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The Dark Side of Hyde Park – Roger Waters delivers politically charged set at British Summer Time

Words and Pictures: Adrian Hextall / MindHex Media

Having seen Roger Waters perform both ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ and ‘The Wall’ in full in recent years, the opportunity to see him on stage in front of 65,000 people in Hyde Park as part of the annual British Summer Time series was not to be missed. 

Water’s sets are usually liberally sprinkled with a certain amount of wit, digs at the leaders that run our country and others [badly] as well as exposing the plight of multiple worthy causes. You go to a Roger Waters show not only to view the spectacle but hear what he’s got to say. He may be getting older but the fire that burns behind his steely glare is as vibrant and strong as ever. 

Before we experience over 2 hours of solo and Pink Floyd classics, this is British Summer Time and as such, Hyde Park has been transformed into a town. Stalls and exhibits and fairground attractions line the side of the park. 65,000 people placed in the middle of everything with everything from the cheap seats to what seems like solid gold thrones available for ticket holders to acquire. Given your love for a particular headliner, acquiring a Gold Circle ticket for example helps provide that special experience, closer to the stage, access to private bars and chill put areas that, under the scorching summer sun, can become a godsend mid way through the afternoon. 

With several stages located around the park, including the Barclaycard Stage that would see 80s pop veterans Squeeze draw a huge crowd later in the day, there was plenty to see and do. The main focus though are the acts on the Great Oak Stage and the afternoon opened in style with Seasick Steve. 

Recognising the break that Jools Holland gave him several years ago that has resulted in this wonderfully talented bluesman being welcomed to festivals worldwide and his laid back set that now includes a second guitarist along with him drummer is the perfect starter for 10 as the sun reaches its apex and the temperatures hit the high 20s.

He natters , pauses, laughs, shares a joke with the band and then swaps guitars before playing another song. It’s nothing new anymore but it doesn’t need to be. This is an artist who has done the hard work, established himself and managed to embed himself into everyone’s consciousness so he simply can’t fail to entertain. 

With the job of warm up [not that we needed it in the sun] done, Steve departs to make way for one of my musical heroes Richard Ashcroft.

I’ve been a fan of Ashcroft’s and The Verve ever since they released ‘History’. I remember seeing them back at V-Festival many many years ago and also when the band reformed and played The Roundhouse in London, what a night that was. With the band no more, we now get the man who penned some of those timeless songs and of course the voice as well. 

Looking every inch the rock star, Ashcroft is dressed in a sparkly waist length jacket that catches the sun beautifully and makes him look like some sort of mystical being as he weaves and sparkles on stage. His voice is every bit as strong as its ever been and his stage moves make you long for The Verve to return to the scene where they would yet again perform in their rightful slot as headliner. 

As special guest to Waters though, Richard Ashcroft clearly needs a reason to also have a go and when one wag decides to call him out and ask him to play ‘Wonderwall’, we are subjected to a tirade of commentary about the rich and their friends in the ‘Diamond Circle’ who arent really music fans. He then goes on to remind us just how many hits he has written and by god it’s a list to die for. Thankfully he doesn’t storm off like some artists might, instead he plays all of the hits he mentioned and reminds us just how very very good a songwriter and artist he is. 

Having not seen him live for a few years, this set was a joy to behold, it will stick with me for many years and proves beyond a doubt that Britain produces some of the best rock musicians the world has ever seen. 

The question of whether or not to try and see Squeeze was answered as soon as I tried to get over to them to take photos before heading back to shoot Roger Waters. They drew in a huge crowd and rightly so. As such, I sensibly stayed put and waited for the artful movie that ran as an intro to Waters performance. 

For some 30 minutes before he arrived on stage, the huge (and they really are H U G E) video screens project a beach scene with a woman sitting facing the ocean, the wind blowing through her hair and soft, subtle sounds projected around the park. Slightly surreal, rather pointless but a conversation point that got us all discussing it as we waited patiently for Roger to appear. 

As noted in the title, the show delivered a stunning politically charged performance with a set that looked back at Pink Floyd’s back catalogue along with material from Waters’ latest solo album ‘Is This The Life We Really Want’.

Having seen him play in arenas and at Wembley stadium, the need for sound to come in from all quarters is paramount and the fear that Hyde Park couldn’t deliver was unfounded. Somehow as ‘Breathe’ from Dark Side of the Moon, played around the field, the sound traveled with it from all angles. One moment the sound is in front of you, the next over your shoulder, behind you and more. Whoever looked at the set up and decided “we can do this” deserves a medal, it was amazing.

Ever wanting to make statements, during ‘Another Brick in the Wall Part 2’ Waters was joined by school children from the Grenfell community [The Rugby Portobello Trust] with them dressed in prisoner boiler suits which were uncovered to reveal one word ‘RESIST’.

A 20 minute break then followed, allowing the sun to set and the visuals effects to come into their own. Pictures from the arena shows had suggested Battersea Power Station would feature and sure enough whilst performing ‘Dogs’ the four chimneys appeared and the stage layout was set for the show. Banners showing messages like ‘Fuck the Pigs’ got a huge cheer from the crowd, others, projected onto the video screens elicited comments of bemusement and laughter when so many targeted the current POTUS.

Giant inflatable pigs, a huge mirrorball, a prism from the dark side of the moon all made appearances and as the night set in, the effect was immense. Yet again Roger Waters had surpassed himself , closing with ‘Comfortably Numb’ it provided the perfect finale. 

A final statement from Waters about the human rights or lack of afforded to people in Palestine and he was gone. 

Setlist
Breathe, One of These Days, Time, Breathe (Reprise), The Great Gig in the Sky, Welcome to the Machine, Déjà Vu, The Last Refugee, Picture That, Wish You Were Here, The Happiest Days of Our Lives, Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2), Another Brick in the Wall (Part 3), Dogs, Pigs (Three Different Ones), Money, Us and Them, Smell the Roses, Brain Damage, Eclipse, Comfortably Numb

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