[REVIEW] Roger Waters in St. Louis: Blue Skies From Pain

I grew up in a car.

Well, that’s not entirely correct, but stay with me here.

A vast majority of my weekends growing up were spent traveling the Midwest with my father, Yavuz, as we listened to Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Pearl Jam, and Bob Dylan. Our two favorite songs? Young’s “Heart of Gold” and Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” I’m not lying when I say we would rewind the cassette again and again just so we could sing.  The good old days of analog and living simply. So many miles my father drove so I could kick around a soccer ball. The least I could do was sing with him.

That’s all folklore now. The other day I was talking to a group of young teenagers, and I told them I grew up without the internet and no phone in my pocket. “What?” they said, eyes big and filled with wonder. “What did you do?”

What did we do?

When I wasn’t playing soccer, I read books and listened to music. Like many of you, my first Pink Floyd experience was The Wall, a double-disc album (yes, I finally got a CD player) that my mother, Linda, purchased for me. I would spend days in my basement listening while I read books like The Dead Zone, The Shining, It, The Stand…to this day, whenever I look at one of those books, I can remember what album I was listening to. I guess that’s just the way my brain is wired, and for that I am grateful.

I’m also grateful I didn’t take last night for granted, which I had initially planned to do.

I had seen Pink Floyd, the David Gilmour version, once: 1994 at Soldier Field in Chicago, my first “big” concert experience. Then, in 1999, I saw Roger Waters at “Riverport” in St. Louis, a show that ultimately felt like a letdown, mostly because I couldn’t get the Floyd show out of my head. I still made comparisons back then.

So I wasn’t going to go to the show last night. But my friend, Kevin, changed my mind, even bought my ticket. And then Chris Cornell’s death happened. That’s it — I was going. How could I possibly sing “Wish You Were Here” again if I didn’t go to the show? Not possible. Not for me.

I don’t know what it is that makes you get up in the morning, but for me it’s little moments like last night in St. Louis, where Roger Waters, the co-founder of Pink Floyd, put on a thrilling display of art and emotion. When the two collide like they did last night, I am forever changed. It was the best show I’ve seen since Neil Young at Telluride last October. I didn’t want to leave, even after three hours. It felt like three minutes.

Or maybe three moments. The first permanent mark was made when Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of Lucius, who are singing with Waters on this tour, delivered a magical, and I mean magical, version of  “The Great Gig In The Sky,” the song from Dark Side of the Moon that, if isn’t delivered just right, is simply another song. Their tremendous talent and effort shone like the sun, filled with incredible energy — an imaginary dose of Vitamin D. You really did have to be there; I heard plenty of “wows” floating in the air behind me. Yes, wow. The Wizard of Oz would have yelled “wow.” A magic spell for modern times — that’s the best way I can describe the vocals of Laessig and Wolfe.

Moment two. There’s something to be said for momentum, and Waters and his band, thankfully, didn’t let it go. “Did you exchange,” Waters sang during “Wish You Were Here,” “a walk-on part in the war, for a lead role in a cage?” In a cage. Life is not a cage. Money is a cage. A mortgage is a cage. “We don’t need no education,” he went on with “Another Brick in Wall Part 3.” Children were on the stage, dressed in shirts with one word printed: Resist.

Sure, this show was political, with Waters expressing his disdain for Donald Trump throughout the evening, especially during “Pigs (Three Different Ones),” when an inflatable pig with Trump’s mug on its side floated throughout the arena. “Ha ha! Charade you are!” Waters sang. There were cheers, there were boos, there was art doing what it should do: making you feel something. That’s as political as I will get in this “review.”

It wasn’t necessarily a moment that made the show special, though. Easy targets don’t reach the stratosphere. “Comfortably Numb” does.

That’s how the show ended, “moment three,” if you will. “I turned to look but it was gone, I cannot put my finger on it now. The child has grown. The dream is gone.”

The child may have grown, but the dream is never gone.

Like Stephen King once wrote in The Dead Zone: “Nothing is ever lost. Nothing that can’t be found.”

Thank you, Roger Waters. Blue skies from pain? Today I can tell the difference.

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