Roger Waters – Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin – 30/01/18

Basking in the afterglow of an utterly spellbinding concert by Roger Waters, it strikes me that only a month prior, I had absolutely no intention of attending. I wasn’t baulking at the price, nor the venue, I think I was just wary of being disillusioned by ageing rockers again (thanks largely to Jethro Tull last year). I was this (holds out finger and thumb only millimeters apart) close to missing out on one of the greatest concerts of my, er, career. Not sure why I changed my mind in the end, but my deliberation over the matter worked in my favour, as by the time I bought my ticket they had reduced the prices for fear of swathes of empty seats.

I had been one of the lucky several hundred thousand that saw him perform The Wall in Berlin in 1990, and I wasn’t overly impressed but that was more down to logistics than any fault on Roger’s part. I could neither comfortably see nor hear that gig. I had a much better time at Pink Floyd the year before, but the weather had conspired to ruin the sound and the visuals and I desperately needed a wee for their entire set. So maybe this time then?

Dunedin is in the middle of a heatwave. It’s been 30+ all day (believe me, this is scorching for us), and the perspex-roofed Forsyth Barr stadium is basically a giant greenhouse so I’m leaving it as late as possible to enter. If the temperature in the shade in a local beer garden is anything to go by, I am going to need to stay well hydrated, and not with IPA either. The walk down to the stadium is gloriously hot with not a cloud in sight, and barely a trouser leg either. There is a lot of flesh on show, most of it unusually tanned for this part of the world. We’ve been advised that Mr Waters will take to the stage at 8pm sharp, no support. I appreciate this kind of precise information, because in my opinion there is no worse crime against music than missing the start of a show. It takes me a while to find my seat, but when I do, boy have I got a great view. I’m on the pitch, only 10 rows from the front, and not far off central either. This must have originally been one of the most expensive tickets and it’s a bit like boarding a plane and not discovering you’ve been upgraded until you reach your seat. The price-drop has paid dividends though, as the place looks to be full. I think, when half the pitch is utilised, this place holds 15,000 – convincing that many Dunedinites to part with $100+ and leave the comfort of their living rooms (or tonight, perhaps their paddling pools) is no mean feat.

We don't need no education...
Another Brick In The Wall

At 8pm sharp, a projection appears on the giant screen (giant being the entire width of the stage and height of the East Stand, basically it couldn’t be much larger and still fit). It’s a film of a woman sitting in the sand dunes somewhere in Britain, staring out to sea, and the soundtrack is waves and seagulls. No Roger though. After watching the back of sand-lady’s head for another 20 minutes, I seed the band finally troop out from the back of the stage, all dressed in black like a posse of roadies. There are dozens of them, it’s like the Roger Waters Orchestra or something. I should have guessed from the 24 (that I could count) guitars dotted around the stage that this was going to be far from an intimate solo acoustic affair. I am heartened to see Dave Kilminster amongst them – he performed with Steven Wilson a year or so ago and he is one of the best guitarists I’ve ever had the fortune to see. No idea about any of the others though, but if they’re even half the calibre of Kilminster it’ll be a great show. There is another guitarist, a keyboard player, a slide guitar/keyboard player, a bassist, a drummer and two backing singers. They all take their places on the stage and then on wanders then man himself. He’s 74 FFS but he really doesn’t look it. He’s accumulated a slight paunch on the front of his beanpole frame, but he looks like he’s really taken care of himself in his half-century of rockstardom. I’m sure his lifestyle is more akin to Cliff Richard’s than Tommy Lee’s but even so, he is looking remarkably well. Sand-lady is gone from the screen and replaced with some colourful CGI and we’re straight into Speak To Me / Breathe. The sound is incredible. Just amazing, far better than I thought it was possible to get inside a stadium. Just the right volume too, I don’t need my earplugs. And as you might expect, this carefully selected troupe of musicians is as tight as the proverbial gnat’s chuff. Dave K plays with every bit of the grace and precision of Mr Gilmour – you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. The backing singers (2 ladies, with matching peroxide bobs) are also astonishingly good but it’s not until The Great Gig In The Sky that they get to really let go. And wowsers, they really let go. They fairly belt out Clare Torry’s part but in two part harmony. Stunning stuff. Roger Waters’ voice though, that’s the thing that impresses me. He hasn’t lost a single unit of whatever it is you measure singing prowess with (Watts? Horsepower? I don’t fucking know, do I). It’s majestic.

