I know, I know. It’s been ages, my friends. I was on a good roll there, too. But there is this whole interning thing, and looking for a job thing, and looking for an apartment thing. Then I got ambushed by a sinus infection. I know everyone hates an excuse-giver, but I couldn’t help but offer mine. That said, enough of that.
An Introduction, Part One:
When I read Sia Michel’s critique of Roger Waters’ performance at Madison Square Garden (you can read it here), I couldn’t help but feel… irked.
I should mention, Sia Michel is the former EIC of SPIN magazine. Yes, the same SPIN magazine that’s now on their third EIC in the last, oh, say, six months (well, technically there isn’t an EIC yet, but anyhow). There are a handful of things that get to me about it, but I suppose I’ll start with the most broad, which is that it reminds me of something one would see on Pitchfork. Now, I’m not harping on Pitchfork for the sake of harping on Pitchfork (don’t worry, this will be short). When good, their reviews are well-written, comprehensive, and clever. However, this reminds me of Pitchfork at its most Pitchforkian — mocking/over the top irreverence, a lack of support for any of the main points, and a quality that reads as someone trying way too hard to be funny/cool/memorable/what have you. It’s one thing to write this way about new music. There are a lot of bands out there putting out music that, quite frankly, sounds like they haven’t put much into what they’re doing, so a review that corresponds seems more appropriate (though I still think everything deserves a comprehensive review). When you’re writing about someone like Pink Floyd or Roger Waters, it’s a whole different matter. See, I’m guessing that Michel is in/around the 30s, which, since Dark Side Of The Moon came out in 1973, means that most likely either a) she was born a few years after it came out, or b) when it came out she was too young for it have made a lasting impression at the time. In cases like this, it’s easy for someone in those circumstances to laugh and say “it probably sounds really deep when you’re on drugs” (and I’m not doubting that it does), because these are days when taste in music is thought to go hand in hand with pretention and what sites just like Pitchfork say. Plus, this is a single-driven music market, and concept albums are just sooo dated, man. To phrase it more succinctly: rejecting an album like Dark Side Of The Moon (without providing any actual critical argument, as she does) means that the writer gets to look hip/cool/edgy/what have you, like they’re exemplifying some sort of new taste or standard for a younger generation (or some such bullshit). It also looks (often deceivingly) more honest then fawning approval (because then people think you’re just giving such and such band/artist/album a good review because almost everyone before you has, because you have no opinion or don’t have the balls to be honest). I mean, would Pitchfork have given Dark Side of the Moon a rating over 4.9? Probably not! (Ok, I’ll stop talking about Pitchfork now.)
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably thinking “Taylor, what the hell is your point? What does this have to do with your own review of Roger Waters?” and I’ll tell you. This is the kind of dilemma that someone like me faces when it comes to reviewing legendary/already established artists. There are two extremes here: a) you can insult the artist, which immediately gives you a reputation for being unafraid to defy the opinions of those before you, in search of truth and honest criticism, or b) you can give the artist a good review (or even mediocre), in which case, as I said before, people will think you’re just giving them a good review because almost everyone before you has, because you have no opinion or don’t have the balls to be honest. (The youth thing comes in here because an older critic will have the fact that they grew up with the artist and therefore, in most people’s eyes, will have more credibility when it comes to knowing the artist’s career, as well as the benefit of knowing the context and experience of all of their previous works, so their criticism, whether positive or negative will seem more founded — whether it is or not.) Basically, what I’m saying here is that, from a writing standpoint, there’s no way to win, and it’s important to keep that in mind that before you read on.
Now that I’ve gotten all of that out of my system, I can say this with 100% confidence: seeing Roger Waters (and his “backing band,” which also featured Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason) was awesome.
In total, Waters and crew played a solid three hours. The first portion of the set was dedicated to a lot of material from The Wall (interestingly, this just popped up on hype machine), Shine On You Crazy Diamond and The Final Cut.
I went in thinking that this would truly be the Roger Waters show and that he would be singing everything — but it was apparent from fairly early on that Waters wasn’t even going to attempt to sing any of David Gilmour’s parts himself, regardless of whether Gilmour originally sang lead or back up. Personally, I thought this was incredibly respectful and respectable. At times, he had a man from his backing group sing Gilmour’s parts, and whoever he was, he did an impressive job (I forget the guy’s name, but I’m sure you can find it on here somewhere — go to Roger Waters, then 2006 tour zone). However, on “Mother,” he had one of his backup singers (who were all incredible — more on that later) sing the Gilmour part, and oh.my.god. I don’t care if it’s Pink Floyd blasphemy to say it: I want a studio recording of that version. She didn’t sing it with the calmness that Gilmour does, she sang it with intensity, like she was only given 5 minutes in her entire life to sing and she wanted to use them all on this song. I like the original, but this version gave the song a completely different feel and, to be honest, one I think I preferred. (If you have or know where I can find a good quality bootleg of this, I will be eternally grateful!) He also played “Perfect Sense I” and “Perfect Sense II” from his solo album, Amused To Death, which I have to admit to being unfamiliar with. Still, I thought they were absolutely a standout of the first set (again, the back-up women were incredible with this one).
