Roger Waters Us + Them Tour Review – Kansas City 2017

Roger Waters Kansas CIty

Roger Waters Kansas CIty

For a full experience we suggest you read our interview with Rogers guitarist Dave Kilminster as a companion to this article.

May 26 2017 – Oh how to start this journey?

After seeing The Wall Live tour 10 times in 4 different countries how long will this ride be for us? The Wall tour created amazing memories which included the opening night of the tour, the premiere of the movie at the Toronto International Film Festival and the world’s first review of The Wall concert movie, and of course being there the night that David Gilmour stood on the wall in London’s O2 arena for Comfortably Numb. Needless to say we are huge Roger Waters fans. How much? Enough for three of us to fly into Kansas City from Toronto to catch the first night of the US + THEM tour. We bought VIP packages in order to get to the first row and were situated directly in front of guitarist David Kilminster for the night! Oh ya and by the way, that ticket did cost $1000 of our Canadian bucks but as mentioned before, we REALLY like Roger.

Roger Waters Us + Them VIP Ticket

Roger Waters Us + Them VIP Ticket

To summarize our feelings for The Wall tour we provide a quote from one of our many reviews:

““The best arena show ever.  Period.” – New York Post

The New York Post got that one wrong. We are declaring this show not the best concert of the year, decade, or millennium but the best concert ever. Period. The Wall is a musical masterpiece (not necessarily the individual songs – but the entire album consumed in its entirety from the first note to the end) and will be enjoyed for many generations to come. Add in massive visuals and theatrics to play out the album and you have something so unique and refreshing that it will stay with you for the rest of your life. Seeing it’s creator on stage performing it as he intended is quite the experience.”

Since the end of that tour, Waters has been working on a scathing new album (his first in 25 years and probably his last) entitled  ‘Is This The Life We Really Want?’. He also had some amazing yet very limited performances including headlining Desert Trip, a massive 200,000 person free concert in Mexico City, and the Bridge School benefit where his back up band was My Morning Jacket (incidentally my favorite band of this century).

Aside from the fact that one of the best songs on the longest charting album of all time is called Us and Them, Waters had this to say in a recent BBC interview about his new album which might explain the name of the tour a bit better –  “Building the walls and identifying foreigners as the bad guys, is an exercise of control which is as old as the hills. People know that and they still fall for the old trick of “your life is miserable because of the Muslims or because of the Mexicans or because of the Irish or because of the Jews or because of whoever it might be who is not US. So we identify a THEM and then it makes it ok for our leader to do whatever he, or she, or they want.

Roger Waters

Roger Waters

On many interviews Waters clearly states his views on the current President of the USA. One such quote we very much like was from before even Trump won the election. Waters told Rolling Stone magazine His ideas [are] not outlandish at all. It’s American exceptionalism gone crazy and delivered under the umbrella of absolute ignorance. He is pig-ignorant and he always was and he always will be. He lives in the illusion that he’s admirable in some way. And obviously for somebody like me, he stands for everything that is not admirable in American society.”

Welcome to 2017 and the beginning of the Us + Them Tour by Roger Waters. First stop Kansas City, Missouri. The same Missouri where 57% of the people voted for Trump (although in the two big cities of Kansas City and St. Louis Trump he only got 39% support). On a very recent Esquire interview Waters stated “I don’t know how this will go down in Kansas City, frankly. I’m going everywhere, and the message will be the same, that the resistance began January 20 and it’s up to us to stand up, together.” Well we will tell you exactly how it went down and just to be very clear, we are very happy to be part of the resistance. Waters has not been shy to be very critical of Trump and our views are in perfect alignment with Waters message of human equality and breaking down the walls.

Warning: If you don’t want spoilers and full details about the concert stop reading right now. This review is intended to be the first in depth Roger Waters Us + Them tour review.