rw1We are treated to One Of These Days and Time and Welcome To The Machine before it’s time for some new stuff. His latest solo offering is pretty listenable and I recognise Dèja Vu and in my opinion, easily the best track from Is This The Life We Really Want – the synth heavy Picture That. The crowd is a little reluctant to participate, it has to be said – perhaps because it’s a Tuesday, perhaps because it’s just so hot, but they (we) are quite happy to remain seated and applaud politely. The first half of the show is brought to an end with Another Brick In The Wall Pts ii and iii. It is done to perfection, complete with a dozen local children on stage to play the pupils. His explanation that he’d be back in 20 mins for more is the first time all night that he addresses the crowd – he’s evidently quite a modest chap that would prefer that his music does the talking.

Big Roger, Little Roger
Roger on the big screen

It’s much darker outside by the time they resume their positions on the stage, and Roger has promised us a decent lightshow. Battersea Power station appears on the giant screen, and we are treated to Dogs, then Pigs (3 different ones). I’ve forgotten just how good Animals was, and resolve to reacquaint myself with it properly next time I’m near Spotify. Lots of anti capitalist, anti greed and anti Trump imagery flashes up on the screen, and then a series of POTUS’s most WTAF quotes. For an aged multi millionaire, Roger Waters is still quite the revolutionary. A huge inflatable pig drone flies out over the crowd and later an inflatable moon drone. Then Wish You Were Here, another new one and Money, before the tour-eponymous Us And Them, and the finale, a belting version of Brain Damage, during which we are treated to a laser show. I don’t think I’ve seen a laser show at a gig for a few decades. It’s not that they’re passé or anything, I just don’t go to gigs on this scale very often (any more). A laser, 5 cleverly placed mirrors and a couple of smoke machines combine to generate a pyramid, illuminated by a rainbow coloured laser above, and it’s almost like looking at the cover of Dark Side of the Moon. This is stadium rock alright. By the end of the second set, the timid, sober, Tuesday night Dunedin audience is on its feet screaming for an encore. I’m amazed and more than a little overjoyed that we have thrown off our collective reluctance to stand up or raise our voices. I’ve never heard this sort of crowd response in NZ before and it’s genuinely heartwarming.

Roger Waters Laser Show
Laser show

He doesn’t disappoint, and back they come. For only the second time tonight, he addresses the crowd, this time to introduce the band. Due to the huge number of personnel on the stage (the 10 from the first half plus an additional sax player who appeared for Money onwards), this takes a good few minutes, and Roger gives each of them equal billing while we give them equal amounts of adoration. Mother is the first encore and although I am quite fond of the song, it really pales into insignificance next to Comfortably Numb, the final number. It’s probably my favourite Floyd song of all – Roger sings the verses (the low, almost spoken parts) while the other guitarist, Jonathan Wilson, handles the choruses. More importantly Dave K absolutely nails the guitar solo.

Battersea Powerstation
Animals, anyone?

And that, folks, is that. They return briefly to perform the curtain call bow and wave goodbye, and as the house lights come up, we are all left to stare in amazement at each other at what we’ve just witnessed. I never realised how much I appreciate Pink Floyd. This was way better than my previous experiences of Floyd or Waters, it was pretty much perfect in every way. He played virtually everything I wanted to hear, with the exception of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, and even the new stuff was good. This is in such stark contrast to Jethro Tull, it’s really renewed my enthusiasm for old has-beens (although he really is far from a has been). And let’s face it, Dunedin struggles to attract artistes under 60 so has-beens is the best I can hope for really. I’m so glad I decided to go.

