As a preview of both his new album — “Is This the Life We Really Want?,” due June 2 on Columbia Records — and an upcoming, large scale tour promoted by AEG Live’s Concerts West division — “Us + Them,” which launches May 26 in Kansas City — Roger Waters held an elaborate late-afternoon dress rehearsal at the Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey on Sunday.
The event, ostensibly for “friends and family” (and what Waters teased was “friends and families of those families, then some more friends and families of those friends and families, and so on”), saw the 73-year-old in good physical shape but a bit of a hoarse voice as he led a nine-piece backing group with backing singers — some so new he forgot their names, but including longtime Beck drummer Joey Waronker — through a powerful 23-song set list. Included was the live debut of four songs from the new album — “Déjà Vu,” “The Last Refugee,” “Picture That” and “Smell the Roses” — while the rest were from his classic Pink Floyd songbook.
The newer songs — the acoustic “Déjà Vu,” reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, the harshly rocking “Picture That” — fit into Waters’ larger Pink Floyd oeuvre with ease, as did the look of the show.
Us + Them Artistic Director Sean Evans has crafted an audio-visual vision very much in league with Waters’ Pink Floyd past: a 3D surround-sound speaker system emulating the “quadrophonic” sound of “Dark Side of the Moon” (and that 1973 album’s classic “laser pyramid” design); lots of post-psychedelic images splayed across a massive, stage-wide LED screen; ample use of the handshake imagery from 1975’s “Wish You Were Here” (used in both peaceful moments as well as depicting sarcasm, lies and affronts to human dignity); and the power station and flying pigs from 1977’s “Animals” — the latter of which was updated to scabrous effect.
The floating inflatable pigs were a highlight of the two-and-a-half-hour show. During the long, stuttering “Pigs (Three Different Ones),” an anti-Trump-image was projected on one side of the pig, while split video screens featured Trump quotes and mocking shots of him in various degrees of loathing and laughter. As Waters repeated the words “charade, charade,” during the taunting “Pigs,” images of Trump holding a large dildo, wearing lipstick and as a rotund Buddah (with a small penis) flashed upon the screen. There was also one final message: “F— TRUMP.”
While the visual aspect of “Us + Them” was pure spectacle, the setlist was the anchor. From the ambient swell of “Eclipse” and “Brain Damage” to a ragged run at “Money,” from the haunted art-jazz of “Us and Them” to the glower of Waters’ voice on “Picture This,” the show was an exquisite first look at the feel-good-to-feel-bad-show of the summer.
Speak to Me/Breathe
One of These Days
The Great Gig in the Sky
The Last Refugee
Welcome to the Machine
Wish You Were Here
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2
Another Brick in the Wall Part 3
Pigs (Three Different Ones)
Us and Them
Smell the Roses
Bring the Boys Back Home