Roger Waters Us + Them Tour

Roger Waters Us + Them Tour

The show begins at exactly 8:15 PM with the band walking on stage while a huge single screen that covers the length of the stage shows asteroid fragments floating in space. The familiar music of Speak to Me leads into Breathe. All 10 musicians on stage are wearing black  with Waters right in the middle all focused on his bass. What was interesting at this point is that instead of the familiar On The Run leading into Time, Waters chose One Of These Days as the bridge to Time. Jon Carin dazzles on One Of These Days with pure wizardry on the keyboards. {Edit. Well who better to correct a wrong fact in the original review other than Mr. Carin hiself – he let us know the following “I play the lead guitar on that  (One of These Days), which is actually a Lap Steel guitar, and it does sound a bit like a synth at times.”}

As the video played the familiar clock face flying in space the alarms started to go off which of course leads to Time and the built-in Breathe (Reprise). The musicians did an amazing job reproducing the Pink Floyd staple.

The voyage into side 1 of The Dark Side of the Moon of course ends with the female orgasmic shrieking of The Great Gig in the Sky. Waters steps off stage to let his backup vocalists take their turn on the spotlight. While not the most accurate reproduction of the vocals we have seen (for that check out our Brit Floyd video) the ladies from Lucius did a killer job and clearly have powerful voices.

Roger Waters Kansas City May 26 2017

Roger Waters Kansas City May 26 2017

Waters moves on to Welcome To The Machine and the screen keeps delivering the Floydian visuals but in a very minimal manner. At this point it hit me – this was not the epic multimedia mindfuck that The Wall Live was and the music was taking a more prominent role on this tour. The visual assault has been toned down from its hyperactive levels to just a huge screen with animations fading in with the musicians on occasion.

The next four songs are all from Waters soon to be released album Is This The Life We Really Want? When We Were Young /Deja Vu lets Waters state “If I had Been God” while strumming on a guitar, this angry ballad is Waters at his best, the bile in the singing contrasting the beautiful music.  The Last Refugee is the third one up and continues the commentary on modern life. This one is accompanied with the video of the song recently released on May 18th and can be seen here. A beautiful song that is based on the last day of a major world war when the last refugee ever lands safely. Finally up is Picture That in which Waters paces the stage during this hypnotic song telling us various things we should picture in our mind and ends with him  on electric guitar to close out the song.

While the casual fan may have found four new songs in a row tedious, this segment was a key highlight of the show as we were able to absorb Waters’ commentary on life and delivery of unreleased material. Floyd’s biggest sing along came next and really got the crowd on its feet for Wish You Were Here with a stadium full of lighters cell phone lights. The love for the classics was a clear indication of why most in the audience were here for.

Pink Floyd’s most popular song kicked in shortly with The Happiest Days of Our Lives leading off Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) and directly into Another Brick In The Wall Part (3). A group of inner city children were on stage again (as they were for The Wall Live tour but no giant teacher puppets this time) for the kids chorus wearing jump suits which eventually came off to show off T-shirts with the word “RESIST” on them. Standard Pink Floyd classic delivery to close off the set.

David Kilminster on camera

David Kilminster on camera

We see what you did here Roger – pack in the hits at the beginning and the end which is what people remember most and take the middle slot as the opportunity to roll out the new material. An intermission broke up the show as the audience flocked the merchandise stands and snack (i.e. beer) counters.

What transpired in the next 27 minutes was the clear highlight for us as Waters took a visit to the Animals album which was released 40 years ago this year. The video screen transforms the stage to Battersea Power Station (ironically now the home of Apple in the UK and a host of high-end shops and residences) and two new massive screens come down the length of the floors complete with smoke stacks above. Pink Floyd’s most angry album with full attacks on corporate greed and the elite power brokers was well represented first with Dogs which featured Dave Kilminster giving us goosebumps on the guitar solos. The backup singers even had drumsticks to play some drums with during the primal solos which can only be described as euphoric. Highlight of the concert so far. During the instrumental interlude on Dogs a bunch of band members including Kilminster, and Waters himself gather around a table on the side of the stage wearing animal face Halloween masks (including sheep, dogs and pigs – get it?) and start drinking some champagne (similar to the card game stunt used on In The Flesh tour).

Roger Waters Kasas City 2017

Roger Waters Kasas City 2017

Animals could have been written just this year and when Waters sang “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are” on Pigs (Three Different Ones) there was no doubt at all who he was referring to.  This is where shit got heavy and Waters takes the gloves off. Trump’s face was all over the screens in the most insulting ways possible – in diapers, his head on a pig’s body, as a baby being held up by Putin, and even naked complete with a microscopic penis. Donald J’s mug was also plastered on the brand new flying pig with dollar signs covering his eyes and a cartoon bubble coming out of his mouth with the caption “I Won”. The song climaxes with blistering guitar building up the momentum with some of Trump’s quotes on the screen including some pathetic examples of humanity such as “You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.” The final quote was a fabulously simple “TRUMP ERES UN PENDEJO” (Trump you are an asshole)  which concludes the song. If you watch just one of our videos from the night, please watch the one right below.

