By Vernon Fitch
Roger Waters is back! He has taken to the road with his Bleeding Hearts Band which consists of Graham Broad on drums, Paul Carrack on keyboards and vocals, Doreen Chanter and Katie Kissoon on backing vocals, Mel Collins on Saxophones, Andy Fairweather-Low on guitars, Jay Stapley on guitars, and Jim Ladd as DJ and host. The U.S. tour began in Providence, Rhode Island on August 14, 1987 and I was fortunate enough to be able to catch this amazing show at the Omni in Atlanta, Georgia on September 2, 1987.
After making the drive from Florida to Georgia, we arrived in Atlanta in the afternoon and made our way to the Omni. On the way, we turned on the radio and tuned into the local FM rock station that was promoting the concert. At the station, the DJ was joined by Paul Carrack of the Bleeding Hearts Band. He talked about his career and how he linked up with Roger Waters. He also related the story of how they were in the studio recording when they decided to record a new version of Money, and Roger asked him to sing it. (This version has been released as the B-side of the new American single Sunset Strip). After hearing more from Paul Carrack about the tour, we were amazed to find out that this incredible show was not sold out! What is wrong with the music-buying public? People constantly complain about not having been able to see The Wall concerts, but when Roger brings his show to their home town they don't bother to buy tickets.
We arrived at the Omni about 4:30 and I headed backstage to say hello to Roger. Not long thereafter Roger Waters appeared. He was very polite and also very quiet. He autographed a number of records for me and even signed a promo photo of himself "To Vern, From Pink, Roger Waters." Needless to say, I was overwhelmed. Roger then posed for some photos with me and then politely bid me farewell. It was an experience that I will never forget. And the concert was yet to happen!
The doors to the Omni opened to let in the crowd an hour before showtime. Once inside, I headed to the souvenir stand. On sale were four different Radio K.A.O.S. T-shirts (really excellent designs, two of which had tour dates on the back) and a fantastic tour folder. After purchasing all these great souvenirs I made my way into the auditorium.
Upon entering the auditorium I immediately noticed the familiar round screen above the stage that was flanked with P.A. speakers. Additional speakers were hung from the ceiling and a radio booth was set up on a third tier above the stage. Also, at the rear of the main floor was a booth with the words RADIO K.A.O.S. in neon lights above it and three telephones inside. I had heard about this interesting concept in advance and I couldn't wait to see how it worked.
On the Air
The show began with the M.C. introducing the crowd to the Radio K.A.O.S. DJ, Jim Ladd. Jim took his place in the radio booth above the stage and welcomed the crowd by telling us that Radio K.A.O.S. was on the air. He said that they were beaming the show by satellite to Houston, Texas, which seemed to excite the crowd. He then proceeded to play the Doors Texas Radio and the Big Beat over the P.A. system. When that song ended, he asked the crowd if any of them liked ZZ Top and then played one of their songs. This gave us the impression that we were listening to a real radio station. The crowd was excited when Jim Ladd announced at the end of the song that they were going to take calls from the hall. Two callers talked live to Jim via the phones set up at the rear of the main floor. One girl asked whether we would hear any Pink Floyd songs and Jim assured her that, indeed, we would be treated to some. He said that we were in store for one incredible show.
After the callers finished, we listened to a Radio K.A.O.S. advertisement. But this was not an ordinary ad. This was an ad for Club Nowhere, "the night club that is so exclusive that nobody knows where it is. That's right, you'll never get in, but at least you wont have to stand in line at Club Nowhere. The club that stays one step ahead of the public by changing location every night of the week. And, don't forget, Tuesday night, it's the boss sounds of Jazz Meister Baheata Plankton and the Standard Broadcast Band. Wednesday night is Wet Wolverine night at Club Nowhere. Thursday night is Gun Night, bring an oozi, get in free. Friday night we're closed. Saturday and Sunday night we're closed for repairs. And remember, there's no cover, no minimum, no waitresses, no tables, no parking and no pets at Club Nowhere, the night club so exclusive, no one knows where it is. Visa, American Express, Master Card not accepted. There's no club like Club Nowhere."
