June 22, 2006
LOOKING FROM THE OTHER SIDE
June 22nd was the day of Roger Waters’ working visit to Israel. One of the PINK FLOYD founders keeps on making history with no regards as what the others think of it. He scored once more – or more than once.
The moon from the earthlings’ point of view has two sides: visible light one and the other that’s dark. So has Roger Waters – as, perhaps, all of us. Yet this contrast between the light and the dark is supposedly more distinct when you’re a genius. It was Waters’ conceptualism that led PINK FLOYD to glory and then brought them down, a streak that overrode the music and forced it out of the collective compositions. As a result, the ensemble parted ways with their leader – his ego was too big. For Roger, music is more than just a pleasant sequence of sounds; it’s a way of expressing his world-view, which is possibly right. But is it right to impose his world-view on the rest of the world? Of course, you can refuse to listen to Waters – nobody’s refused the freedom in choosing – but when the gig is a sort of historic event, there”s no real choice. And fifty thousand Israelis have made the choice.
The most important concert in the country’s history? It very well might be such, and in the field conditions, only THE STONES and Paul McCartney could have drawn more punters than Waters did. FLOYD are out of question as, according to David Gilmour, there’ll be no more albums or tours. So what Roger brought on was the closest approximation to PINK FLOYD. The living history, in other words. Still, it wasn’t only those who wanted to experience it live that touched the history but the innocent people too: the artist’s political whim resulted in hours-long traffic jams. Originally, the perfiormance was planned to be taking place in Tel Aviv but the Englishman wanted to sing where both the Jews and the Arabs live, and the concert had been relocated not to Jaffo, which seemed logical as it’s a a part of Tel Aviv now, but to the Neve Shalom village, half-way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, near one of the Israel’s main highways. It was a field, a real field, that had to be cleared out of crops.
The listeners, too, were subject to suchlike clearing – or was it brain-washing? The brilliance of the show and the music cannot be denied as well as the concert’s political stance. The celebration of art has become the celebration of the left. It’s hard to blame Roger for the exploitation of the moment, he’s always been like this, and it was expected. The expectations were exceeded, musically. There are three magnificent guitarists in Waters’ blistering band these days: Snowy White, a FLOYD touring linchpin, the young Dave Kilminster who’s making a steady career, having played previously with John Wetton, Ken Hensley and Keith Emerson, and Andy Fairweather-Low humbly standing behind Roger’s back as he did for Eric Clapton, George Harrison and many others. The guitar players also sang, as the main man sometimes – like in “Money” – didn’t lend his voice to the songs sticking, though, to the bass part.
The show’s scale, with its great fires and newly-shot videos, was impressive – and so was its relevance. It’s a fashionable thing now to take an entire album on stage, and Waters who reproduces the whole of “Dark Side Of The Moon” only keeps to the tendency. But the album’s songs and songs from the other records that are represented in Roger’s current set sound actual. Very actual – be it “Breathe”, as snatching air in the thickness of the crowd was difficult, anti-war “Bring The Boys Back Home” or the aforementioned “Money” as Waters, to quote “Have A Cigar”, is riding the gravy train after FLOYD’s Live 8 triumph. There’s no new songs in his repertoire, unlike in Gilmour’s who has a new album out.
Well, amongst a few solo numbers there was a recent single “Leaving Beirut” inspired in equal measures by the war in Iraq and the Middle East adventure that Roger embarked on in 1961. Hospitality of the Arab family – it’s not known whether they were Christians or Muslims – who took the youngster in their home for the night had changed his life, in the artist’s own words, forever. Therefore, the sympathy for the Arabs. As for the Jews… This scribe, who’s heard the recording of one of the previous Waters’ concerts before the Israeli one, guessed, in all his naivete, that at least in Israel the veteran would change the lyrics in the opening “In The Flesh” which, out of “The Wall” context, sounds very fascist:
“That one looks Jewish!
And that one’s a coon!
If I had my way,
I’d have all of you shot!”
But no, Roger didn’t change a thing. And why if there’s a real wall in the country, and Waters, having just arrived in Holy Land, hurried up there to leave his graffitti autograph on it? “We don’t need no thought control”, he wrote. He didn’t seem to think that thought control exists on the other side of the wall. Yet Roger didn’t want to play on the other side, and he didn’t go to Lebanon or Morocco as other Arab-loving performers do. Again why, if the Israeli audience seemed to know all the words to sing along to, but not their meaning; otherwise, they wouldn’t have cheered not only another attack on George Bush but also the mention of the Jews in that extract quoted above?
The celebration of the music has become the celebration of the left – infectious left, with Roger Waters the source of the infection. He was too convincing because his songs are still relevant. That’s the force of art. That’s the sign of a genius – and who can compete with Roger in this field? Not even Syd Barrett who’s immortalized in the electric wonder of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and the acoustic anguish which is “Wish You Were Here”, and who appeared on the big screen during “Set Controls For The Heart Of The Sun”. It was only in this magnetic sunny mantra that Waters looked the real self and showed his hidden, secret, bright side. Miracles do happen…