Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Concert in the Arena - Roger Waters

Last year, Pete saw Roger Waters play live in a concert at Earl’s Court in London, courtesy a VIP ticket which was my Christmas present to him (and thanks to which I’ve probably earned Brownie points for life, heh). As he never tires of telling me, he got there way ahead of the opening time, was allowed in because of his VIP status, and actually got to watch Roger Waters and Nick Mason rehearse before the show – a sort of private performance, if you will, because apparently there was nobody else in the auditorium. Not just that, he shook hands with them – the awesome significance of which action can only be understood by diehard fans of Pink Floyd.

Of course, by sitting there, he missed the VIPs-only exclusive pre-concert dinner, but he considers that no loss at all, given what he got to see and hear.

But ever since that concert, he’s been regretting that I didn’t go with him, as he had enjoyed the whole performance so very much and thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. (I’ll go with that once-in-a-lifetime thing – the reason I got only one VIP ticket was because it was so damn expensive, I couldn’t afford two! And since he’s a bigger fan of Roger Waters than me, it seemed only fair that he should go. That said, had it been David Gilmour, that ticket would have been for me. Actually I’d probably have bought two tickets, retirement fund be damned!)

Anyway, with my mother and my cousin both visiting with us at the moment, Pete decided that he would give us a taste of the experience of a lifetime by booking tickets for the Roger Waters concert at the O2 Arena (formerly the Millennium Dome aka the Multi-billion Pound White Elephant) in London. No, they weren’t VIP tickets – we have had only one retirement fund. But they were good enough tickets that our seats yesterday were directly facing the stage, about a fifth of the way up to the nosebleed section.

Amma and Hema had both been primed by Pete for two days before the show – watching DVDs of albums and previous concerts, documentaries on how this or that album was made, and listening to Pink Floyd on the music system as well, with pop quizzes after each programme on what they had seen and heard (just kidding). Amma was in any case reasonably familiar with Floyd’s more famous albums from previous such instructive sessions with Pete (over the last 2-3 years, that is), so she was definitely looking forward to the concert. As for me, I was enthusiastic as well, although probably not at the level of excitement that would have been generated by a Dave Gilmour concert.

The SatNav took us all the way to the O2 Arena with no problems faced apart from the traffic and speed limits imposed in London. We were there fairly early, so we were able to park with no trouble. Since we had 2-3 hours to kill, Pete, who had done some research on the Arena, suggested a river trip up and down the Thames on one of the local ferries – Thames Clippers. To my amazement, the tickets for the two-hour round-trip for the four of us amounted to just £18 – less than £5 per person. None of us had been on the boat before, so it was a new experience. And what fun it was!

The ferry was practically empty at the QE2 Pier, which is the starting point from the O2 Arena. The seats were surprisingly comfortable, but we chose to go out to the rear of the ferry, which was not enclosed, and look out at the wharves we passed, pointing out the top bits of various famous buildings that we could see, for Hema’s edification. The ferry took an hour to get to the turnaround point of the London Eye – and if there were no speed limits imposed for boats on the Thames in the central area of London, I’m betting the ferry could have cut a good 20 minutes off the trip, both ways. In any case, slow or fast, it was fun to be on and probably the cheapest way to get to various tourist points. Next time we might just park the car at the Arena (£20 for 24 hours) and make our way from there by ferry.

Anyhow… back to the Arena and the concert. At first, seeing the milling crowds outside was a bit worrying – how long might it take just ot get in? – but the O2 employees were very efficient and the lines dwindled down swiftly. The enormous auditorium was very nearly filled to capacity. Outside there were food stalls - everything from stir fries to carvery bars. I didn’t check the prices of anything for two reasons… one, we’d brought a packed lunch, and two, the lines at the counters were quite daunting. I was also quite surprised that people were allowed to bring food and drink into the auditorium.

As for the concert itself, it began pretty much on time. The music, as expected, was fantastic, with plenty of Floyd favourites belted out with the entire crowd joining in – an awesome depth of sound that had to be heard to be believed. In fact, I doubt you heard it consciously – it was more like experiencing it in your bones, right down to your tiniest cells!

The main beef I had was with the lighting. I dunno if it was in a bid to stop people taking decent photographs, but the smoke machines were constantly going, making the air very hazy, and the spotlights focused on the stage were either red or blue. So, although there were two large TV screens on either side of the stage, apart from the backdrop of the stage itself, we never did get to see proper close-ups of Roger Waters and the others – neither their faces nor their instruments being played. They were all in blue shadows or a violent shade of red.

Only the VIP rows right down by the stage would have had a proper view of Waters and his co-players. Which, I thought, was pretty damned unfair to all the hundreds of others who weren’t VIPs. Yes, I know the concert was mainly about the music, which everybody could hear (hell, they couldn’t NOT hear it!)… but this was a live concert, after all, and we had all gone to watch Waters play as much as to hear him play. The organisers could have used the big backdrop to show the band members at least some of the time, instead of running all those visuals and images and whatnot. I would have absolutely LOVED to watch the amazing saxophonist close-up on the screen.

That said, the special effects - the flying Spaceman and the flying Pink Pig and especially the laser prism, which did a proper job of splitting a beam of light into a perfectly gorgeous rainbow that swirled all around the auditorium - were fantastic to see. The Spaceman in fact floated close enough to us that the people in the row below were able to actually touch it – too bad that in doing that, the Spaceman got pushed away from us!

The band played all my favourite Floyd songs – Wish You Were Here, Money, Us and Them, Shine and of COURSE Another Brick In The Wall – among others, so I was thrilled to bits. It was glorious! Amma and Hema enjoyed the entire show too... and actually amma regretted not knowing the lyrics and having to stay silent while the audience roared the words and stomped the floor and thrust their arms in the air and generally had a fantastic time. I guess Pete will have to get amma the lyrics for the songs and have her memorise them… perhaps we’ll be having a Pink Floyd karaoke party soon, who knows! Heheh.

It’s a pity that Roger Waters (according to rumours) has given his last concert in the UK, prior to hanging up his mic (or guitar, whatever). I can only hope that Dave Gilmour hasn’t come to any such decision because one of my greatest wishes is to see him in concert, live. Maybe even on VIP tickets. That would really be a dream come true, if it happens.


brinda said...

how i wish, how i wish i was there... oh well! and hey, isnt that lighting/smoke and shadows thing a pink floyd trademark? so you can't really complain (actually, what the hell do you mean by whining about bad lighting, eh? YOU WERE THERE!)

Anonymous said...

Hema said she enjoyed the concert, the boat trip, EVERYTHING .. thanks to you and Pete for making this happen. I am sure you are going to write about the Warwick castle also :) maya

Kamini said...

SO evocative, I almost felt that I was actually there! Your Amma sounds like a real sport!

Vaishna said...

too too cool shyam.... what bliss... and pete do take the hint and gift the woman a pass for a gilmour night :-)

pandi merdeka said...

wow great... keep the spirit to post man.. wait for your next post

Car hire New York said...

Roger Water in O2 arena.. It must have been something special. I haven't been to any live concert of him. Really would like to have had been there.