Wow that was intense and awesome, and surely Waters knew that the audience would react differently in different parts of the world. There is no doubt that in Toronto the above segment would be very well received with thunderous cheers, but in Missouri where Trump easily won the election, the crowd response surprised us. Everyone around us was cheering and clapping in support and the song got the loudest ovation of the night. Rock and Roll baby!

Time to start giving the fans what they want, and of course that is a big hit, Waters played Money (standard fare) which also featured quite a few Trump images but nothing venomous or disrespectful. So much has been written about how much Trump bashing there is on this tour, but we feel the exact opposite, there was not enough. Don’t believe the newspaper reviews that will be the exact same in every city such as this one the mainstream media are out to sell their stories, and sensationalism will get them that.  That pig man charade needs to be called out even more and we love Waters for having the balls to stand up to a bully.

Next up was the beautiful Us and Them including the awesome sax solo in the song. The video screen projects familiar footage as the original film from the 70’s is shown. Large applause erupts when a sign on the video is shown that reads “Love is love, Black lives matter, Climate change = real, Immigrants = awesome“. Us and Them is my personal favorite song on my number 1 album of all time and its contrast of  subdued and gentle music with its urgently strong political lyrics is a masterpiece of the classic rock era.

Similar to the first set, Waters sneaks in a new song. Smell The Roses (which starts a lot like Have a Cigar), is the hardest sounding song of all the new material. Finishing off the Dark Side of the Moon theme, the second set ends with Brain Damage and Eclipse. A laser pyramid surrounds the whole venue. Incorporating the most sensational use of lighting we have ever seen. With a rainbow of colours erupting through the apex, we are treated to a mega sized reproduction of the iconic album cover we all love so dearly.

The encore consisted of three staples from The Wall namely Vera, Bring the Boys Back Home and the obvious show closer Comfortably Numb. Vera and Bring The Boys Back home were presented bare bones –  with Waters on acoustic guitar and his backup singers, culminating with the ladies pleading a final rousing chant of “Bring the Boys Back Home”. “Sing it with us, please, now” pleads Waters as a large metallic sphere floats around the top of their heads (from up close see its not suspended but actually a drone).

Of course Comfortably Numb was delivered with its full emotional charge as Waters paces the stage singing his part of the song and Kilminster nailing yet a couple of more solos. Waters also walks off the stage and shakes hands with everyone in the front row! We got a firm handshake from our musical hero and the night could not be ending better. Confetti (pink slips of paper with the word RESIST! on them) rains from above. The video presents the tour’s main image (two hands reaching for each other) moving towards its final resting place of two hands connected in the way Waters wants the world we live in to actually be. Hate to use such a cliche but that was truly epic!!!! Thank you Mr Waters.

Waters’ touring musicians this time round are drastically different than what we have been used to. Most notably Snowy White who played guitar for Waters on his last three tours is no longer part of the touring band and neither is G.E. Smith who played on The Wall tour. Gone also are Graham Broad, Robbie Wyckoff and even Roger’s son Harry.

New to the touring group are backup singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig complete with matching outfits and wigs. Oddly enough Waters forgot to introduce the two ladies during the band intros tonight and we can see from up close he realized that soon after he was done with intros (its ok, it was only day 1 of the tour).  Jonathan Wilson was on guitars and vocals, Ian Ritchie was on sax (he actually also produced Radion KAOS). Gus Seyffert (who is from KC) joins the band after having played with The Black Keys and Norah Jones. Drumming was Joey Waronker from Beck and REM, Drew Erickson was playing Hammond organ and Piano tonight. Luckily two of our favorite musicians were back as Jon Carin remained on keyboards (and some guitar) from the last tour and Dave Kilminster is still part of the show. We are massive fans of both their playing so that is all good news (yeaaaa!). Carin also plays lapsteel guitar on One of These Days, Breathe, Great Gig, Wish You Were Here, and Deja Vu. As an aside, Kilminster has also spent time touring with Steven Wilson (which was the main reason we went to see Wilson during his last visit to Toronto) – for us he is an integral part of the Waters experience.