After a station ID for Radio K.A.O.S., Jim Ladd introduced us to Paul Carrack who took the stage solo and performed his song Say You Will. This was a bit too mainstream for my tastes, but it gave him a chance to be seen for himself by the public. At the end of the song, Jim Ladd announced that Radio K.A.O.S. was now going live, on the air, and that there was one more telephone call, this one from an outside line... It was Billy in his metallic, synthesized voice. To coincide with Billy's voice on the P.A. system, there was a giant digital printout in lights across the back of the stage which spelled out exactly what Billy was saying. This made it perfectly clear what was being said as it was sometimes hard to understand Billy's voice. Billy said "hello" to Jim and told Jim that he hears radio waves in his head. With that introduction, Roger Waters and the Bleeding Hearts Band appeared on stage playing the song Radio Waves in quadraphonic sound (there were speakers throughout the auditorium in addition to the ones in front of the stage) with film accompaniment on the large circular screen. Roger was in fine form and the band was tight. The Radio Waves film showed various radio towers and depicted radio waves, along with digital circuitry. At the conclusion of Radio Waves, Jim Ladd announced it's title, ran a Radio K.A.O.S. ID and then got back on the line with Billy. Billy announced that he was from the valley, Wales, to which Jim replied "sperm or blue-tip?." Billy then explained why his voice sounds the way it does and Jim told Billy that he was glad that he was with us today and, all that aside, welcome to the machine.
Welcome to the Machine
Immediately, the video screen came to life with the accompanying film as the band played Welcome to the Machine. To me, the film seemed different than the one used during previous Pink Floyd tours. It had the same images, but the colors looked different in parts. Perhaps sections had been redone or restored. It still had the insect creature at the beginning, the head being sliced off in the middle, and the sea of blood with groping hands at the end. Every time I have seen this, I have been amazed at how well the Dali-esque scenes fit so well with Roger's musical landscape. Of course, the crowd loved it.
Who Needs Information
Next up was a conversation between Jim and Billy wherein Billy explained how he could hack his way into any system. Jim didn't believe him so Billy showed his technological abilities by causing the light bulb hanging over Jim in the control booth to explode. Jim stared in disbelief at the broken bulb as the band began playing Who Needs Information. This was a powerful number live and I was impressed with the vocals of Roger, Doreen and Katie, as well as the excellent sax work of Mel Collins, all of whom complimented each other very well.
After the song Who Needs Information came a news report about fueling wars. "Twenty percent of the world's scientists are involved in weapons research. Twenty-five percent of all research and development worldwide goes on weapons. Fifty percent of all British government research and development is allocated to weapons. More financial and intellectual resources are devoted to worldwide weaponry than is spent on ... " At that point, cash registers began to ring throughout the auditorium. Roger's message was clear as the band broke into Money. Roger was using his music to comment on the current state of affairs in the world. The band really jelled on this number with Paul Carrack on lead vocals and Jay Stapley providing an excellent lead guitar break. The song was also accompanied by a film, which was definitely different than the old Pink Floyd footage used for the song. The theme remained the same, though, as we were treated to various scenes of all the things money can buy.
The Professional Bimbo School
Money ended with another Radio K.A.O.S. ID followed by an advertisement. "Girls, are you tired of your boring job? Driven crazy by your boss who has you running for coffee all day? Well, here's the answer. The Professional Bimbo School. From the Rosemary Woods technique to the fine art of shredding, we'll teach you everything you need to know: How to frost your hair. How to respond to a Senate Subcommittee. How to stab your porcelain fingernails into your palms to induce a teary-eyed look when telling almost all about your heretofore unimpeachable employer. We will arrange for scantily-clad photos of you to appear, unauthorized, in sleazy magazines. And find a former best friend to rat on you. We'll even arrange for you to find God, write a book, and do lecture tours in your declining years. You don't have to know how to type letters. You don't even have to know how to turn over letters. The time is right for American women. Enroll now. Become a Bimbo graduate. Just call 976-BIMBO now."
Pink Floyd Medley
At the end of the commercial, Roger reinforced the idea with a musical statement. The spotlight came on and the band played In the Flesh. This "event" is one that has to be experienced live to fully appreciate the impact of the performance. It was Roger shouting his rage at the audience as Pink did in the Wall movie. This song immediately segued into Have a Cigar, which had a powerful guitar intro and Paul Carrack on lead vocals. This was a shortened version of the song, which merged into the next one, Pigs (Three Different Ones). This version of Pigs lasted only three-and-a-half minutes, with Roger singing only the first two verses (but with as much venom as on the Animals tour!). I really enjoyed seeing this song performed live again, in spite of the abbreviated instrumental section, and it was one of the highlights of the evening. Again without interruption, Pigs blended into another classic, Wish You Were Here. This beautiful ballad is always a concert favorite, and Roger's vocals with Mel Collins' sax solo made this a special moment in the show. The final song in this Pink Floyd medley was Mother. The audience acknowledged this classic song with a round of cheers and Roger added some audience participation to the tune by letting us sing the line "Mother, do you think they'll try to break my balls?" The crowd loved it. The arrangement of Mother was new, with a drum machine providing the basic rhythm over which the song developed. Jay Stapley added a nice lead guitar part and Doreen Chanter sang the chorus with emotion. When Mother ended, Jim Ladd announced the song titles of the medley and made a point of stating that these were "the words and music of Roger Waters."