Absolutely brilliant. 10 out of 10. Would definitely go again.

Roger Waters - revolutionary confetti

$8 to print my on fucking ticket??
Roger Waters – ticket

The Cult + Bad Sav – 19/11/16 – Town Hall, Dunedin


The Cult? In Dunedin?  The actual Cult? Messrs Astbury and Duffy? In the Town Hall you say? Jebus. This town sucks for musical entertainment most of the time, but occasionally, just occasionally, the planets align and a promoter somewhere manages to convince a half decent act to venture down south. This year alone we’ve had The Buzzcocks and Black Sabbath, now The Cult.

Now then. The Cult. I love The Cult. I fucking love The Cult. Well, to be precise, I love the 4 or 5 albums they recorded in the 80s. I couldn’t even tell you the name of anything released since then. However, I get the suspicion that they know what the people want, the likelihood of them playing the classics is fairly high. Sure they’ll play a couple of new ones but I’m hanging out for half a dozen from the 80s and I’ll be happy with that.

There’s also the novelty factor of going to a gig in Dunedin Town Hall.  It’s a fine old building, which I’ve only seen the inside of once in 11 years of living here. That was a classical gig me and Mrs ByTor got free tickets for. I had no idea they were open to hosting rock gigs.

I’ve just re-read my review of them in 1989, (almost twenty fucking seven years ago to the day!) and it wasn’t too complimentary. My main gripe (apart from Wembley Arena’s fuckawful sound) was Ian Astbury’s voice. If I remember correctly he just seems to sing half the words, struggling to hold a note for longer than half a breath. Anyway, it’s not reason enough for me to turn my nose up at it.

Apparently there is a support act, Bad Sav, a local bunch who I’ve seen a few times before. I was too busy in the bar while they were on though. Pretty big gig for them though, there seemed to be quite a few people watching them.

The Cult, Dunedin Town Hall 2016

The Town Hall is maybe 3/4 full, which is really surprising given the fact that it appears to have been a word-of-mouth gig, such was the scarcity of promotion. I didn’t see or hear a single ad, apart from Facebook. Is that all that you need these days though? The house lights duly go down at about 9:30, and on they saunter to a very enthusiastic reception. Wild Flower is just about the best opening track for any album, and it’s an absolute pearler to open a gig. The opening riff, as brazenly stolen from AC/DC as anything Airbourne have ever done, is just legendary. It’s one of those songs that just can’t be played too loud. The sound in the Town Hall is really good, and it’s REALLY loud. My earplugs are only just up to the task of protecting my ‘drums. Not sure if the band brought this PA with them, I’m pretty sure Strawberry Sound doesn’t have anything this big. Crystal clear too.

Astbury is, as I remember from last time, struggling to stretch the notes out to their intended length, and in places this grates slightly, but he’s bang in tune and there are a couple of thousand black-clad fans singing along to help him anyway. Duffy though, is a guitar hero of the first order. He is looking pretty good for his 50 odd years, and man can he play that fucking thing. He is the consummate pro, stuffed full of clichés, but so fucking cool with it. I would even go so far as to say he’s up there with Angus Young. The rockstar pose on the cover of Sonic Temple is not affected, it’s just the way he plays the guitar. I expect he strikes that pose when he’s washing the car or mowing the lawn, he’s that fucking rock and roll. There are some other musicians on the stage, no idea about the bassist or rhythm guitar/keyboardist (they do the job), but the drummer is John Tempesta (ex-Exodus and Testament, amongst many others) so I’ve probably seen him a few times before without realising. He’s more than capable of backing the Astbury & Duffy show, but it really is just that, the other three may as well be session musicians for all the spotlight time they get.