Each and every musician was able to raise their game. I assume you don’t get to tour with Roger Waters if you don’t have incredible musical talent and are a top notch professional in the industry. We look forward to seeing all of them many times on this tour. These musicians have all firmly landed on our musical radar.

Roger Waters Us + Them Tour Book and Confetti

Roger Waters Us + Them Tour Book and Confetti

The show consisted of 24 songs that originated from the following albums:

Roger Waters Setlist 2017 Album Breakdown

Roger Waters Setlist 2017 Album Breakdown

While it has been said that you can never please everyone the above chart is my only complaint with this concert. I was really hoping to hear some material from Waters first three solo albums or even some Pink Floyd deeper cuts. I am totally ok not to hear Money, Wish You Were Here, or Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) yet again, but hey this tour is essentially a greatest hits tour with a focus on the new solo album. Gimme The Powers That Be or The Bravery of Being Out Of Range or Radio Waves and I am super happy. While nothing can ever top what was delivered during The Wall Live tour the overall experience is easily an emotional ride into what makes rock and roll so powerful and enduring.

David Kilminster Kansas City 2017

David Kilminster Kansas City 2017

I will be seeing the show again in a few days in St. Louis and will provide any updates to the show or the set list here. Make sure you catch Roger Waters on tour in North America this year and Europe/Asia next year. Tour dates can be found here.

T-Mak World Best of Logo

Overall: 5 out of 5 – Waters has doubled down on his political views on this tour and we love it! While essentially a Pink Floyd greatest hits show, the new material was powerful and engaging. The expectations for this tour were sky-high after The Wall Live or even The Dark Side of The Moon tour and all our expectations were met. Waters continues to prove why his musical legacy will live on for a very long time as Us + Them is a mind-blowing aural and visual experience. Easily the best rock tour of 2017.

Trump supporters – be warned though,  you might be better off waiting for Kid Rock to play your neck of the woods. Love sure trumped hate tonight.

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5 Responses to Roger Waters Us + Them Tour Review – Kansas City 2017

  1. Kenny says:

    That was a great review. I was sooooooo lucky and blessed to,be invited to rogers rehersal gig in the meadowlands last Sunday,on alril21st. Omg it was epic. They let you sit or stand wherever you wanted and lucky me I was on the side of the stage ,45th row where I could finally see roger up close. One thing about the show , is that when he was sing,”smell the roses”, I think I was the only one who,knew the words and roger saw me singing with him and gave this great nod. It was magical.
    Thus show was magical and I can’t be as happy ever as I was that night. It was a dream come true. I say you’re review was right on the money.

    • T-Mak says:

      Wow!!! I would have loved to be at that rehearsal. Lucky you! Hope you get to see it at a full venue as well as the communal vibe is amazing.

  2. rick says:

    If you saw the “dress rehearsal” from the Meadowlands, you know that the final comment following the trumpty quotes was “Fuck Trump”. While that may well be our sentiment, it made sense for Roger to gone it down a half notch. But I still wonder what the reaction would have been. Can’t wait. Been sitting on tickets since last year.Thanks for an amazing review.

  3. Kenneth says:

    Not to put to fine of a point on it, but these gals butchered Great Gig in the Sky. Hopefully, it sounds better live, and a the rest of the show sounds closer to the original material.

  4. uli says:

    it was a really great review of the concert and your experiences…
    a really great combination of impressions in facts but also out your heart…
    not only informations…
    …try to read behind the words and lines…

    many thanks for this T-MAK

    but allow me one critical question:
    sometimes I felt that roger was not singing in his microphone – but his sound was clearly in the air…
    But anyway…
    I’m looking so forward to see him life next year in this show “us & them” in germany
    with my greek-friend Andreas
    so we’re really so happy, to sit front of stage in the second line to feel this wonderful music life and original,
    I hope so…
    wish you the best from germany after such a special voting for our gouvernment…
    I hope the best for the future
    to live in a world
    of peace and
    what is it worth
    to live for
    and to be in touch
    with our brothers and sisters
    not only in music,
    which is wonderful
    to feel…

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