Roger Waters in Los Angeles - live review

Wish you were here? Waters wows LA on the summer solstice

Roger Waters performing with backing singers in LA
(Image: © Stephanie Cabral)

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

Tonight is the summer solstice. It’s the longest day of the year, in a year that’s felt far too long already for many, particularly in regard to politics. Roger Waters has never been a shrinking violet when it comes to putting his political views across, and tonight is no different. On this tour, he’s been making his way across America wielding a sledgehammer of opinion directed at the current US president. It’s interesting that the same things Waters was writing about in the 1970s (the creep of fascism, dumbed-down politics, a disillusioned, materialistic populace) are also the focus of 2017’s ire.

This three-night arena stand was sold as a hi-tech extravaganza, and while the quadraphonic 3D sound is remarkable, it’s the imagery that takes centre stage. Allowing Waters to take his gloves off, the enormous screens feature hyper-stylised caricatures of Donald Trump with taglines such as ‘Charade’ and ‘Fat Chin’, a montage of the former reality TV star’s most notorious quotes.

Of course, there’s also the famous flying pig – which here is a thoroughly 21st-century drone with another image of the man Waters brazenly calls a “nincompoop”. It’s difficult to imagine another musician of this magnitude being quite so outrageously political, but due to him having had the same views for 50 years now, it’s even more difficult to believe that any of the audience could be so ignorant of his views that they come away offended.

Waters is in fantastic shape. The 73-year-old is lean and muscular, and matches his band by dressing in black. As with any post-Floyd solo shows, the protagonist only sings half the songs. Tonight, as Jonathan Wilson takes over David Gilmour’s vocal parts, Waters runs to the far reaches of the stage to engage with his audience.

Of the elite musicians onstage here, Wilson and Dave Kilminster do stellar work on guitar, but it’s the unnervingly similar duo who share the centre stage limelight with Waters that grab the most plaudits. With their backing vocals, the platinum-blonde pair of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig add texture throughout, but also have truly great moments as they lead the children during Another Brick In The Wall and add incredible vibrancy to The Great Gig In The Sky. They are unexpected stars in an absolutely brilliant show.

With 80 per cent of the setlist centred around 1970s Floyd, you could be forgiven for wondering if there’s much point in Waters playing songs from his brand new album, Is This The Life We Really Want?, but it fits perfectly. The unfamiliarity of the music allows the audience to calm their fervour between decades-old classics, but in songs like The Last Refugee and the profanity-laden Picture That, he is as lyrically on-message as ever. The world has come full circle and, seeing that it’s the correct time to seize the moment, Waters has reacted accordingly and emphatically.

Despite the constant stream of bear-poking vitriol flowing through tonight’s show, Waters is keen to end with uplifting euphoria. For a fourth couplet of Dark Side… songs (Money and Us And Them), the emphasis of the light show shifts from the screens to a superb laser arrangement that forms that glorious rainbow prism. Then, as the final chords of Comfortably Numb ring out, we’re showered with confetti. Catch a piece in your hand, however, and you’ll see the word ‘RESIST’ printed on it. Even with the live musical equivalent of a party favour, Roger Waters is determined to leave his inimitable mark.