Fucking guitar hero of the highest order
Billy Duffy, axe hero (pic copyright Hadden Gamble 2016)

As I (and probably a couple of thousand others) had hoped, there is a healthy amount of 80s material tonight. They play a few new ones, none of which I’m familiar with, and they offer a good opportunity to sneak to the bar. They’re not bad, they’re just not Electric . So, as well as Wild Flower we get Lil’ Devil, Rain, Phoenix, Horse Nation, Sweet Soul Sister & Firewoman, and then after only 90 very short minutes, the set winds up with the absolutely epic She Sells Sanctuary. We drag them back on stage for one more – there is one classic that they can’t leave without playing, and that’s Love Removal Machine. And that’s all folks. Short but oh so sweet (90 mins isn’t really short, it’s just that Steven Wilson played for three whole hours last month!).

I was expecting my favourite songs tonight to be those from Electric and earlier, but I think I enjoyed Firewoman and Sweet Soul Sister the most. I didn’t particularly like Sonic Temple when it came out, but it’s somewhat grown on me over the last 25 years(!). Duffy was putting much more in the way of bended-knee-facial-contortion guitar solos on Sonic Temple than he ever had on Love, or even Electric, and those two tracks tonight gave him more of an opportunity to do his thang. And he does his thang with absolute note for note precision, faithful to the recorded version, exactly as it was laid down 27 years back. No ten minute improvised shredding behind his head á la Angus Young or Nigel Tufnell while the others go off for a toilet break. One word – legendary.

In case any Kiwis reading this thought Ian Astbury was from California, he’s not. He hails from the north-west of England. If you listen to Dreamtime Live at the Lyceum (recorded in 1984), he was definitely still a Scouser! By contrast, Mr Duffy, who presumably has spent roughly the same time across the Atlantic as him over the last three decades, hasn’t shed his native twang at all. I’ve always wondered if Astbury’s accent shift was just an affectation or if ‘American’ has just unconsciously consumed him since moving to LA. I am told that I have traces of a Kiwi accent these days (after 11 years living in NZ), and that is despite my attempts to resist it…


Black Sabbath + Rival Sons – Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin – 30/04/16

So I’m finally going to the Forsyth Barr stadium to see a concert. The giant fucking rugby stadium that we didn’t need. The white elephant that Dunedin ratepayers didn’t even want. I whinged and moaned about it at the start, but I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that it’s here to stay, so I might as well use the fucking thing.

I’ve been there half a dozen times before (Rugby World Cup, Football World Cup qualifying tournaments, Wellington Phoenix, Beer Festivals etc) and it’s all very nice and everything, but I’ve never been there for a gig. I’ve never been that tempted by the music on offer to stump up the $150+ necessary to see it. What have we had over the 4 years since it was opened? Elton John, Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac, Paul Simon & Tom Jones. Not my all time list of must-see artists (although I have actually seen all of them except Fleetwood Mac before, but that’s irrelevant). But I’ll go and see Sabbath. Even at $170 I’ll go and see Sabbath. Even though the sound at Forsyth Barr is legendarily poor (to the point where it’s been said that it sounds better from Logan Park than in the actual stadium). Even though I have gone on record as saying that these days I’m only going to fork out big bucks on bands I’ve never seen before. Even though this is going to be probably the most expensive gig I’ve ever seen. Yup, I’m going.

I bought the ticket 4 months ago. It’s been pinned up on my noticeboard, glaring at me and shouting “$170? You could have bought your kids a couple of pair of shoes each for that” or “$170? That’s 17 high-end craft beers from New World” or “$170? That’s four times as much as the total face value of tickets from all previous times you’ve seen Black Sabbath”. I think only Madonna in 2004 (£100 !?) was actually more expensive than this, but that was back in the days of being unshackled by mortgage and children.

So, money concerns aside, the day is finally here, and tonight I’M GOING TO SEE BLACK SABBATH!! The greatest metal band of all time, if the ads for the concert are to be believed. They’ve certainly been a fairly big part of my life since 1987 or so. Legends, in fact. It’s just Ozzy, Geezer and Tony these days, but to be honest I think the position of drummer  (and no disrespect to Bill Ward here) is the easiest to swap out for some random session dude. It’s not like replacing Neil Peart in Rush, for instance. It’s going to be good, for sure.