Pink Floyd: “Breathe (Live from Live8)” (download)
Pink Floyd: “The Great Gig In The Sky” (download)
The second half was dedicated to playing Dark Side Of The Moon from beginning to end. Let me tell you, there was something positively chilling about hearing it live. Whenever I listened to it, for whatever reason, I never got the feeling that it would be something that would translate well live. Oh boy, was I ever wrong. “Breathe” felt etherial and, for lack of a better word, airy. Have I mentioned how amazing the back-up singers were? Well, with “The Great Gig In The Sky,” the woman who sang it absolutely floored me. I was relatively apathetic about that song before, but now — well, now I’m borderline obsessed. There’s only been one time I can remember when I was completely transported out of a room at a concert (when I saw Explosions In The Sky at NorthSix in Brooklyn a couple years ago, if you’re curious). After hearing “The Great Gig In The Sky” live, that list expanded to two times. (On the subject of the backing singers — I kept thinking that it’s a shame that “What Do You Want From Me?” (download) is a Post-Waters creation, because it’s one of my favorites and, man, those back-up singers would’ve killed it.)
After DSOTM, they pretended the show was over, but we knew better since they hadn’t played “Comfortably Numb” yet. Naturally, they wanted to beat around the bush a bit, so they played some more cuts from The Wall before closing with “Comfortably Numb,” which still sounds as stunning to me as the first time I heard it.
If it seems like I’m not paying respect to Gilmour’s absence, don’t get me wrong. He was absolutely sorely missed — though I was pretty impressed by his “replacements.” The thing is that there’s a part of me that is so incredibly thankful that I even get to see one of these men play. It’s really sad when you think about the fact that the kids who are growing up right now and may discover bands like Pink Floyd in a couple years won’t have the opportunity to hear them live at all, even incomplete and old in age. Maybe the kids in high school right now still have a shot, but anyone who’s younger, really, won’t have the opportunity to see something like this at an age where they’ll be able to appreciate or remember it. The fact that I get to see even Waters and Mason makes me incredibly grateful.
I should also quickly note that the production was great — the visuals were stunning, the floating spaceman and pig were brilliant, and the confetti and bubbles that rained down on the sky were a lot of fun. I took a lot of pictures, but even though I had killer seats (about 1/3rd back, first row on the right hand side of the stage), only a dozen or so came out passable. You can see them here.
An Introduction, Part Two:
The other part that got me about Sia Michel’s piece in the Times was that it struck me as something that I would expect to be similar to something written about Jimmy Buffett. I’ve never read any critical reaction to Jimmy Buffett’s music, and, frankly, I don’t see much point in bothering. This is a man who’s built a career on singing about pirates, drinking, screwing (and loving), the beach, sailing, and overall a wild(n’ out) good time. Critics have never been friendly to anyone with a gimmick, especially one that promotes a good time (probably because most of us are too busy being miserable, har har). Also, you really don’t need any sort of critical interpretation to get the basic gist of what he’s all about.
I’m going to take a risk here and say that, goddamn, if I don’t think that that’s a very, very good thing. This is why pop/rap music, reality television, celebrity gossip and chick lit are popular — you don’t have to think about them to enjoy them. I’m all for cultural expression that stimulates our minds. I wouldn’t want a world of just this kind of stuff, where no one reminds anyone of anything outside themselves. But sometimes we also need to be reminded not to take ourselves so damn seriously. I honestly like Jimmy Buffett, and I honestly like that I can appreciate him without needing, wanting or caring to know what critics think, because I know that when I listen to Jimmy Buffett that I’m having a damn good time, and when I’m listening to Jimmy Buffett, that’s all I really care about. In a world of complications, something that’s simple, straight-forward and enjoyable is incredibly refreshing now and then.
This is going to be short, because, like I said, giving/reading critical response to Jimmy Buffett is bordering on the ridiculous. I do, however, have something of a point I’m making in all of this, and feel like he provides an interesting contrast (or complement) to Roger Waters (interestingly enough, I believe they both played and sold out two nights at the Garden).
The first time I saw Jimmy Buffett live, I was much younger and thus have little to no recollection of the event. So when my Aunt offered me her tickets, I was excited to say “yes” (as I mentioned before, it’s a family thing). The next thing that came to mind was who on Earth I could take. I posted a MySpace bulletin (oh, how times have changed, hmm?) offering the ticket, expecting no response. Still, I was somehow unsurprised when a friend confessed to being a closet fan. So, off we went, two 20-somethings, to see Jimmy Buffett. Of course, we started the night with margaritas.
Suffice it to say, the concert was a lot of fun — and when it comes down to it, that’s all that really matters (and that counts for Rogers Waters as much as it does for Jimmy Buffett). High points in the evening included a father who put headphones over his daughter’s ears during “Why Don’t We Get Drunk And Screw” and a man two or three rows in front of us who was dancing in a way that can only be described as frantic. Really, though, almost everyone was dancing, and how many concerts at Madison Square Garden can you say that of? The crowd itself was also interesting, because it consisted of everyone from just-coming-from-Wall-Street-businessmen types to entire familes to, well, what one might expect a Jimmy Buffett fan to be/look like.
I have to say, in his “defense” (because I’m sure there are some of you out there who are smirking/laughing/shocked), for a man who has a reputation for being a Bacchus of the beach lifestyle, he really can write some moving, emotional music that strikes a chord with more than our primal urges.
He just doesn’t make a living off of it. And that’s perfectly okay.
(I have a few pictures from this, too. You can see them here.)