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Roger Waters - In the Flesh - Live CD (album) cover


Roger Waters


Crossover Prog

3.60 | 164 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Ha! Who'd have ever guessed that a late-period live album with one Pink Floyd band member would sound so much more "authentic" than a late-period live album with the other three members? This document of Waters' first tour in 12 years is so much better than P*U*L*S*E that it boggles my mind. If it weren't for the inclusion of a new song at the very end (the oh so dragging Each Small Candle) that totally destroys the momentum of the show, this would be an easy ***** and a strong candidate for one of my 100 favorite albums of all time.

The greatness of this live album lies in the details. One of the things that I got used to about P*U*L*S*E, but that never totally stopped bothering me, was the feeling of Gilmour, Wright and Masons performing as the chairmen of Pink Floyd Inc. The inclusion of "Astronomy Domine" (and on the DVD, "One of These Days") notwithstanding, the setlist on P*U*L*S*E is very tame, and strongly caters to the mindset that the stereotypical Floyd fan has of the band. With In the Flesh, though, I really get the sense that, with the possible exception of "Money," Roger chose the songs he did because he actually really liked them and considered them an important part of his legacy, and not just because they'd be expected by fans. In the liner notes, Waters basically says the he considers the three most important albums of his career to be Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall and Amused to Death, and the setlist bears this out. Yes, DSotM and The Wall are what most people think of when they think of Pink Floyd, but the way the material from them is positioned in the setlist, and the material from other albums that Waters chooses to complement them, really suggests he was playing these songs because he wanted to, not because he "had" to.

Take, for instance, the great decision to do "The Happiest Days of Our Lives/Another Brick in the Wall Part 2" as the second performance of the evening (after a fun "In the Flesh," where the line "Pink isn't well, he stayed back at the hotel, and they sent us along as a surrogate band ..." suddenly takes on a cheeky meaning that it lacked originally). Let's set aside that this is easily the best live performance of the song I've heard, completely devoid of the cock-rock vocal inflections Dave would use on it and the incredibly tedious jamming Dave and Rick would push forward in it (the extended soloing here, by contrast, is very energetic). Instead of using the track as an obvious encore piece (like was done when I saw Roger and his touring band in 2007), the song ends up getting treated as just another great song, and the effect is a total breath of fresh air.

After the initial Wall chunk (after "ABItW2," we have a nice run through "Mother"), there's a quick detour into The Final Cut with "Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert" and "Southampton Dock," complete with a final allusion to the title track in the end. And then we get the grand highlight: "Pigs on the Wing part 1," followed by "Dogs" in all of its glory. John Carin (who also toured with Floyd back in the late 80's and early 90's) does a great job on the driving acoustic lines and in the vocals that once belonged to Dave, and does an OUTSTANDING job on the atmospheric keyboard meanderings in the middle that once belonged to Rick (I think it's John, anyway; it might have been the other keyboardist doing that, I'd have to go back and watch the DVD to check). The various guitarists (more on that later) do all of Dave's aggressive electric parts very well, and Roger's bass playing is as professional as it had ever been. I'll tell you, there's no way in a million years that the remnants of Pink Floyd would have ever dreamed of doing this track in the 80's or 90's, and this track's presence makes the album golden to me almost all by itself.

After the Animals chunk, we come to the Wish You Were Here chunk, featuring "Welcome to the Machine," the title track and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond." WttM is done decently enough, but the title track and "SOYCD" both (in my opinion) obliterate the performances done on Delicate Sound and P*U*L*S*E. Roger's live singing may be less pleasant than Dave's live singing in both places, but I feel Roger's passion and conviction in every note, whereas I felt like Dave was singing just because he had to. Plus, the abridgement of "SOYCD" is pretty much perfect; the somewhat tedious ending jam of the original is replaced with a depressing reprise of the opening synth meanderings, and the meat of the song doesn't neglect the more menacing portions of the original (the cool leadin to the second half of the piece is preserved well). This is "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" with no modifications to make it more "listener friendly," and I totally love that. And finally, the first disc ends with an incredible shocker: "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun!" This is a very cool rearrangement, by the way, as it has a weird saxophone solo in the middle and some gruff guitar noise in the middle.

A brief word on the guitarists on this album. A mistake that Roger could have easily made was trying to replace Gilmour with a single young guitarist who could do a spot on imitation of Dave, both in singing and in guitar style. Now, he does have such a player in his ensemble, one Doyle Bramhall II, and he certainly does a very good job on this album. The coup, though, was making sure to supplement an imitation of the young Gilmour with people who could bring the veteran understanding of the music of Pink Floyd (and solo Waters) that Dave would have brought were he not busy not playing with Roger. The two men who fill this role are Snowy White, the same Snowy White who regularly played on stage with Pink Floyd during the 70's, and Andy Fairweather-Low, a really cool guy in a suit who's played with everybody (including Roger for a bit in the 80's), and Roger couldn't have chosen better in a thousand years. It should also be noted that, while Fairweather-Low plays bass in a couple of places when Roger is otherwise occupied, Roger performs most of this album's bass duties himself, and that should say something; I really get the sense from watching the DVD of this concert that Waters took his bass-playing very seriously, and it's cool that he doesn't farm out those duties very much.

Anyway, the second disc starts with perfectly servicable versions of "Breathe" (with great steel guitar from Carin), "Time" and "Money," then goes into a lengthy stretch of Waters solo material. Radio K.A.O.S. is ignored, but Pros and Cons is represented by "Every Strangers Eyes," which suddenly turns into a gargantuan anthemic classic when taken out of the dreck that made up the rest of that album. We then have four songs from Amused to Death, and they're all good ones ("Perfect Sense," "The Bravery of Being Out of Range," "It's a Miracle," "Amused to Death"). They're done very close to the album versions, sound effects and all (though "Perfect Sense" has the additional feature of a sample of the death pleadings of H.A.L. from 2001: A Space Odyssey), but they have all the power of the originals too. Keeping the ending portion of the interview about Bill Hubbard was a nice touch, too.

The show finishes off with "Brain Damage/Eclipse" and "Comfortably Numb" (the tradeoff of solos between Bramhall and White is breathtaking), before inexplicably finishing with 9 minutes of icky ickyness. And there's your great live album. An even higher grade is out of the question for various reasons (the excessively close replication of the AtD material; the roughness of Waters' voice, which can get a little wearing at times; and of course Each Small Candle), but this is a marvelous live album that belongs in the collection of every Pink Floyd fan. I also highly recommend the DVD.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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