson, also on guitar and, above all, singing all of David’s parts.
Time to go straight to recent times, with Waters’ latest solo album from last year. Four pieces are taken from “Is This The Life We Really Want?”: “Déjà Vu“, “The Last Refugee“, “Picture That” and, further in the set, “Smell The Roses“. As we all expected, the audience response was a bit less enthusiastic (obviously) but still great, with Roger thanking someone singing the new songs in the first rows. We must say, though, that the new material bears his unmistakable signature, both in terms of style, with the peculiar tension we can hear from “Animals” onward, and in terms of themes: the strong social and political criticism and the empathy that connects Waters with the less fortunate and the oppressed are still there after forty years, proving how there’s no actual separation between old and new and how gigantic the communicating power of the Seventies’ masterpieces is. The first set ends with some other classic pieces, the mandatory “Wish You Were Here” and “Another Brick In The Wall” parts 2 and 3, the remainder of the great “The Wall” tours with the notorious dancing team made by local kids. For the first time, Roger says some kind words to the audience and leaves us to a twenty minute pause, during which the screen lists everything that’s making this society more and more unbearable.
The above mentioned “Animals” is the main element of the second set, at least at the beginning: an enormous Battersea Power Station descends upon the audience, from back to front, for the marvelous “Dogs” and “Pigs“. Again, this is the time for the big ideological war against all the pigs ruling our planet, especially Donald Trump. “Trump je svinja” (“Trump is a pig“), irreverent pictures to say the least, plus quotes and explicit insults, including his giant face on the famous inflatable pig flying over the crowd. The great visuals lead us as well through “Money” and “Us And Them“, conveying the same sort of criticism towards modern society. The joint pieces “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” mark the apex of a huge performance, with lasers drawing the long awaited prism: emotions flow like a water stream at the end of a very intense evening, giving a strong sense of closure. But it’s not over yet, because after a long monologue Roger gives us “Mother” and the other, mandatory piece to be sung all together, “Comfortably Numb“, ending in a feast of solos, confetti and tears.
At the end of such an evening, it’s hard to find words for what was probably one of the top 3 concerts of my life. Maybe better than “The Wall Live”, which I didn’t have the chance to witness? Maybe, who knows. On that matter, it’s hard to deny that Waters is probably living off his gigantic past, but he’s probably one of the very few Artists, with a capital A, who can do that without having to give an explanation: there’s no need to talk much about those who indelibly marked those legendary records with their voices and solos, the enormous talent surrounding the British songwriter and the beautiful show he’s delivering since years, in different forms, are a huge tribute to an immortal band, something that I, at least, would not get tired of seeing, ever.