Sunday, February 18, 2007
Finally, the day had arrived when we would see Waters ‘In the flesh’ (pun intended ). In contrast to the frenzied discussions on gmail, the morning went off without any contact with the rest of the guys who were to turn up as well. Just before noon, I called Pranav and learnt that they would tentatively arrive at the venue at around 3.30 pm. Pranav wasn’t too familiar with the route to MMRDA, that meant a great dependency on Babba rahu de Akhil, and of course, the hard, well almost impossible, to ignore, Dhanuka. That in turn implied I had to stay at home twiddling my thumbs till these guys reached the venue. Thankfully television and sudoku eased the long wait.
Anyways, after a few more frantic phone calls, and with much coordination and even greater confusion, we all zeroed in on the MMRDA grounds at around 4 pm. I met Dhanuka near the ticket counter, the stocky guy ‘attempting’ to sell off the extra pass we had. Thank heavens he is not into marketing, else it would have been a major loss for the company he worked with – Dude had been standing there for almost 20 minutes, and in the bargain had also gifted away one of our Roger Waters posters.. grrr….. to an Israeli. Anyways, somehow we managed to chipkao the ticket to one suspicious buyer (“Show me the ticket!” he said rather apprehensively) for a whole 2000 bucks. Now, Dhanuka had got the pass at 1833 bucks thanks to his HDFC credit card, and so I am still awaiting my cut on the whole one hundred and sixty seven rupees the fat guy made on the deal.
So now, the ticket sold, the two of us were joined by Pranav, Akhil, Arvind, Sai and Jaideep. We all moved to the queue outside the gates that were to open at 5.30 pm. This meant standing out for another 90 minutes, of which a big part was spent in taking Abhishek’s case (in case you are wondering who this new guy Abhishek is, Dhanuka also has a first name!!!) by the usual suspects Pranav and Akhil, ably supported by Arvind and yours truly. In between, we talked about how we would miss Gilmour’s classics notably Learning To Fly, High Hopes and Coming Back To Life. Pranav and Akhil were making tentative plans for the Iron Maiden show at Bangalore in March, when the sound check softly played Mother. Next there was Shine on you and suddenly time seems to be passing faster.
The gates finally opened at around 5.45 and we were among the first 50 people to get in. We parked ourselves right behind the metal railing which separated the 2000 crowd from the 3000 ones. Still, Waters wouldn’t begin the show before 7 pm, so we had another hour to while away. So, Arvind started firing his freakishly morbid lateral thinking problems, and all of us unleashed our wild creativity with fantastic answers, some deliberately pissing off Arvind.. can’t help it dude, we are all like this only . Midway through our game, the sound system began playing a mix of songs from the 60s and 70s (Abba, Elvis, Chuck Berry…). I was to learn the next day that this was a gimmick by Roger Waters (it had been done at the Auckland show too). Much to our dislike, the songs being played were starkly un-Floydlike, and you might have been lulled into thinking this was a rock & roll gig. Meanwhile the crowds kept trickling in with the front stands still empty even as the clock ticked towards the much awaited moment.
Finally at around 7.15 pm, Roger Waters, the musical genius of Pink Floyd, appeared on stage, opening with ‘In the flesh’. He impishly pointed to sections of the crowd as he sang ‘That one’s a Jew and that one’s a coon’ in obvious attack on racial discrimination. The pumping sound was just an indication of the experience that would soon blow us away. Next was Mother, a song about a hesitant young man who lets his mother make all his decisions and seeks her approval in everything he does. Set the controls for the heart of the sun, a track with extremely cryptic lyrics (yes, even for a Floyd song) had a truly psychedelic video with brilliant bubbling colours merging into each other. I could then vaguely connect it to Akhil’s earlier reference to the song being dedicated to the volcano in Pompeii. Then came Shine On You Crazy Diamond, a tribute to Floyd founder Syd Barrett, the mischievous genius who sadly burned out way too soon due to drug abuse. By now our appetite had been whetted enough, and listening to Waters seemed as if the world had shrunk to that small MMRDA ground, and nothing else existed outside it. Have a Cigar, a crack at the music industry which hadn’t been receptive to Floyd before Dark Side of the Moon, followed next. Waters again played homage to Barrett with Wish You Were Here, the screen lit up by rows of candles as a mark of respect to the man who passed away in 2006. We were then onto the unheard songs we had been previously criticizing for no apparent reason. Southampton Dock didn’t make much of an impression on me, and I was beginning to fear we might just be right… OMG!!!! Thankfully, the very next track, The Fletcher Memorial Home, erased all my doubts. The song spoke out against dictators and tyrants and also the ‘democratic leaders’ who waged war in the name of peace. Perfect Sense took off along the same lines, sarcastically justifying America’s attack on Iraq.
