Roger Waters, the architect behind Pink Floyd’s far-reaching sound and vision for their ’70s commercial peak, invited a cadre of friends and family on Sunday (May 21) to witness a dress rehearsal for his upcoming Us & Them tour. The live dates will come in support of Waters’ first rock album in 25 years, Is This The Life We Really Want?, out June 2.
The audience — which included record label and industry folk, as well as radio contest winners, and filled about one-tenth of the 20,000 capacity of New Jersey’s Meadowlands Arena — were privy to the full, two-hours-plus Waters show that launches May 26 in Kansas City, MO.
Waters, 73, whiskery and compelling, may be British-born, but he’s a universalist humanitarian, who, on his Us & Them tour (its name taken from one of the highlight cuts off Floyd’s 1973 classic LP Dark Side of the Moon) — will make pointed references to America’s current situation. In the rehearsal, he did this in both new songs and classic Floyd tunes: Floyd’s “Pigs (Three Different Kinds),” from 1977’s Animals, pairs up perfectly with a current leader who Waters pictures, particularly the on-point lyrics “Big man, pig man, ha ha charade you are.”
The show — trippy, but not just for hippies — is a journey, as is Waters’ wont both solo and as a member of Floyd. But although the group’s vision was best illustrated through hugely successful concept albums (including 1979’s 23x platinum-selling The Wall), the songs easily stand alone as well; or serve as part of the bigger picture Waters has put together with his well-balanced set list.
Waters’ six-piece band includes a second bassist, both for accompaniment, and for when the bass-playing frontman plays acoustic guitar or sings without an instrument. New backup singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig — vocalists of NY indie band Lucius, the blonde-be-wigged powerhouses shining in both the solo spotlight and background moments — make for a wonderful new addition. Without spoiler alerts, expect powerful, if simple political moments during “Another Brick in the Wall,” the final song before a 20-minute intermission.
In the rehearsal, Waters performed songs from The Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, Wish You Were Here and Animals, and even a casual classic rock fan will find much to relate to in his set. His new material, especially “Déjà Vu” (previously titled, pre album-release, as “Lay Down Jerusalem (If I Had Been God)”) and “The Last Refugee,” are particularly potent lyrically, with commensurate visuals that are often painful and beautiful at once.
The on-and-off rift between Pink Floyd co-founder Waters and guitarist David Gilmour may indeed prevent another Pink Floyd reunion — July 2005’s Live 8 Concert in London’s Hyde Park was the last time Waters reunited with Nick Mason, Rick Wright (who passed away in 2008) and Gilmour. But Waters does a stellar job keeping Floyd’s classic material fresh within the construct of current world events, and this sneak peak augured well for a tour that’s at once politically provocative and musically magical, even if the answer to his album title’s question — Is This the Life We Really Want? — remains ‘no.’