The Powers That Be
Another Radio K.A.O.S. ID was played and Billy was back on the line talking about hacking his way into a government satellite. Doreen Chanter then sang Molly's Song, an unreleased song about spies in the sky. This led into the song Me or Him, which featured a Mel Collins sax solo and some nice quadraphonic effects. Accompanying this song were pictures of Ronald Reagan on the screen. Me or Him segued into The Powers That Be, a powerful song with grimly humorous visuals showing various world leaders interspersed with scenes of starvation, death and destruction. This was a strong statement about Roger's opinion of our world leaders (remember the Fletcher Memorial Home?). When The Powers That Be ended, it was announced that the band was going to take a short break and then come back for another set. What could have been an entire show for most bands turned out to be just the first half of Roger's show!
Calls From the Hall
After a brief intermission, Jim Ladd appeared in the radio booth and introduced a DJ from an Atlanta FM station, who joined him in the booth. She made announcements about some local upcoming events and Jim thanked her for her participation. Next, he announced that they were going to take some more calls from the hall. Just before the first caller went on, Roger Waters appeared from the side of the stage and joined Jim in the radio booth. This gave the callers the opportunity to speak to Roger Waters directly (talk about making contact with your audience!). The first caller asked Roger about his feelings on the current movement to censor music. Roger replied that he considers it extremely childish. When asked how he thought we could stop it, Roger answered by saying that we should make a lot of noise about it, and that if you are in a band, just go on writing what you want to write. And if you are a consumer, go on buying what you want to buy. The first caller thanked Roger for his comments and a second caller got on the phone.
The second caller began by making a statement against a local ordinance prohibiting the right to assembly. Roger's reply to this was that you should stand up and be counted, that's all you can do, and eventually they'll get it together. The caller then made another statement against the local police by saying "The police are not here for your protection. They are here for your correction." This got a reaction from the crowd (as would be expected of any comment against the establishment), but Roger didn't fully agree with the idea. He stated that "You can't tar everybody with the same brush. Not all policeman are bad. There are some good cops out there who are trying to do a proper job." He summed it up by saying that "you can't generalize about any group of people. There are some good guys out there and that's what Radio K.A.O.S. is all about."
The third and final caller got on the phone and put THE question directly to the man himself. The caller said, in no uncertain terms, "When is the video from the Wall concert coming out?" He followed this question by telling Roger that "you have a lot of fans out here that were a little too young to fly off to New York or Los Angeles to see the concert." This hit a nerve with the crowd as everyone cheered. Roger could do nothing but say "I'll see what I can do." (Let's all hope that this question is presented to Roger throughout his tour so that he is impressed enough to do something about it).
With that, Roger thanked the three callers for their questions and left the radio booth. Jim Ladd also thanked the people for their participation and followed this with a Radio K.A.O.S. ID and a word from one of the sponsors.
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Going to Live in L.A.
Jim Ladd announced that we just got another message from Billy as the band began playing Going to Live in L.A. (this was the b-side of the Radio Waves single). This song started slowly but built into a real rocker, with the band in fine form. The next song, Sunset Strip, was accompanied by a film showing the streets of Los Angeles. Doreen and Katie provided some nice vocal harmonies, and Roger was clearly enjoying himself as he rocked back and forth with the music. This was the most relaxed I had seen Roger in a long time.
Next on the agenda was The Fish Report With a Beat. This consisted of a video report by various Los Angeles DJs about fishing (with strong sexual connotations). Accompanying this video on the stage was Andy Fairweather-Low playing a solo guitar improvisation. This worked well as it set a carnival-type atmosphere.
Jim Ladd then introduced the title track from The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, which the band proceeded to play accompanied by the video to the song. For some reason, this version of The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking seemed slower than usual and dragged a bit. Perhaps it was due to the difficulty of playing to a click track to keep it in synch with the video.
The Great Syd Barrett
The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking ended and Billy cut in to tell Jim that he had found something interesting while hacking his way through various records in computers. Jim acted annoyed at Billy for forcing something on his radio show, but Billy took control and the video screen came to life with the original Arnold Layne promo film from 1967! It was great to see this film and I felt that it was Roger's way of showing the fans his beginnings. At the conclusion of the film, Roger paid tribute to Syd by stating to the audience, "The great Syd Barrett." The crowd, as ever, loved it.