Leaving Beirut was a new song by Waters, which he mentioned was about how a poor Lebanese family had welcomed him as their guest when he had been stranded in the country in his early youth. The narrative was held together nicely by cartoon sketches, with amazingly sensitive yet bold lyrics. The song lamented the fate that poor innocent people suffer in war thanks to the politicians who mask around as peacemakers. One particular line ‘Every time a smart bomb does its sums and gets it wrong / and someone else’s child dies and equities in defence rise” brought tears to my eyes, as I wondered about the futility of war, struck by the sensitivity of Roger Waters. Here was a man, using all his creative talents to plead for peace, fearlessly condemning Bush and his comrades for their ‘war against terror’.
The opening set concluded with Sheep, a take on how the common gullible people are exploited and misled by their leaders. Waters further stressed on the political undertones of his show with a huge inflated pig hovering above the MMRDA. The animal had several messages scrawled all over it, and the prominent ‘Impeach Bush’ written across its behind drew a tremendous applause from the crowds. The animal rose lazily into the night sky as the song reached its climax, and the band took a fifteen minute break. Perhaps, we needed the break to savour all we had just been treated to. We hardly spoke during that long quarter hour; remember, this was the same group which had been chattering along just an hour earlier. Now, all of us had been awestruck into near silence, unaware, uncaring of anything that was happening elsewhere.
Of course, there was more to come. Dark Side of the Moon began with the low heartbeats of Speak To Me. Breathe followed with its simple, yet profound message of life being truly lived in all our smiles and tears, and in everyone we touch. The fast paced On the Run was a metaphor for the hectic modern life, the track ending with a man’s loud laughter being cut off by a plane crash. The grounds then resounded with the piercing alarm clocks, and we all belted our hearts out with every word of the eternal classic Time. The Great Gig in the Sky, a song about death, was powerfully rendered by one of the female vocalists. Money, with its innovative use of the clinking of coins and minting machines, gave another testimonial of the incredible genius of Roger Waters. Us and Them spoke about the plight of soldiers who are pushed into battle by their political leaders. This song is as different as Floyd can get, with a mellow jazzy style, and soothing solos on the saxophone. It then goes on to a fuller, louder volume towards the chorus, perhaps indicating how war disrupts the peace of life with its cacophony. Anyways, by now the crowds had been completely entranced, and Brain Damage sent us further into ecstasy, with its haunting laughter. Lyrically, this is one of Floyd’s most psychedelic tracks with multiple interpretations, which I might elaborate in another post J. Eclipse brought the curtains on Set 2, ending with the sound of heartbeats, just like the opening Speak To Me, another fantastic metaphor for the cyclic nature of life.
Waters then introduced his band members and they all walked off the stage, but we all knew he would be back again soon. (The play list for the night was no secret, thanks to wikipedia!) Sure enough, he came back with The Happiest Days of Our Lives and then came the most known track from The Wall, the anthem which must have inspired generations of students to rebel against authority. Yes, it was Another Brick In the Wall, and possibly the entire BKC must have resounded as we all screamed ‘We don’t need no education’ at the top of our lungs, again swept away by the sense of rebellion that the song always invokes, even if you are hearing it for the thousandth time. The melancholy Vera led to Bring The Boys Back Home, and the evening was capped off with, what else but Comfortably Numb, a fitting classic to end the show. Indeed, Waters with his brilliance, had left us Comfortably Numb to everything but his music, and yet at the same time, touched us with his social messages.
A small tribute to the musical genius:
The stars looked down from the skies,
Your brilliance outshining them all.
Your aura, like a magic spell,
Had each of us enthralled.
Stirring minds, touching hearts,
Blowing the dust from the farce,
You ripped the masks off smiling generals,
Speaking for peace and for times liberal.
The mirror held to the world,
Your music wiping off the cloud,
Generations your music will
Cover in its inspiring shroud.