Concert review: Roger Waters, Telenor Arena: Arguing monster in free fall

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Former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters in Telenor Arena on Tuesday. Photo: Naina Helén Jåma / VG

In Roger Waters’ self-righteous and pompous world, everyone is mindless sheep and corrupt idiots. Except for himself, then.

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Say what you will about Roger Waters. But the former Pink Floyd boss has at least perfected one thing since he let the parent band sail its own seas – albeit after trying to dissolve it via legal means – almost 40 years ago: the art of giving a flat fuck in what someone had to think about him.

The man will turn 80 later this year, without age pretending to rein in either his political commitment or his quarrelsome temper. In 2023, it feels strictly more likely to see him as an activist than as an artist, and Waters’ still has his libelous power intact.

Photo: Naina Helén Jåma / VG

His geopolitical views on Russia’s “provoked” invasion of Ukraine have met with (deserved) backlash, and recently the upcoming May concert in Frankfurt was canceled amid accusations of anti-Semitism (a decision he has, with good reason, taken forward in the German legal system).

With this in mind, the 79-year-old is surprisingly uncompromising from a purely musical perspective: The majority of the songs on the This Is Not A Drill tour are taken from Pink Floyd’s commercial heyday, as it extends from “The Dark Side of the Moon” to “The Wall”. Maybe it’s about taking ultimate ownership of this universe – or about sweetening the bitter message enough for it to penetrate.

Photo: Naina Helén Jåma / VG

At the first of two concerts in Telenor Arena, there is – as expected – a certain predominance among those present who probably fell heavily for these potent depictions of alienation when they hit the world in the 70s. But the younger guard gradually reveals itself.

However, the queue to enter the arena is long and unclear, both through security and ticket control, even for those of us who turn up outside the concrete hell at Fornebu in a presumptively reasonable time.

In a pre-recorded message, Waters makes it clear that anyone who might be there for the sake of the music, and who might have trouble swallowing his skin and hair world view, can “fuck off to the bar”. Useful information, although there are persistent rumors that the beer is out of stock well before the start of the concert.

Photo: Naina Helén Jåma / VG

The first five songs are all taken from “The Wall”. “Comfortably Numb” begins with images of urban post-apocalypse as visual accompaniment, without any indication that it is a live version we are hearing. It’s a surprisingly drowsy – and as the sound effects and sobbing guest vocals roll in – tacky start to the evening.

“Another Brick In The Wall 2 & 3” and “The Powers That Be” reveal early on the problem with criticism of fascism that imitates the aesthetics of fascism: They are played competently, but conveyed cripplingly obvious, and Roger Waters is continuously drowning in his own propaganda machinery.

“The Bravery of Being Out of Range” is at least a moving song, but Waters doesn’t trust the audience – here, montages of US presidents as war criminals are needed to hammer home the point.

Photo: Naina Helén Jåma / VG

The new song “The Bar” gets a long introduction, where Waters succeeds in combining humor and warmth with a fiery post for Julian Assange. “The smell of napalm with the cornflakes” is so far a clever and striking text line, at least accompanied by sober black and white images from an Indian reservation, but the song itself leaves no mark.

“Have A Cigar” is a pure nostalgia trip where all traces of David Gilmour have been removed from the iconography with surgical precision. “Wish You Were Here” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” are, as you know, tributes to Pink Floyd’s original leading star Syd Barrett, but in this context are at least as much about placing Waters himself at the very top of the band’s mythology.

Photo: Naina Helén Jåma / VG

After a 20-minute break, Waters and the band re-enter the stage, with even more tracks from “The Wall” (“In The Flesh”, “Run Like Hell”). The obviousness continues, both on stage (our man fires an “automatic weapon” at the audience) and on the screens. Guess if technology, celebrity, rich people, war, religion, the media and other expressions of our corrupt way of life are allowed to run!

“Money” comes in a tough taping, but the highlight of the evening is undoubtedly a beautiful and worthy “Us and Them”, where other band members take over the vocal responsibility. Although it also takes the visual step from empathy to banal social pornography along the way.

The cinematic aspects of the session undeniably have qualities on a purely artisanal level. The band he has with him does exactly what they were paid for – especially the saxophonist Seamus Blake stands out – and the sound is better than it usually is in Telenor Arena.

Photo: Naina Helén Jåma / VG

Equally condemned, it is first and foremost an astonishingly boring concert Roger Waters serves this April evening – despite spectacular effects, theatrical facts and a commitment that one can assume is genuine. It just doesn’t seem like he likes music very much.

And with his monomaniacal focus on force-feeding his message to the audience with the world’s biggest teaspoon, he leaves this reviewer empty inside – and reveals himself to be a rather shallow thinker.

Published:

Published: 11.04.23 at 23:27

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The article is in Norwegian

Tags: Concert review Roger Waters Telenor Arena Arguing monster free fall

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