The atmosphere in and around Forsyth Barr is electric. Hordes of black clad fans of all ages are milling around, and the crowd is not nearly as male dominated as you would expect of a metal gig. Like at the Buzzcocks a few weeks ago, there are a lot of strange hairy characters here that you just don’t see round and about town normally. Where do they hide? Quite an encouraging number of younger people too. I mean, Sabbath’s best records were made before I was born. Slightly disappointed by the turnout though – only half the stadium is being used – there is temporary seating on the halfway line and quite a lot of space at the back of the pitch but most of the seats look occupied. At a rough guess maybe 8-10 thousand? C’mon Dunedin, you should do better than this

rivalsonsRival Sons is the support act, not someone I’d ever heard of, but a prior bit of research on Spotify revealed them to be a pretty decent blues rock outfit from Long Beach, with only a couple of albums under their belts. They are very good in person, sort of dirty Black Crowes end of the blues rock spectrum, with more than a passing resemblance to Zeppelin. The most striking thing about them (and unfortunately my Nokia Lumia’s camera can’t do justice to this) is the beard on the tambourine/keyboard/pedal steel player. It’s a chinmuff of ZZ Top proportions, this guy could easily pass off as an Amish. I even recognise two of their songs from my brief Spotify session earlier in the day. Or maybe I recognise them from Houses Of The Holy. Difficult to tell…

sabAnd so to business. After a quick trip to the bar it’s time for the main course. Lights down, volume up and here we go. The crowd noise is fantastic as the video screen shows some flashy animation of dragons and fire and other metal clichés. The (almost) septuagenarian metal gods wander out of the shadows to the sound of a lone church bell, and this means only one thing. Black Sabbath. They’re opening with their eponymous signature tune, the heaviest, most evil, sinister riff ever written. It’s so simple, just three notes, not even chords, and it’s basically the riff that gave birth to heavy metal, nearly half a century ago. It’s probably my favourite Sabbath tune and they smash it out of the park. My fears of poor acoustics are entirely unfounded, and I don’t even need my ear plugs – it’s just about as good a sound as you could wish for in a stadium. A procession of the greatest of greatest hits then streams forth – Snowblind, After Forever, Faeries Wear Boots, Behind The Wall Of Sleep, War Pigs, Children of the Grave, Iron Man etc etc. I’m sure they’re very proud of their latest album but they don’t go anywhere near it. In fact, I don’t think they venture much later than about 1972, which is fine by me. More than fine. I know every note of every song they play and it is all FUCKING BRILLIANT. All of it. Even Tommy Clufeto’s monster drum solo (he’s way way more of a showman than Bill Ward). I’m not normally one for big solos but I am exhausted just watching this guy, the sheer effort he is putting into hitting ALL of his drums as LOUD and as FAST as he can deserves applause, which it duly gets, and lots.ozzy

And then the highpoint of the evening, as Ozzy yells at us ‘WE LOVE YOU AUCKLAND!’ If it were anyone else, I think I’d be more than a little offended, but as it’s Ozzy, and it’s such a, well, Ozzy thing to do, we’ll let it pass with a wry smile. What the fuck must he have been like at the height of his excesses though?

Then it’s good night Dunedin, you’ve been amazing, see you later. And off they trudge so we can play the encore game. You know you’re coming back on. We know you’re coming back on. You know we know you’re coming back on. And they come back on and surprise surprise, it’s for a single encore, Paranoid. It’s a great song, and a great way to round off an all too short night.

theendI wonder if it really is the end? It’s certainly not their first farewell tour, and if the bank balances run dry again, I wouldn’t bet against seeing them coming out of retirement. Sad to see them go, but it’s probably for the best. Either way, they have done immense things in music. They almost single handedly invented an entire genre of music for fuck’s sake, you can’t get more immense than that.