Meanwhile, Jim showed his displeasure at Billy's messing around by telling him "Are you done pal? You little mutant. Are you done screwing up my show? What the hell was that? Some bizarre acid flashback, Billy?" Billy didn't answer, whereupon Jim asked him if he had found a solution to the problem he had been working on. Billy hadn't, so Jim left him to work on it and introduced the song If. Roger's vocals were desolate, setting the perfect mood, and Jay Stapley's guitar solo was exceedingly metallic, perfect for the song. The crowd appreciated the excellent rendition of this old Pink Floyd classic.
The next song they played was Every Strangers Eyes from The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking album. This is my favorite song from that LP and I was pleased that Roger still included it in his live performances. Every Strangers Eyes was accompanied by the film that Roger had used on the Pros and Cons tour and Andy Fairweather-Low provided some excellent lead guitar work during the song.
Not Now John
Following Every Strangers Eyes was a Radio K.A.O.S. ID and Billy was back on the line. He told Jim that what he had found didn't look good. A news report told us that "Two-thirds of the Amazon rain-forest have been destroyed, mostly for cattle to supply the U.S.A. with hamburgers. Rain-forests contain one-half of the world's wild creatures, yet one species becomes extinct every day. For each Westerner, two trees die each year representing an area the size of ..." With that, the band exploded into Not Now John, giving us Roger's feelings about the situation. Fuck all that! It was fantastic to see this song performed live for the first time and it was definitely one of the highlights of the whole show. Roger was in fine form, and the band really took off on this number (although David Gilmour's guitar break was sorely missed).
Another Brick in the Wall
With the crowd partially standing, Jim Ladd got everyone on their feet with the announcement of Another Brick in the Wall. These were the most powerful renditions of Another Brick in the Wall Part 1, The Happiest Days of Our Lives and Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 that I have ever heard. First Jay Stapley rendered an intense echo guitar lead and, not to be outdone, Andy Fairweather-Low cranked up the echo guitar for a powerful climax to one of Roger's most powerful songs. Roger enjoyed himself on vocals and a tape provided the children's chorus. It was great!
At the conclusion of Another Brick in the Wall, Jim announced "As so often happens in the chaos of today's educational system, after twelve years of homework, hemorrhoids for teachers and headaches, you graduate, only to find that the lights are on, but Nobody's Home. Roger appeared in his easy chair next to a lamp and a television to sing Nobody Home. I couldn't help thinking that this has become one of Roger's live trademark songs. It always seems to provide an unusual change in the concert setting. The crowd knew all the words and sang along with Roger, who would occasionally stop singing and let us fill in the gaps. Mel Collins added a moving sax solo making the song a real crowd pleaser.
After Nobody Home, Billy was back on the line telling Jim that he was finished. The song Home was played followed by Four Minutes. These two songs were the climax of the Radio K.A.O.S. stage show. During Four Minutes, a clock ticked off the seconds as scenes on the video screen showed a mobilization of armed forces, planes taking off, rockets launching and a nuclear attack in progress. As missile warnings echoed throughout the auditorium, the quadraphonic sound system put the audience in the center of the attack. The sound level built up to a deafening roar when, suddenly, there was a blinding flash of light, all sound stopped, and the auditorium was plunged into pitch blackness. It was a frightening experience.
This spectacular climax ended with Billy announcing over the phone to Jim that it was not real, and the band played The Tide is Turning. This was Roger's statement of hope. The whole band joined in to sing the refrain at the end and it came off similar to the end of the Live Aid concerts which were, of course, the inspiration on Roger to write this song. The Tide is Turning ended the second set and Roger introduced the band to a rousing chorus of cheers and a standing ovation.
When Roger returned minutes later and announced that they were going to do damage to our brains, we all knew what the encore would be. Brain Damage and Eclipse were accompanied by the old Pink Floyd film for the song and a great crowd sing-along, which was a fantastic finish to a great show.
Looking back on this concert experience, I must say that, considering all the technology that went into putting on such a show, it was amazingly flawless. Roger has brought the art of live performance to a new high. The setting was comfortable, the show was paced perfectly and Roger was in fine form, relaxed and enjoying it all. Once again he has given his fans pleasure with his unique musical visions. Thanks, Roger, for an experience I'll never forget. Your fans appreciate all the effort you put forth. I hope you will be back soon (and I hope your snooker game was a winner). Until next time, Shine On...