There is no “Dark Side” to Roger Waters Production—Us+Them

 

 

 

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Photo by Tom Donahue

As the stylus hit the grooves of “Dark Side of the Moon” and the first sounds hit my ears, I knew I would be a Pink Floyd fan for life. This was totally different than Deep Purple, Elton John or Led Zeppelin.  I didn’t own a stereo like my friends Marantz receiver wired to two Yamaha NS 1000 speakers. Roger Waters bass mixed with the clear separation of sound transformed me from a casual listener to an audiophile junky.

The first two songs of Roger Waters show at T-Mobile Arena focused on the massive video screen behind the airy stage as Waters and his tight six-piece band unleashed Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” and “One of These Days.” But what caught my eye, was the enormous production that started behind the stage with HD quality video that stretched the width of the arena and then jutted 150 feet over the floor perpendicular to the stage. I had to find out how this was done.

 

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Photo by Tom Donahue

Jay Cline grew up in Seattle when Nirvana and Pearl Jam were breaking new ground in rock. In 1991, he worked as Technical Director with Legends in Concert and then toured with them for seven years. In 1998, he settled in Vegas and the Hard Rock where he continued to groom his craft in live music production. He continued climbing the venue management ladder at Mandalay Bay and then MGM Grand Garden before reaching the pinnacle at T-Mobile Arena as Executive Director of Event Production.  His new selection of stereo systems can weigh 340,000 pounds and put out over 110 decibels of sound. I sat down with Cline to learn how a show like Roger Waters works.

 

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Most people display autographed posters of memorable events-Jay proudly displays the rigging grid from T-Mobile’s Grand Opening with the Killer’s, completely autographed.

Load-in started at 4AM with a layout of the floor. From 5-8AM riggers were busy preparing to hang 240,000 pounds of sound and lights. Riggers no longer climb from the ground. At T-Mobile, they do it from the ceiling where a sophisticated web of catwalks are built-in. At Grand Garden, Cline didn’t even have one credible load in dock. At T-Mobile, he has six. He needs them.

At 8AM, 150 stagehands began assembling lighting that was already rigged to trusses and massive speaker cabinets from one of the 26 trucks.

Everything is rolling into the arena. To rig the massive concerts today, everything needs to be on rollers. By 3:00 they were rolling the stage under the sound and lights. Sound check was at six o’clock, which included over a dozen students that were performing from local schools. By seven doors were swinging open.

There are four unique pieces of Waters production. Speaker clusters were rigged from the back top of the arena, behind the crowd. When the six-piece band launched into songs like “Money”, you felt like you were in a home theater as sound circled the arena.

Stunning projection screens lowered from the ceiling and ran the length of the arena floor. One of the songs imaged smoke stacks depicting England’s Battersea Power Station in the initial backdrop, as lead singer Jonathon Wilson sang lean vocals on “Dogs” while David Kilminster uncorked a throbbing guitar solo.

The standard Floyd goliath inflatable pig – stamped with “Piggy Bank of War” – took an aerial tour of the arena around the ten video screens

While the “Pig” is monstrous, it is no more than the blimp you see at sporting events. It is operated by remote control.

To create the pyramid, four towers were erected that housed the laser effects.

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The Us+Them tour integrated the strongest political message of any rock show I have seen.   The crowd mostly cheered as images depicting a grimacing Trump on a baby’s body and as a tiny toy for Vladimir Putin to command lit up the massive screens. Words including “charade” and “joker” flashed as that regular co-star at any Waters show,

US+THEM Playlist-June 16-T-Mobile Arena-Do yourself a favor and watch any one of the videos

  1. Intro
  2. Speak to Me
    (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  3. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  4. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  5. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  6. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  7. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  8. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  9. Play Video

  10. Play Video

  11. Play Video

  12. Play Video

  13. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  14. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  15. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  16. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  17. Set 2:
  18. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  19. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  20. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  21. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  22. Play Video

  23. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  24. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  25. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  26. (Pink Floyd song)

    Play Video

  27. (Pink Floyd song)

 

Not everyone agrees with Waters politics. His message has cost him in ticket sales, but his creativity in producing a memorable presentation rooted in theater is unsurpassed.